LOS ANGELES — Keith Thurman constantly stiff-armed Errol Spence as a potential opponent when Thurman was a world champion and the Texan was trying to break through as well.
Spence eventually realized his championship aspirations in 2017 with a win overseas against Kell Brook for the IBF title he still owns.
The 31-year-old Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) has fought just twice in the last four years, battling injuries that required surgery, ring rust in an underwhelming win over Josesito Lopez, as well as his first professional loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2019.
Now it’s seemingly Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) who is in the driver’s seat calling the shots as he prepares for his fourth-straight pay-per-view appearance against Pacquiao on August 21.
Spence recently said: “Man, I don’t want anything to do with Keith Thurman. That ship has sailed. That ship's been gone. I don’t want anything to do with that man. He’s messing with me. He’s still a good fighter. He could still fight. I don’t really have any interest in it ... He can fight [Yordenis] Ugas. He ain't going to get into a fight with me … It’s just how he is. He’s just a cornball to me. I just can’t stand him.”
Thurman offered his rebuttal to BoxingScene.com on a potential fight with Spence despite the dismissiveness.
“The weather changes. Sometimes it’s sunny, sometimes it’s rainy and cloudy,” said Thurman. “Humans are very emotional. I think there’s going to be a time and a place, and I think that time and place are going to come soon [for us to fight]. If he keeps denying that this match-up is one of the greatest match-ups that boxing can have right here and right now -- young, athletic, in their prime fighters -- I want the fight. This was supposed to be my fight. I wanted to beat Manny Pacquiao then fight Errol Spence. Because of my loss, this is the matchup that has manifested. Because I dropped the ball [in the Pacquiao loss], he doesn’t have to see me today. Does he not ever have to see me ever? We’ll see.”
When asked if Spence is returning the favor to Thurman for being treated the way he was when he wanted the fight years back, Thurman said it’s “whack” to believe that narrative.
“You would have gotten paid pebbles, and now you’re going to get paid a big gold chest. The value of Keith Thurman, the value of Errol Spence, and the world recognition of who Keith Thurman and Errol Spence is are bigger than ever. So the fight would be bigger than ever today than it ever would have been yesterday. [Don’t] be upset at me for being in a politically powerful position and not taking that step. Who Keith Thurman is is not an up and comer, who doesn’t hold a lot of value. So to devalue who I am at this moment doesn’t make sense.
“When I devalued [Spence], [his] value was devalued, and that’s me being honest. [Errol is] ‘The Truth,’ [who] made it to this point, and we are all proud of you, and we’re all big fans ...I’ve watched so many of your fights. You’re a talented young man. See me. See me. It’s going to happen.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com