Former 147-pound champion Keith Thurman has seemingly found himself to be the odd man out of the welterweight picture following his July 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao.
The fighter nicknamed “One Time” has fought just once since the loss – a unanimous decision victory against Mario Barrios in February.
Thurman was once the top dog of the welterweight division after scoring wins against Danny Garcia in 2017, Shawn Porter in 2016, and Robert Guerrero in 2015.
But a series of injuries, elbow and hand surgeries, long layoffs, and a spirited defeat to Pacquiao has severely pumped the brakes on the 33-year-old’s career in recent years.
“I expect to have that phone call soon with [PBC head] Al [Haymon]. We’re at a point where we have a little bit of time. Where I look at elite fighters, you’re always looking at a five or six-month window on a return. So I think we’re still on track to make all that happen,” Thurman told Kenneth Bouhairie and Michael Rosenthal on the PBC Podcast.
“The question is, who are we going to see in the ring now? Right now, I’m just patiently waiting. I hope we can make the best fight possible. I’ve done it in the past and I continue to want to do it.
“The hardest thing about watching [Errol Spence beat Yordenis Ugas on April 16] was that wasn’t the fight that was supposed to be watching. We were supposed to be watching Thurman vs. Spence, two undefeated welterweight champions, but when I lost and fell short in 2019, that opened up a new window. Spence didn’t get to fight Pacquiao [after Spence had eye surgery and instead Ugas was the replacement].
“Part of me just had a reminder of 2019. Even though my health condition was what it was, I was competitive in that fight [against Pacquiao]. I was coming back in that fight, and was only an X amount of punches toward victory.”
As Thurman was forced to deal with his setbacks in recent years, Spence dealt with his fair share of derailments, which also included a near-fatal car accident.
Spence has claimed the 147-pound titles with wins against Kell Brook (IBF), Porter (WBC), and Ugas (WBA) in a run that started in 2017 and has also included defenses of his titles against Mikey Garcia and Danny Garcia as well as Lamont Peterson.
Spence is now increasingly more open to a match-up with WBO champion Terence Crawford, just as much as “Bud” is. The palatable fight that is years in the making is more feasible now than ever because Crawford is a promotional free agent.
After numerous failed callouts to fight Spence, Thurman is now suggesting Spence vs. Crawford should marinate a bit more so that he could get a crack at Crawford instead.
“I’m always willing to step in the ring. I would love to get a big fight or maybe we’ll keep moving,” said Thurman. “We’ll see how we get advised to get into this year. I think Thurman-Crawford, I think the fans are just patient enough to happen if the winner of that faces Spence immediately after would be a tremendous play of events.
“I just hope I get the call. I would love to fight Crawford. They’re acting like there’s a demand, but if you put Thurman in the mix and the winner of that, I think it creates more of a demand. That’s just me. You can always rush and do something or you can build something up.
“With me, no matter with me, if its win, lose, or draw, it’s built back up. That’s how I feel.
“I just want to be a part of the real action. That’s all that it’s about. I’m sorry but your boy Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman was the undefeated champion of the world before the elbow surgery, before the hand surgery. I’m just addicted to the game.
“I know what it’s like to be at the top of that mountain, and I strive to conquer once again. So all these young fighters, they’re just a younger version of myself, climbing to the top and I love it, and that’s why we love boxing. So, I look forward to whoever they put in the ring.”
On April 29, Spence wrote in a tweet, "Thurman not fighting that man. That [mother----- Thurman] wouldn’t utter my name when we were both champs."
When someone commented Thurman would KO Spence in seven rounds, Spence quipped, "the world will never know."
Spence also said he would be ahead of Thurman in the 154-pound pecking order.
Thurman wants to make a championship run at 154 pounds.
“We’ll see but I feel at the age of 33, when you think about moving up in weight and you look at the welterweight division and how fighters used to move up and fight in multiple divisions, I just love the welterweight division,” said Thurman.
“I love its history and I want to make history here, and I’ve always wanted to make history here. So my spirit doesn’t want to move up, but if I have to stay busy in a good fight and maybe an opportunity for a title was presented, I would have to seriously take that into consideration. But right now, it’s not fully on my radar.”
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.