One way or another, Keith Thurman plans to lead by example.

The former unified welterweight titlist remains on the watch for the right time and place to make his 2021, which will also serve as his first fight since suffering the lone loss of his career. Thurman (29-1, 22KOs) came up just short in a 12-round decision defeat to Manny Pacquiao in their July 2019 title consolidation clash.

Surgery and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have since extended yet another unwelcomed ring absence, with the Clearwater, Florida native eager to get back in the mix.

“I’m geared up, I’m frustrated and can’t wait to let my hands go,” Thurman told “I’m ready to just go and light the stage on fire.”

At his peak, Thurman served an integral in the red-hot welterweight division particularly in the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s intended departure from the sport in 2015.

Thurman has fought and won in the most watched televised bouts of 2015 (12-round decision over Robert Guerrero atop Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) brand on NBC), 2017 (title unification win over Danny García on CBS) and 2019 (12-round win over Josesito Lopez in comeback fight on Fox). His June 2016 win over Shawn Porter on CBS was the second-most watched fight of the year only to Errol Spence’s showcase knockout of Leonardo Bundu on an Aug. 2016 NBC show wedged in between live Olympic coverage of the basketball finals and the closing ceremony.

The aim now is to land the type of fights to help place him back atop the welterweight division. The top two claimants—pound-for-pound entrants and unbeaten titlists Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21KOs) and Terence Crawford (37-0, 29KOs)—haven’t rejected the notion outright but also enjoy their earned positions of power. As much is not lost on Thurman, who knows the road he needs to travel in order to force a situation where such fights must happen.

“The one thing I can do is, as soon as I can get back to work is just execute,” admits Thurman. “I have to execute and show people through my performances—it can’t be through a lot of smack talk, but through my performances—that Keith Thurman is not the one to mess with. I’ve never been one to sleep on and won’t be anytime soon. Not trying to be biased but I believe that when I get in the ring, you get a better fight.

“The Shawn Porter fight versus EJ, that was a great fight because of what Shawn Porter does. When Errol Spence just fought Danny, we didn’t see that great fight. It was good, I’ll let it be good. But I didn’t see none of that—it wasn’t really good. I do more than what’s good. I’ve done it in the past and I’m looking forward to bringing more of that back to the welterweight division.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox