By Jake Donovan
For the moment, all systems are still go for the July 21 co-feature between Keith Thurman and Marcos Maidana. The bout is slated to air live on HBO from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, where hometown favorite Adrien Broner headlines against Vicente Escobedo.
Recent whispers have surfaced over the possibility of Maidana backing out of the fight . It wouldn’t be the first time the Argentine brawler has pulled out of an HBO bout, having once left Tim Bradley high and dry while trying to diffuse an in-house beef with his management team.
That said, any such concern remains pure speculation at the moment. Thurman (17-0, 16KO) remains hard at work, training for the biggest fight of his career to date as the former amateur standout takes a huge step up in competition.
“I feel excited. This is what we got into the game for,” Thurman says of his forthcoming HBO debut. “I feel like I’m ready. I’m 17-0, with 16 knockouts. I know what Maidana is fully capable of. I’m excited to make this step up.”
The timing of the fight was curious. By his own admission, Thurman has taken the slow road to potential stardom, as a thin resume and a hand injury in 2011 hasn’t led to as much buzz as would normally be afforded to a fighter of his capability.
Making up for lost time, Thurman will now be fighting for the third time in 2012. The seeds for this particular bout were planted long before it even had a home.
“When I was on the (Devon) Alexander-Maidana card and saw that he looked like a natural 147 pounder, I said it’d be fantastic to fight Maidana,” Thurman says of the HBO show this past February, in which he appeared on the non-televised undercard. A first-round blitzing of Christopher Hernandez served as his first fight back in the ring since Nov. ’10.
The aftermath of that evening suggested that Maidana – who dropped a wide decision against Alexander – would make one more run at 140 lb, where he has proven to be hell for anyone who dared to step in the ring with him. Enough time has since been spent in the gym to help Maidana realize that his body frame is no longer suited for the super lightweight division.
With that came what Thurman viewed as a golden opportunity.
“I knew it was hard for him to get back down to 140, so I made it clear that I was available if he was sticking around at 147.”
Thurman has proven to be fun to watch as far back as his amateur days. The Florida native was named an alternate on the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing squad, but bypassed the opportunity to instead get a head start in the pro ranks.
The moved proved to be a wise one initially, but he has endured a couple of minor setbacks which has stalled his progress. A win over Maidana erases all of that, but an impressive (read: entertaining) showing helps keep his name in lights long beyond his July 21 televised slot.
“It’s highly important to make a statement,” Thurman acknowledges.” I want them to know that I belong in that elite class of fighters. The whole goal is to go after a belt. Whenever someone is ready to let Keith Thurman eat, I’m ready to grab that belt. I might grab a belt before Floyd gets out of jail.
“Before all that, we have to make a big statement against Marcos Maidana. That should open the doors for a title match.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox