By Jake Donovan
Most people celebrate their birthday with cake and presents. Millions of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving by gorging themselves with turkey and other sides and desserts.
Keith Thurman won’t have the luxury of properly celebrating either occasion, other than commemorating each event with a win.
The unbeaten Floridian will spend his 24th birthday – November 23 – thousands of miles away in Ontario, Calif. The most important part of the day will be spent on a scale to make weight for his HBO-televised co-feature bout with Carlos Quintana on Saturday evening.
Robert Guerrero faces Andre Berto in a welterweight battle serving as the night’s main event.
Thurman (18-0-0-1ND, 17KO) makes his second straight appearance on HBO, entering on the heels of a 6th round knockout of Orlando Lora this past July.
His placement on that card – headlined by Adrien Broner’s stoppage of Vicente Escobedo following a failed bid at the scales – was widely scrutinized as a favor granted to his high-profile adviser, Al Haymon.
More of the same has come of this weekend’s matchup, despite the fact that Quintana (29-3, 23KO) – though 36 – is coming off of an upset win of Deandre Latimore in May. The bout came on the televised of the year’s biggest stateside event, Floyd Mayweather’s 154 lb. title win over Miguel Cotto. By association, Quintana’s career-resurrecting performance comes with higher than normal profile.
Still, critics will always remain. Thurman has heard it throughout his young career, but doesn’t pay it any mind. His job is to win fights, which is all that is on his mind this weekend – not being away from his family for Thanksgiving and his birthday, or what anyone else has to say about his granted opportunities.
“It’s funny to see a manager get so much hate,” Thurman has said in the past of the extra amount of attention paid to Haymon by the media. “There are fighters all over the world (like myself), who can give fighters world class competition. There are exciting fighters who deserve the spotlight. I’m young, coming up. How long do they want us to wait?”
For what it’s worth, Thurman made the most of the opportunity in July. He wasted no time in making his presence felt, offering an entertaining one-sided performance and dispatched his opponent the moment he saw an opening.
That very mentality has been embedded in his brain from the moment he turned pro. He carries that same mindset into this weekend’s affair, never one to leave anything to chance.
“My trainer told me a long time ago, don’t leave it up to the judges. You go for the knockout,” Thurman reiterated when polled on the subject.
It doesn’t hurt that he will have in front of him an opponent who should be available to hit for much of the night. All three of Quintana’s career losses have come inside the distance. The pattern for the Puerto Rican southpaw seems to be to follow up a big upset with an even bigger downfall.
His first notable win came in his HBO debut, rising from an opening round knockdown to school then-unbeaten Joel Julio. Six months later came his own first career loss, when Miguel Cotto broke him down in five rounds.
Quintana scored a major upset in soundly outpointing Paul Williams in Feb. ’08 – once again on HBO - only to get drilled in the opening round of their rematch four months later. Two years later, a knockout win over Jesse Feliciano was followed up by an 8th round stoppage loss against Andre Berto.
If history repeats itself, then Quintana’s aforementioned knockout win over Latimore should set him for a grand fall this weekend. But don’t expect his opponent to take this or any other fight for granted.
“This is a challenging fight against Carlos Quintana,” Thurman insists. “But I believe I will do well this Saturday night.”
Afterwards, perhaps he can celebrate the missed occasions and silence a few critics in the process.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox