By Jake Donovan
The weigh-in festivities were spirited yet free of controversy heading into Saturday’s live Showtime-televised tripleheader from the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. The closest the event came to providing drama was when its main event participants, unbeaten Keith Thurman and veteran Julio Diaz exchanged brief smack talk during their obligatory stare down.
“He just got me going,” Diaz (40-9-1, 29KO) said of the brief incident. “This guy has an attitude that everyone is supposed to fear him. He chose the wrong one today.”
Arrogance is hardly an accurate description for Thurman (22-0, 20KO), even though his in-ring performances give him the right to walk on air these days. That said, the unbeaten Floridian is always respectful to the media, addressing his elders as “sir” and “ma’am” and portraying his thoughts without having to resort to hyperbole.
The rising knockout artist is coming off of a breakout campaign in 2013 and looks to expanding on that in the months to come. The first order of business for 2014 is to figure out a way to get rid of Diaz, who has more than twice as many fights and has proven to be a tough out for such top welterweights as Shawn Porter and Amir Khan.
Don’t let Thurman’s relatively short time in the pros fool you, though. Coming up on six years in the pro ranks, the 25-year old knows his way around a ring and doesn’t view his opponent’s experience as any sort of advantage.
“It doesn't come to play” Thurman insists. “I had 100 fights in the amateurs and knocked plenty of people out there. I’ve knocked out a lot of guys ‘off the record’. (His experience) doesn't matter. I have plenty of experience.”
Thurman exhibited those very traits in impressive stoppage wins over Diego Chaves and Jesus Soto Karass in back-to-back fights to wrap up his year that was in 2013. Only two opponents to date have managed to hear the final bell – Jan Zaveck in their 12-round affair last March, and Edvan Dos Santos Barros back in Nov. ’09.
Headlining a card that carries the tagline ‘Heavy Hitters,’ watching his fight go to the scorecards would be as disappointing as losing the fight itself as far as Thurman is concerned.
“The thing is, (Diaz is) going to get knocked out tomorrow night,” Thurman promises. “He couldn't even knock out Amir Khan. A knockdown is not a knockout. If he’s not well-rested on fight night, he’s going to get rested come the fight. My motto is ‘KOs For Life.’ Don’t blink; show up. I'm going to do my job. I hope he does bring me a challenge.
“There's no pressure (on me). It's the same pressure as always. A loss here would damage my career. I have a bright future and I want to keep it that way nd I'm here to entertain. The fans want to be entertained. They want to see knockouts, so I produce knockouts."
The supporting bouts on the telecast pit former 140 lb. titlist Lucas Matthysse versus John Molina, and unbeaten lightweight Omar Figueroa squaring off versus Jerry Belmontes in a battle of Texan lightweights.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox