By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Keith Thurman is certain he’ll become the first fighter to knock out Jan Zaveck when they meet Saturday night in a 12-round WBO welterweight elimination match in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Stopping Zaveck (32-2, 18 KOs, 1 NC) would amount to a very impressive victory for the heavy-handed, undefeated Thurman, but he hopes it would only be his second-biggest win this year at Barclays Center. If the Paulie Malignaggi-Adrien Broner fight isn’t made for June 22 at Barclays Center, Thurman hopes he gets a shot at the WBA welterweight champion in Malignaggi’s hometown.
“I truly want that fight,” Thurman said after a press conference to promote HBO’s doubleheader Saturday night at the Barclays Center. “Paulie was the first name on my list, on my HBO appearance. A lot of people did not like that on my first HBO appearance, especially for fighting a replacement fighter [Orlando Lora], that I started calling out champions. But I know that I, too, will be a champion one day. So I was giving people foresight of what the world of boxing will see. And as long as Paulie is not scared, I will do it here in Brooklyn. I have no problem coming to his hometown and stripping him of his title.”
Boxing Broner (26-0, 22 KOs) obviously would land Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs) a bigger payday than facing Thurman, but Broner would have to move up two weight classes to challenge Malignaggi for his 147-pound crown. That is among the potential impediments to making that bout, but Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaefer said Wednesday that both Broner and Malignaggi have told him they want the fight and that he will discuss the possibility further this week with HBO Sports executives.
Thurman (19-0, 18 KOs, 1 NC) also is promoted by Golden Boy, but the Clearwater, Fla., native thinks the odds are against him being the man standing across from Malignaggi on June 22 if the Broner bout doesn’t materialize.
“I honestly do not think he’ll take the fight, because I do not believe that Paulie has any balls,” Thurman said. “I believe that he has watched a lot of people do crafty matchmaking and I think he wants to do the same. I think he’s a smart businessman, he works for Showtime, he knows a lot about the sport of boxing. And I don’t think he has the true fighter mentality to step up to a true welterweight and prove that he is a world champion in the welterweight division.”
The Thurman-Zaveck fight will open an HBO “World Championship Boxing” broadcast Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT. Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) will defend his IBF light heavyweight title against 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) in the 12-round main event.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.