By Keith Idec
As one of the best boxing matches Showtime could televise in the foreseeable future, Stephen Espinoza wants Errol Spence Jr.-Keith Thurman to take place as soon as possible.
Espinoza, the executive responsible for buying fights for Showtime, is optimistic that their welterweight showdown could take place prior to the end of this year, assuming the undefeated welterweight champions continue winning. He thinks Thurman was just being cautious when the WBA/WBC 147-pound champ said in November that he expects to face Spence sometime in 2019, not this year.
Once Thurman returns for his first fight since undergoing elbow surgery eight months ago, Espinoza expects him to feel more confident about boxing Spence. The 29-year-old Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) hasn’t fought since he defeated Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) by split decision in their welterweight title unification fight March 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The Clearwater, Florida, native initially said he’d end his hiatus sometime in March, but Espinoza told BoxingScene.com his return will take place a little later than that. Still, Espinoza is confident Thurman-Spence is a fight that’ll take place in 2018.
“I think it is realistic,” Espinoza told BoxingScene.com. “Knowing Keith a little bit, this is a serious injury and serious surgery, and he’s being very cautious from that. I think some people may have expected him back in February or March. I know he’s taking it very cautiously in going through rehab. We will see him certainly very soon, probably a little bit later than March, but not much. I think when he says maybe 2019 [for the Spence fight], I think he’s leaving room for caution because he had not just major elbow surgery.
“He also had the neck injury from the car accident [in 2016]. It was a tough 2017 for him, so I think he’s tempering his own expectations and the fans’ expectations about when he’ll be getting back to the top-tier competition. But knowing Keith, I think once he gets back in the ring, we’ll see the old Keith Thurman, the old ‘One Time,’ very quickly, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he accelerated that timetable significantly.”
The 27-year-old Spence (22-0, 19 KOs), of DeSoto, Texas, is scheduled to make his first defense of the IBF welterweight title January 20 at Barclays Center. He’ll face former two-division champion Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs), of Washington, D.C., in the main event of a Showtime doubleheader that night.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.