by David P. Greisman
Keith Thurman didn’t call out a single person following his big ninth-round technical knockout of Jesus Soto Karass on Saturday night in San Antonio.
“To be honest, I’ve been calling out the world of boxing for a long time. I haven’t been getting anybody that I want,” Thurman told reporters after his victory. “So I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing, giving you guys the most exciting fights, and let [adviser] Al Haymon take care of the contracts. Whoever wants it can come get it.”
About a year and a half ago, Thurman made his HBO debut in a bout with Orlando Lora, and some observers felt Thurman wasn’t ready for prime time and didn’t belong in such a spotlight.
Since then, however, he’s stopped Carlos Quintana, outpointed Jan Zaveck, knocked out Diego Chaves, and defeated Jesus Soto Karass. He’s a welterweight contender with an interim world title, he’s now being spotlighted on Showtime broadcasts, and he’s now making a case for why people should be paying attention to him.
He still wants big fights, though.
“Everyone’s in the future. The whole welterweight division’s in the future,” Thurman said. “RING magazine has me ranked No. 8. Let’s go after 7. Let’s go after 6. Five, four, three, two, one. I’m ready for the world, baby.”
Later, he added: “I’m undefeated, but I’m not scared to lose. I’m ready to fight the best in the world and to test myself and my skills and my abilities. Either I am going to be one of the best in the world, or I’m going to be one of the second best. Only time will tell.”
Thurman got caught and hurt by Soto Karass in the opening moments of the bout, a turn of events that forced him to adjust.
“He made me bring it out from Round 1. He was ready Round 1. I was dilly-dallying in round one. And he turned the lights on and woke me up, and it was a fight ever since,” Thurman said. He recalled thinking: “ ‘You’re in a fight. Let’s go. And you got to do something if you want to win this round now, because he came out with a great start, so you got to finish with a great start.’ I believe I turned that round around even though he came out in the first 10 seconds and caught me with a good punch.”
That’s because he turned to moving more, giving himself breathing room and fighting a smart fight.
“[The strategy was] to give him angles, to make it difficult for him to land his shots, to keep turning around, and to sit down when he was open and land good counter shots,” Thurman said.
“I’m a boxer-puncher,” he said at another point. “I think the fans are starting to see that more and more. He tested my chin, but you know true champions take shots and they give shots. Even if he knocked me down, I was prepared to get up and win the fight.”
Thurman felt he saw Soto Karass breaking down over the course of the fight. He scored the first knockdown of the night in the fifth round, sending out a jab, following with a right hand that missed, and then finishing with a big left uppercut that landed.
“The uppercuts were definitely getting to him,” Thurman said. “I saw that whenever I was planting and I touched him on the chin, it had an effect on his whole body, and it was just a matter of time. My trainer just kept saying, ‘Keith, sit down and let your power go. He’s about to go. Sit down and let it go.’ We sat down, we caught him good, and then we didn’t give up. We hopped right back on him and got him out of there.”
“He wings shots, man. He definitely puts his body into it. He was going to the body. He was hitting me with a few low blows and hip shots. It was a real tough fight. I knew he was going to be grinding me out and giving me his all, and I gave him my all back to win this fight.”
“He couldn’t take the power,” Thurman said. “Just like most of them.”
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]