By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Derrick James just can’t figure out why some fans and reporters aren’t demanding more from Keith Thurman.
Errol Spence Jr.’s trainer considers Thurman’s situation similar to Kell Brook’s predicament prior to his ill-fated fight against Spence. Brook, like Thurman, was coming off serious surgery when the public demanded a Spence-Brook bout.
In his fight before battling Spence, Brook suffered a broken orbital bone around his right eye against middleweight knockout artist Gennady Golovkin. Subsequent surgery and an even shorter layoff than Thurman’s current hiatus still didn’t prevent Brook from making a mandatory defense of his IBF welterweight title against Spence in his following fight, just eight months after Golovkin stopped him in the fifth round in September 2016.
Spence (23-0, 20 KOs) knocked out Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) in the 11th round to win that title May 27 in Sheffield, England, Brook’s hometown. In addition to recovering from surgery on his face, Brook had to come back down from 160 pounds to 147 to defend his title against Spence.
Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) had elbow surgery nine months ago. He hasn’t fought since defeating Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) by split decision March 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
He has said he doesn’t want to face Spence in a highly anticipated welterweight title unification fight until sometime in 2019. The WBA/WBC welterweight champ is expected to box Jessie Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs) in April and someone other than Spence later this year.
Thurman’s reluctance to face Spence sooner has frustrated James.
“We are giving Keith Thurman an allowance that we did not give Kell Brook,” James said during a post-fight press conference early Sunday morning following Spence’s eighth-round technical knockout of Lamont Peterson at Barclays Center. “Because the world expected Kell Brook to fight Errol Spence next, right? But you’re giving him a pass now because he came off of surgery. Both are the same situations, so he shouldn’t be allowed to wait for two years or whatever he wants to do. He should be able to get in there and take the fight.”
Spence is slightly more forgiving than his trainer. He still sees no reason why Thurman can’t fight him after boxing Vargas, assuming Thurman wins that bout.
“You know, I’ll give him a pass,” Spence said. “I even said that. I’ve been going on record and say I’ll let him have a tune-up fight. He’s been off for a while, he just come off an injury. Have a tune-up fight. But after that, it should be me. Yeah, [in] 2018. This is the beginning of the year. This is January. Have a tune-up fight in March, April, and we could fight at the end of the year.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.