Is This Version of Keith Thurman as Good as The Previous One?


By Michael Rosenthal

One has to feel for Keith Thurman. The 30-year-old WBA welterweight titleholder, speaking the day before he fought Josesito Lopez this past Saturday in Brooklyn, bemoaned the fact that he lost two of his peak years to injuries before expressing optimism about the future.

But after his shaky performance against Lopez, it’s understandable to ask whether he’ll ever be the fighter he was only a few years ago.

I wrote recently that Thurman is one of several 147-pounders who the 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao should avoid for fear of the Filipino’s safety. Now I’m not so sure. Bob Arum was in full promoter mode when he criticized Thurman’s performance and suggested Pacquiao could beat him, but he might be right.

“I do not think Thurman can keep fighting, I think he looked terrible against Lopez,” Arum said. “Yes, I think it's a fight that (Pacquiao) can win, it is,” he added. “I think Freddie (Roach) saw the same thing as me.”

We shouldn’t overreact after one performance.

Thurman (29-0, 22 knockouts) hadn’t fought since he defeated Danny Garcia by a split decision in March 2017, 22 months ago. He had surgery in May 2017 to repair his injured right elbow and then damaged his left hand after he resumed workouts, setbacks that kept him on ice and out of the gym for most of his hiatus.

As a result, it was reasonable to expect some rust. Thurman himself reminded us before and after the Lopez fight that he wouldn’t be 100 percent.

“I said you wouldn't see the best Keith Thurman tonight, but you'd still see a world class performance, and I gave you that tonight,” he said immediately after the fight.

thurman-lopez-fight (14)

And while Lopez isn’t a highly rated welterweight, he’s a solid, experienced veteran who was hungry to stay relevant going into the fight Saturday. His trainer, Robert Garcia, told anyone who would listen beforehand that Lopez had a strong training camp and would give Thurman trouble even though he too hasn’t been particularly active the past several years.

Still, Thurman’s struggles against Lopez raised eyebrows.

Thurman deserved the majority-decision victory – by scores of 117-109, 115-111 and 113-113 – for an obvious reason: He landed more punches than Lopez, including one that put him down in the second round. I scored it 115-111, eight rounds to four.

That said, Lopez, who presumably was selected as Thurman’s comeback opponent because of his perceived limitations, had more success than most imagined he would going into the fight.

The seventh round stands out. Lopez hurt Thurman with a left hook and followed with a barrage of hard, accurate punches that stunned the titleholder and all those who thought Lopez would be a pushover. Thurman survived and rallied to secure the decision but we saw what we saw in that round and other junctures of the fight.

Is there reason for alarm on the winner’s part? Could Arum be right? Or was the so-so performance merely a means of shedding rust after a long layoff and a step in the right direction?

I lean toward the latter position.

We saw on Saturday the speed and athleticism that helped Thurman beat Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and other good fighters in his 20s. And his timing, the facet of a boxer’s game that typically suffers as a result of a layoff, wasn’t awful. He landed punches with enough consistency to win rounds.

Lopez’s ability to land hard punches is more difficult to explain – and probably a concern – but I’m comfortable chalking that up to the rust and Lopez’s underestimated ability and preparedness under Robert Garcia.

Thurman seems to have had no problems with his elbow or hand during or after the fight, which is key to his future.

And while the fight raised legitimate questions about him, a tough, taxing challenge was exactly what the doctor ordered. He will be in his next fight a sharper boxer than the one who walked into the ring and struggled at times against Lopez.

Of course, we’ll learn more going forward. Thurman wants to fight Pacquiao on pay-per-view, which would give him tremendous exposure and earn him the biggest payday of his career. And the fight can be made fairly easily if Pacquiao also wants it; they both now fight for advisor Al Haymon.

So who wins? While I’m not as certain that Thurman would prevail as I was before the Lopez fight and Pacquiao’s victory over Adrien Broner on January 19, I still believe that Thurman’s tools – the speed, the athleticism, perhaps even the power – would be too much for this version of Pacquiao.

We’ll very likely see.

Michael Rosenthal is the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.

Tags: Keith Thurman image  
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by etech1 on 02-02-2019

Why do no boxers work their neck?? I understand limber, but surly the extra girth in the neck, would help with absorbing impact. Note to any and all lifters: Set a pillow on the side of your head while you…

Comment by JuniorTorres720 on 02-02-2019

It was one fight after 22 months, give the guy a break. Mikey was out for nearly 3 years and looked rusty in the first rounds against Rojas. Now he's back on top fighting Spence and no one's talking about…

Comment by Lazy Jab on 02-02-2019

I'd favor Pac over Thurman even before his injuries. I just think Pac doesn't mesh well with Thurman's style. Thurmans approach will be to avoid exchanges with Pac. I never put much into the belief that Manny had lost a…

Comment by yoshik on 02-02-2019

[QUOTE=Devils Advocate;19482632]Yeah Thurman was passed over for years by Malignaggi, Maidana, Mayweather, & Khan. Hell even Guerrero tried to duck Keith so at this stage of his career if he can make 5M fighting a legend on PPV I’m good…

Comment by yoshik on 02-02-2019

Thurman has NEVER been elite. Ever. He has been way beatable but the class of fighters he is with, i.e. Porter and Garcia could beat him any given day. Spence and Crawford will dominate him. He would never have survived…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (31)
Top Headlines Tyson Fury To Wilder, Joshua: I Call The Shots, It's My Show Now! Photos: Tyson Fury Announces ESPN Deal London Presser Anthony Yarde vs. Travis Reeves Pushed To March 8th Billy Joe Saunders-Shefat Isufi To Contend For Vacant WBO Title Commey: I Believe I Can Beat Lomachenko in Explosive Style Mayweather: Ryan Garcia 'Gonna Get F***ed Up' If He Fights Tank Crawford To Garcia: Don't Quit Versus Spence, Like Salido Fight Fury Signs With Top Rank, ESPN; Wilder Rematch In Jeopardy Eubank Jr: DeGale Knows What's Coming, He'll Be at His Best Off the Ropes: Ron Lyle Story Stands On Its Own Sam Bowen vs. Ryan Wheeler In Leicester, British 130 Belt Adonis Stevenson Continues Hard Road To Recovery, Says Fiance Marvin Hagler Praises Golovkin, Slams Boxing's Title Confusion Andrew Moloney Eager To Secure World Title Shot in 2019 Anthony Joshua and The American dream. Then What? Robert Garcia: Spence is Best at 147 - But Mikey Can Pull it Off Stevenson Open To Test Skills Against Frampton: I Can Beat Him Eduardo Hernandez To Debut Under Golden Boy on March 30 Castano: I Asked For Erislandy Lara, You Will See My Potential! Domonique Dolton Stops Ramon Barajas in Opening Round Tyson Fury Claims He Dropped Jarrell Miller 7 Times in Sparring Photos: Omar Figueroa Holds Off John Molina, Wins Decision Povetkin's Promoter Confirms That Usyk is Possible For May 18 Kriel KO's Licona For IBF Strap: Centeno, Redkach, Balderas Win Photos: Leo Santa Cruz Outworks a Durable Rafael Rivera Teofimo Lopez: Three or Four Ways To Beat Lomachenko! Omar Figueroa: I Thought I Beat John Molina Comfortably Mikey Garcia: I Want To Establish Myself as Best of This Generation Leo Santa Cruz: I Want Unification Next or Frampton Trilogy Eubank Sr. Believes Son Could Still Replace Mayweather One Day Sebastian Fundora: I Hope To Be in Top Five at 154 By Year's End Marcos Hernandez Very Pumped For Rosario Rematch on FS1 Joseph Parker Hopes The Chisora Fight Gets Finalized Abass Baraou Excited With Win Over Ex-Champ Carlos Molina Spence's Trainer: Skills, Not Size, Will Beat Mikey Garcia Ryosuke Iwasa Edges Cesar Juarez in IBF Final Eliminator Felix Verdejo vs. Bryan Vasquez Eyed For Crawford-Khan Card Mikey Garcia: Spence is Bigger - But Who's Faster? Better Timing? Leo Santa Cruz Outworks a Game Rafael Rivera For Decision Leo Santa Cruz vs. Rafael Rivera - LIVE BoxingScene Scorecard

Latest Active Forum Threads