By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Keith Thurman was rooting for Adrien Broner.
It would’ve made more sense Saturday night for Thurman to want Manny Pacquiao to win their welterweight title fight. Thurman, the WBA’s “super” world welterweight champion, could make much more money for fighting the Filipino superstar, who successfully defended his WBA world welterweight title by beating Broner.
Still, something inside Thurman wanted Broner to perform well in the first pay-per-view fight of the perceived underachiever’s career.
“I was in Broner’s corner, even though I’m definitely interested in a Pacquiao fight,” Thurman told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “I don’t even know what makes me do that sometimes, you know? I was cheering for him. I was cheering for him because I remember when I was on Adrien Broner’s undercard. OK? And he was the main event. And then I remember the first day I was the main event and he was my co-main.”
Thurman, who’ll make his long-awaited return against Josesito Lopez on Saturday night (FOX; 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), hoped Broner would finally let his hands go in a career-defining fight against a top opponent. The unbeaten Thurman also wanted to watch Broner realize the potential many within boxing, including Thurman, thought he had once upon a time.
By the time their 12-round fight ended, however, Pacquiao had decisively defeated a comparatively inactive Broner. According to CompuBox’s unofficial statistics, Broner connected on only 50 overall punches, an average of merely 4.2 per round.
CompuBox credited Pacquiao for landing 62 more overall punches than Broner (112-of-568 to 50-of-295). CompuBox counted more power punches (82-of-197 to 39-of-180) and jabs (30-of-371 to 11-of-115) for Pacquiao.
Two judges – Tim Cheatham (116-112) and Glenn Feldman (116-112) – still scored four rounds apiece for Broner. Judge Dave Moretti scored nine of 12 rounds for Pacquiao (117-111), who hurt Broner badly during the seventh and ninth rounds.
“At the end of the day,” Thurman said, “when [Broner] fought Shawn Porter, when he fought Mikey Garcia and fighters like that, he’s fallen short. And I was just hoping he would reignite the flame of the Adrien Broner that I remember, when I was in the co-main event and the world said that this may be the next Floyd Mayweather. I was just hoping that he’s been through enough in life, that he was really gonna step on the gas and prove everybody wrong. But I was wrong.”
Broner impressed Thurman at times during his 12-round majority draw with Jessie Vargas nine months ago at Barclays Center. Thurman didn’t like a whole lot about Broner’s performance against the 40-year-old Pacquiao, though.
“He promoted the fight with a lot of flamboyance and trash-talking, like he normally does,” Thurman said. “And I think he does a great job of semi-promoting fights and amping fights up. He can definitely sell a fight. But his performance was subpar, and maybe even below subpar. I appreciate him trying to box. He had his strategy, he was using his game plan. I was unaware of what his trainers were telling him in the corner. It's just interesting to see a fighter who has taken so many losses, who is a skilled fighter, that just somehow doesn’t make the proper adjustments to really win a fight.
“I liked his performance against Jessie Vargas. I thought he was right there, on the edge of taking the victory that night. Once again, he started slow that night. So, his weakness is he can be a slow starter and he doesn’t put his punches together. I don’t know if at 147, he’s just really strong and just going for these one-punch knockouts. He was jabbing one punch at a time, hooking one punch at a time, throwing one straight right hand at a time. And it would’ve been better to see jab, hook, right hand – little three-punch combos, using that speed, because his speed is so fast. Even though he’s missing, he’s missing in lightning fashion. Floyd was a pot-shoter, but his accuracy was a lot more precise.”
Broner’s one-punch-at-a-time approach to opposing Pacquiao reminded Thurman of what his first trainer, the late Ben Getty, always told him when Thurman was an up-and-coming amateur boxer. Getty regularly reinforced that Thurman shouldn’t rely on loading up on power shots and trying to knock out each opponent.
That’s among the reasons, according to Thurman, that Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs, 1 NC) didn’t fare better against an aged opponent.
“It was because of inactivity, and it’s also hard to win a fight moving backwards,” Thurman said. “That’s been a saying in boxing since before I was born, that it’s hard to win a fight moving backwards. We call it the aggressor credit. So, you’ve gotta know the sport that you’re in and what the judges are looking for, to get the victory. He was very defensive. I don’t think he got beat up in the fight, by any means. But there’s a reason why his hand was not raised.”
Thurman was as perplexed as anyone about Broner’s contention that he deserved a victory in a fight he clearly lost. He credited Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) for doing what was necessary to win, especially someone Pacquiao’s age, yet Thurman believes Broner could’ve made their fight far more competitive by trying harder to pull off an upset.
“Manny Pacquiao fought like Manny Pacquiao,” Thurman said. “He fought like a 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao. Well, actually, I don’t even wanna say he fought like a 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao, because I feel like he was listening to his trainers. And they were saying, ‘Be patient. Be patient. Pick your shots. Pick the moments.’ I think Manny Pacquiao would’ve have had to do more and fight more [Broner’s] kind of fight. I feel like every fighter eventually stops listening to their coaches at one time.
“But Adrien Broner wasn’t pushing the fight, thus making [Pacquiao] feel like, ‘Oh man, I need to do this. I need to do this.’ You know? He was comfortable fighting in spurts, landing one to two punches out of every four-punch combo. And a few times, he landed with more accuracy than that. It was a really decent performance from Manny Pacquiao. But, you know, for what was on the line, a lot of people would’ve liked to see Adrien Broner fight harder. And for whatever reason, he felt like he won the fight.”
Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC), of Clearwater, Florida, wants to fight Pacquiao later this year. If Thurman tops Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs, 1 NC) in what will be Thurman’s first fight in 22 months, a subsequent bout with Pacquiao would earn Thurman a substantial sum of money.
Thurman said during a conference call Tuesday that he is “90 percent” sure Floyd Mayweather Jr. will end a third retirement to face Pacquiao in a rematch of their infamous May 2015 fight.
If title unification fights with Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs), the since-crowned WBC champ Thurman beat in June 2016, or IBF champ Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) aren’t available to Thurman at some point in 2019, boxing Broner could become an option for him. Broner probably would be best served by moving back down to 140 pounds, but Thurman has been asked about battling Broner many times.
“You know, I’ve had that asked at different moments throughout my career,” Thurman said. “I think his team is very strategic about their matchmaking. Even though he still does take tough fights, I’m pretty sure as a fighter who’s willing to talk trash and fight anybody in the world, I’m pretty sure he has no problem fighting Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman. But I’ve never even had his name discussed in real talk, for negotiations. We’ll see what happens in the future. I’m open to all challenges, so we’ll see. But I don’t think there’s anything in it to gain for me, so he might have to go on a winning streak or do something to make me desire such a fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.