Keith Thurman has been stuck on the sidelines ever since suffering his first career loss to the since-retired Manny Pacquaio in July 2019.
On Feb. 5, the former welterweight champion Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) will look to repair his career when he takes on Mario Barrios in a FOX Sports pay per view headlining bout in Las Vegas.
During his time away from the ring, Thurman has also served as an analyst for the network he’ll now be fighting on for a second consecutive pay per view.
When Thurman was asked by Fight Hub TV to wear his analyst hat and predict the next phase of undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez’s career, Thurman said: “There might be a time and place [to fight WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu], and obviously [Alvarez] does not belong at cruiserweight. He needs to jump in and out of that. So hopefully he jumps out and comes back to challenge himself against David Benavidez, Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade and the many different styles that he has yet to face. I believe they are some of the most exciting fights in that division that could manifest,” said Thurman.
“But just because of his status and his superstardom, he gets to entertain the world the way that he chooses. So to a certain degree, you just have to respect that. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to build yourself up to that level, so when a fighter finally achieves that level and status and they hold on to it and manipulate the industry a little bit, to me, you can be mad, you can be sad, but then you have to put a dash of respect on the game too … he’s definitely going to be a Hall of Famer fighter. He’s just really upping his accolades [and making history].”
Thurman said that since Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) has been sparring heavyweight stablemates in his San Diego gym, he feels even more comfortable crusading a new career path into the cruiserweight class to potentially next face Makabu.
Thurman was also asked if he was picking “easy opponents” and evading fights with the likes of Benavidez and Charlo. He said: “Yes. I can give you a triple yes, but so what? He's Canelo, the people love him, he's got a huge following. He's brought tons of excitement. You can say he's cherry picked a little bit, but he's kind of learned from the best. He got beat by Floyd [Mayweather]. Now he's starting to make money like Floyd.”
Mayweather was criticized through the latter parts of his unbeaten Hall of Fame career for his matchmaking skills, and for picking particular fights at the time and weight class he best found fit.
"Are there greater challengers out there for Canelo Alvarez? Most definitely,” Thurman continued. “Are there fights that I would truly love to see? Most definitely. Are there super talented individuals that might be able to give him problems? Definitely. Does he have to do any of those things? No, and absolutely not. If he says 'no bueno,' it's 'no bueno.' If he says 'muy bien,' then so be it. Whatever he likes to do, wants to do, what makes him want to get out of bed and excited and elevate himself and his career, that's what he's going to do.
Alvarez just completed one of the most impressive runs in recent history in a span of four fights over 11 months.
In December 2020, he claimed the WBA title when he comfortably outpointed then-unbeaten Callum Smith. With the win, he claimed the vacant WBC and Ring Magazine titles.
In February, Alvarez easily handled WBC mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim via third-round TKO.
In May, Alvarez stopped the brash and unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders in eight rounds for the Brit’s WBO title.
In November, Alvarez knocked out unbeaten Caleb Plant in the 11th round for the Tennessean’s IBF title.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.