By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Keith Thurman doesn’t know who he’ll fight in his return from elbow surgery.
The unbeaten WBA/WBC welterweight champion does know who he won’t face in his first fight since defeating Danny Garcia by split decision March 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Thurman confirmed Saturday that he won’t take a rematch with Shawn Porter or a highly anticipated, 147-pound championship unification fight against Errol Spence Jr. in his return to the ring.
Thurman and Spence sat just a few feet away from each other during a press conference Saturday at Barclays Center, a few hours before the start of Showtime’s 154-pound championship tripleheader.
The 28-year-old Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) had surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right elbow April 19. He said Saturday that he has “four to six weeks” of rehabilitation remaining and expects to fight again either late in February or sometime in March.
“I will be smart,” Thurman said in response to fighting the dangerous Spence. “I’m not jumping in the ring, after an injury, going after another champion. When we go toe-to-toe, it will be the right moment, I believe, for the both of us. And that’s all I’ve gotta say.”
Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) also confirmed Saturday that he’ll fight former two-division champion Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs) on January 13 either at Barclays Center or one of several venues on the West Coast. Las Vegas’ Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs) told BoxingScene.com this week that he would like to fight Thurman again in his next fight if he defeats Adrian Granados (18-5-2, 12 KOs) in their 10-round welterweight bout November 4 at Barclays Center.
Porter will have to wait longer than that for this shot at redemption because Thurman wants what he called a “welcome back fight” after a long layoff.
“I know how eager Shawn [is] to get back in the ring with me and do the rematch,” Thurman said. “But I don’t think that I’ll be taking that [type] of a fight coming off an injury. I think we’re gonna get just a welcome back type of fight, throw my arms around, have a good camp, an injury-free camp ... and then we can possibly get in next with Shawn the fight after that.”
Thurman topped Porter by unanimous decision in a highly competitive, all-action welterweight title fight in June 2016 at Barclays Center. While Thurman expects that he’ll eventually encounter Porter again, the Clearwater, Florida, native acknowledged the need for a lesser fight when he comes back.
“I’d be surprised if that’s the first [opponent] coming back,” Thurman said. “I mean, you’re talking about a whiplash accident that I experienced in , then recovering from that, having an eight-week training camp, fighting Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, surgery, and then coming back and fighting Shawn Porter. So that’s a dog after a dog after a dog. You know what I mean? So we may not run that deep when we jump back into the sport. But you best believe once I brush the dust off, we’ll get moving and get right back to work against top, quality fighters in the welterweight division.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.