Keith Thurman is not only eager to resume his career but also return to an activity rate that preceded his lengthy title run.
The former unified welterweight titlist is set to end a career-long layoff with a showdown versus former secondary junior welterweight titlist Mario Barrios. The bout tops a February 5 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View telecast from Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, the same town that hosted Thurman’s last fight more than two years ago.
“I’m looking forward to this return, it’s been a long time coming,” Thurman told BoxingScene.com and other reporters during a virtual press conference to formally announce the event. “February 5 is the date. It’s not really what I wanted but this is what life has given me. There was a little bit of push back, push back, push back.
“Now we’re gonna get that ball rolling and I have all the admiration to perform three fights (in 2022) if I can do it, to make up for lost time.”
Thurman (29-1, 22KOs; 1ND) has not fought since a twelve-round, split decision loss to Manny Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39KOs) in their July 2019 WBA welterweight title consolidation clash at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The night marked Thurman’s PPV debut, with the event generating a 2019-best 500,000 buys. It also marked his first defeat, though with plans to bounce back at the start of 2020.
The combination of the pandemic and several other factors ruined those plans in a big way. Thurman will have gone more than 30 months by the time he faces San Antonio’s Barrios (26-1, 17KOs), who moves up in weight following an eleventh-round knockout loss to Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis this past June 26 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The lengthy layoff is the second for Thurman over a near five-year period. The Clearwater, Florida native was out for 22 months by the time he returned in a twelve-round majority decision win over Josesito Lopez in January 2019. Two separate injuries stalled his comeback plans following a twelve-round, split decision win over Danny Garcia in their March 2017 WBA/WBC welterweight title unification bout.
This time around, it was the pandemic and the coronavirus itself that caused his latest career stall. Thurman hoped to return in the fourth quarter of 2021, only to come down with the infectious disease sometime after being on site for Pacquiao’s eventual twelve-round loss to Yordenis Ugas this past August at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“That was an exciting night, the last fight of [Pacquiao’s] career. Vegas was lit, you know how Vegas can be. By the time I got home, someway, somehow I just got sick,” noted Thurman. “I didn’t make a big deal about it. It did set back what we were working for. We just had to push back everything and bounce back strong.
“Blessings from God, we were able to do that. Everyone in the family is safe. We had other small hiccups here in the state of Florida but we’re here now. Everything is going great now.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox