Keith Thurman dubbed his last ring return as the start of a ‘get-back’ year.
This time around, he wants to head straight to getting back what was once his.
Chief in the sights of the former unified welterweight titlist is a showdown with the division’s current two-belt claimant, unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21KOs). It’s not about easing his way back into the ring for Thurman; rather, storming his way back to the top of the division.
“I love the Spence fight. I want those belts,” Thurman told BoxingScene.com. “Right now, he’s got two of them and one of them is mine anyway. He’s just holding onto it for me but it’s time to get back what belongs to me.”
Spence has held the IBF title since an 11th round stoppage of England’s Kell Brook in May 2017. The undefeated southpaw from Desoto, Texas added the WBC strap to his collection thanks to a thrilling 12-round split decision win over Shawn Porter in their Sept. 2019 unification clash.
Porter first claimed the belt in a 12-round unanimous decision win over former two-division titlist Danny Garcia in Sept. 2018. The vacant WBC title was at stake only after it was removed from Thurman who was out of the ring for an extended period following a decision win over Garcia (36-3, 21KOs) in their March 2017 WBC/WBA unification clash.
Thurman also owns a win over Porter, having outpointed the former welterweight titlist in their June 2016 thriller. Following the win over Garcia, Thurman was out for 22 months before returning in Jan. 2019 with a hard-fought win over Josesito Lopez. It was enough to maneuver his way into a lucrative title consolidation clash with legendary Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao, against whom he suffered a competitive 12-round defeat in July 2019.
The theory at the time was that a win would’ve led to a three-belt showdown with Spence. Those plans were scuttled by his title fight loss, along with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Spence has since returned with a points win in a dominant showing over García last December. A personal grudge seems to exist in his resistance to look Thurman’s way, having spoken of a superfight with Pacquiao or further unifying the welterweight division through an expressed interest in perhaps facing WBA titlist Yordenis Ugas.
The trick now for Thurman is to literally punch his way back into the mix.
“We’ll see in time if it happens,” notes Thurman. “One thing about me if you watch my history, I just love putting together big events in the welterweight division. It’s what I do. I love elite competition. I’m in it to win it. At the end of the day, I want the Spence fight. I assumed after the Pacquiao fight I was gonna have to fight Spence anyways.
“Now I don’t have the world title, so I don’t know if that makes people uninterested in Keith Thurman. It’s already hard enough to handle Thurman. Now it’s like, what’s the reward? I beat Thurman, what do I get. IT’s not the first time. Pacquiao did it already. It just is what it is. I’m just trying to be ready for this year. Even if they call me up on short notice, I just want to be ready for these guys.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox