Keith Thurman has a passionate pitch for those criticizing the fact that his next bout will be staged on pay-per-view.

The former welterweight titleholder will break a two-and-a-half year sabbatical from the ring when he faces Mario Barrios on Fox Pay-Per-View on Feb. 5 at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. 

Thurman’s last fight was also on pay-per-view, a points loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2019. Since that time, Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) has been something of the butt of much derision on social media, due to his perceived lack of enthusiasm for the sport, and, most recently, for the fact that his return bout is against Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs), a career 140-pounder who is coming off a knockout loss to lightweight bruiser Gervonta Davis. 

Thurman has taken note of the criticism, but the Clearwater, Florida native staunchly believes he deserves to be on the rarefied terrain of pay-per-view, contending that combat sports at large require the model, given that fighters are theoretically subject to the specter of death each time they step into the ring. 

“I love the sport of boxing,” Thurman said in a video interview uploaded by Premier Boxing Champions. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful sports, one of the most complex sports, one of the hardest sports in the world, which is why we’re one of the only sports that demands pay-per-view. We demand it because athletes put so much on the table, they put themselves out there to accumulate damage. 

“All other contact sports have found a way to reduce the contact in the sport. Not boxing. Not boxing, not UFC, because we are the original contact sport. We are the only real contact sport that is still alive, still living still breathing. yes, the referee will jump and stop the fight, yes the referee is in there to protect the fighter and fighters in today’s generation are taking a little bit less damage. But there is no sport like boxing. every punch to the head is a mild concussion. We know that. And so for me to be here to be speaking full sentences to you right now is a blessing from above.

“That’s why we’re going to keep striving, living this dream, putting ourselves on the line, knowing that one day we don’t know what’s gonna happen when we step out of the ring. I wanna see my family, I wanna hold my child, I want to be able to talk to her and talk to my family, but we don’t know. So when fighters say that they’re done, they’re done and we salute them and we respect them for what they put into this ring, you know?” 

Thurman promises he is still eager to compete at the upper echelons of the sport. The 33-year-old has mentioned recently that he would welcome a title shot against the winner of the welterweight unification bout between Errol Spence-Yordenis Ugas, reportedly scheduled for the spring, or WBO titleholder Terence Crawford. 

“Thurman’s not done,” he continued. “For all those who think Thurman’s done, I’m not done. 33 years old. I don’t got 33 more in me, but we got plenty more years in me.”

In the meantime, Thurman is more than happy to endure the reproach of his “haters.” 

“Getting criticism from all those other people, all that clickbait material, is my dream come true,” he said. “So I don’t hate on the haters. I appreciate that they still have the time to talk about me. I appreciate that they doubt me. Your doubt motivates me. I do this for you. I do this for me. I do this like Martin Luther King because I’m living the dream.”