By Jake Donovan
After having spent the past four years helping Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) introduce its brand to several outlets, Keith Thurman is finally ready for the Pay-Per-View market.
The unbeaten welterweight titlist acknowledges that it took the right dance partner to make it to that stage, as is the case with his July 20 Fox Sports PPV headliner versus former eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao.
“This is my first Pay-Per-View (main event). New territory for me, not new territory for Manny Pacquiao,” noted Thurman (29-0, 22KOs) during the formal announcement press conference Tuesday afternoon in New York City. “We’re going to fight at MGM Grand, a beautiful staple of boxing.”
Thurman is well-versed with the venue, having last fought there in March 2015 in claiming a 12-round win over Robert Guerrero to ignite his welterweight title reign. It also helped launch the PBC model, making its primetime debut on free to air NBC.
From there, Thurman has fought live in primetime on ESPN, CBS (twice) and most recently on Fox, where he outpointed Josesito Lopez in his first bout in 22 months. The rust-shaker serves as the most watched of the five PBC on Fox events since the rebranded series kicked off last December.
More than 2 million viewers tuned in to watch Thurman struggle at times in his ring return but ultimately prevail by unanimous decision. The win helped extend his title reign past the four-year mark, putting that belt on the line versus Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39KOs)—currently a secondary welterweight titlist—in an event which he believes will not only show the world the real Keith Thurman, but also help launch him into superstardom.
“23 years in the game, dedicated my life to this beautiful sport at the age of seven. My legendary trainer Ben Getty always told me, ‘You have what it takes to be champion,” Thurman said of his late trainer, who passed away in 2009. “All these years later, we fought on… all these great platforms and now we have this beautiful relationship with Fox.”
Thurman is 4-0 at the MGM Grand, his last fight being his aforementioned win over Guerrero. He’s since fought only four times, with injuries playing a significant factor in gaps between fights. His forthcoming showdown with Pacquiao will come six months after his win over Lopez, marking Thurman’s quickest turnaround between fights since 2015.
“We definitely had a stretch with a lack of activity,” acknowledges the long-reigning welterweight titlist. “Not everyone knows who Keith Thurman is today. You could see the [rust] against Josesito Lopez. You could see that I wasn't at my best in January. Come July 20 you will see the best Keith Thurman there has ever been.
“(Preparation) starts this Saturday. It’s grind time. It’s my time, it’s your boy Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox