By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Jessie Vargas wasn’t part of Showtime’s “2018 Boxing Upfront” for good reason Wednesday.
Despite rampant speculation over the past month, BoxingScene.com has learned Vargas will not be Keith Thurman’s opponent for Thurman’s comeback bout from elbow surgery. Vargas, a former WBO welterweight champion, has openly discussed his willingness to challenge Thurman for his WBA and WBC 147-pound championships, but that assignment will go to an opponent to be determined.
Thurman’s return was announced as part of Showtime’s event Wednesday at Cipriani’s in Manhattan. His opponent was not named, however, for a fight that is scheduled for May 19 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Thurman wouldn’t even hint at who he’ll fight after taking the stage with 20 other Premier Boxing Champions fighters.
“To be announced,” Thurman said. “But I’m very happy to be stepping back into the ring. It’s been a long time off. The recovery and the injury is not what I wanted it to be. But I’ve got two titles right here. We will be defending them on the 19th. We will be back in New York for the boxing fans that I believe love me the most. I believe this city loves me the most and I respect that.”
The 29-year-old Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) hasn’t fought since he defeated Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) by split decision in their welterweight title unification fight March 4 at Barclays Center. The Clearwater, Florida, native had elbow surgery a month-and-a-half later and his rehabilitation took longer than Thurman expected.
Thurman thought in the fall that he would return to the ring by March. Coming back May 19 means his hiatus will have lasted 14½ months.
Las Vegas’ Vargas, meanwhile, signed with adviser Al Haymon because there are so many attractive welterweight fights that can be made against PBC boxers. He made his PBC debut December 15, when he out-boxed Mexico’s Aaron Herrera (38-3-1, 22 KOs) to win a 10-round unanimous in Lancaster, California.
It appears Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs) will have to wait a little longer, though, to get the type of high-profile fight he seeks.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.