Keith Thurman vs. Claressa Shields? (photo by Ryan Hafey)
With a few key conditions, Thurman is apparently on board.
A fight between Thurman, the former unified welterweight titlist from Clearwater, Florida, and Claressa Shields, the multi-division champion from Flint, Michigan, widely regarded as the top female boxer in the world today, recently became an object of tabloid interest recently after Shields insisted that she could defeat Thurman in a sanctioned boxing match. (It’s doubtful that any state athletic commission would greenlight a fight between a man and a woman.)
But Thurman would only be on board with the idea if the fight, one, is an exhibition for charity, and, two, if he is restricted to using solely his jab. In other words, no hook and right hands.
In a recent interview, Thurman, 34, explained that he is interested in participating in an exhibition sometime next year and that that could be one involving the 28-year-old Shields, provided they find the right organizer.
Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs) made it very clear he has no motivation, from a competition standpoint, to fight Shields (14-0, 2 KOs). But if the proposed fight can generate money for a charitable cause, Thurman would be all for it.
“In my heart of hearts, I don’t care about being in there with Claressa Shields,” Thurman told FightHubTV. “What I do care about is, in this day … if there’s any way, any form that I can gather money for charity, for an all children’s hospital, for Shriners organization, for the non-profit organization of my guru, The Art of Living, if there’s any way that I can do something positive, ’cause I don’t see anything positive, me punching Claressa Shields ever.
“So, I need that positive twist, that I can be proud of, outside of just doing something different, doing an exhibition, doing something that’s playful. But I promise you this, if it ever manifests, I’m still only using jab only.”
Asked if limiting himself to the jab against Shields might be foolhardy, Thurman mocked the idea that Shields could be competitive against him, citing his footwork.
“What she gonna do?” Thurman said. “C’mon man. You see that happening? C’mon man. My footwork, I mean, the girl don’t—that’s why I’m gonna use jab only, man, she ain’t ever seen no footwork. She ain’t ever seen no world class footwork like that. It’s different. I would just want to show that you think you’re in the same sport, but you’re not.
“Whatchamacallit, Serena Williams said it herself, when they [asked her], 'how do you feel you would fare against men.' [Williams said], 'Men’s tennis is a completely different sport. Not even the same sport.' From one of the greatest female athletes in our generation, let alone tennis. One of the great female athletes. She said it’s not even the same sport. Same ball, same racket, but not same sport. The speed, the velocity, the average height of the male athletes, the angles and just the serves alone changes the game. She knows her place. Obviously, Claressa doesn’t know her place and that’s why I’d have to use jab only.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.