Keith Thurman Is Ready To Fight His Way Back To The Top

Not long ago, Keith “One Time” Thurman sat atop the boxing world in one of the sport’s hottest weight classes, the welterweight division. After consecutive wins over Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, ‘One Time’ held both the WBA and WBC titles. His bout against Porter was widely considered the “Fight of the Year” in 2016. When Thurman faced Manny Pacquiao, they were separated by only a point on the judges’ scorecards, and “One Time” suffered his first defeat.

Since that July 2019 match, Thurman had his left hand surgically repaired, and his ring return still looms. Thurman, who is 29-1-0 with 22 knockouts, insists that he’s still a force to be reckoned with amongst the division’s elite and plans to prove it if given the opportunity.

Hoping for two fights in 2021 or one really big one, Thurman is back in the gym with a new look and new approach.

Zenger News caught up with a very animated Thurman to discuss his future plans and the disrespect he’s received lately, and the fighter dares the welterweight field to “finish him!”

Percy Crawford interviewed Keith Thurman for Zenger News.

Zenger News: You cut your hair off, man. Is that something you had been considering or was it just spontaneous?

Thurman: Ah, wifey been whispering in my ear for a long time. And you know, I just wanted a new life experience. There’s just so much you go through in life. We get very used to our mundane routines, this and that, work, family, back and forth, yada-yada. I thought to myself, “When is the last time you wore it down?” I always was wake up man-bun and go about my day. And another thing that made it easy to chop it off was when my hair is pulled back, it’s not like I have a do up here. It’s slicked back anyways. It’s all in the back; it’s like peacock feathers, something is happening in the back. I gotta admit, when I let it go, I love the low maintenance. I’m saving time, energy and it’s one less thing to think about. It’s a new life experience. She told me that I can grow it back out now, I ain’t playing that game. I’m about to go get re-faded.

Keith Thurman is 29-1-0 with 22 knockouts and remains a force to be reckoned with. (Denzel1312nico/Wikimedia Commons)

Zenger: You had a lot of you wanted to get off your chest when you went on Instagram live. You addressed a lot of things and a lot of people. Was that just about airing some things out that you had building up inside of you?

Thurman: That, too, and Bob [Arum] talking nonsense, and I just had to clear the air and like you said, get some shit off my chest. I’m not even really in the mood to do a whole bunch of interviews and talk all about that subject, but that’s what live was about, man. You get me raw, unfiltered, in the moment. That was Keith “One Time” Thurman. That was everything that I felt; it’s what I wanted to say, and it just is what it is. I gave some insight to fighters. I was letting people know at the end. I know there is a lot of young fighters trying to come up. And this COVID time is not the time to try and come up, man. It’s rough out here. It’s rough out here for world-class fighters like myself; it’s rough out here for the next up-and-comers, the next superstars in anything. College football players, college basketball players, whatever, man. It’s rough out here for athletes. You gotta just have faith. You gotta have faith in your skills and your ability. Keep your eye on the prize.

Percy Crawford interviewed Keith Thurman for Zenger News. (Heidi Malone/Zenger)

Like I tell people, I was champ before I was ever champ. And they can take my belts and I’m still the champ. Champion is a mindset, it’s the heart and it’s a skillset. Either you got it, or you don’t. And if you got it, you just gotta stick with it. Stick with it, believe in yourself and if you’re striving to get there, and you’re not there yet, you gotta just keep pushing forward and never give up. Always evolve. Understand that every day is not going to be your best day in the gym, but you can learn. You can learn from any little mistake. Like I said in the video, you get beat up, and get beat up, and get beat up, until one day, they don’t beat you no more. Pacquiao got the “W,” but he was the one who had to leave the press conference. He was the one felt busted up at the end of the night. I didn’t feel busted up. I could have sat there and answered 21 questions. We could go eat pizza afterwards. I know what happens when fighters get in the ring with me. My presence will be felt. One way or another, it will be felt.

Zenger: The amount of disrespect you receive is almost strange to me. Why do you feel like the fans have somewhat turned on you?

Thurman: I really do blame the lack of activity, right. Because I unified two world titles when I defeated Danny Garcia when we were both undefeated welterweight world champions. That was just so much momentum coming up to that point. But after that it was just rough. I fought that fight with bone spurs. Once they healed, I was hitting the heavy bag and hurt my hand. I was debating what I was going to do about that. By the time the doctor told me I needed hand surgery I said, “Yo doc, I need a check.” That’s when I got in the ring to fight Josesito Lopez. And then after that, we started negotiating the Pacquiao fight. I said, “Yo doc, we’re going to get this Pacquiao fight, so let’s hold off on the hand surgery.” I went that whole year with cortisone shots. It’s just hard, man. It’s rough.

Fans are fickle. I love fight fans and then I don’t love ’em, too. At the end of the day, they’re very fickle. One day they love you, the next day they hate you. One day they’re riding your back, then you say something and they not ’bout that. “Nah Thurman, what you mean? Why you wanna be like that?” They’re just fickle people, but at the end of the day, they’re people. Everybody is imperfect, right? I forgive fans for all the ignorance that they bring to the sport of boxing. I forgive you. It’s okay because at the end of the day, I’m still your entertainment, baby. You ain’t going to get a great fight at 147 until I get in the ring. You going to get some little pity pat, no attack, no heart, no soul. Danny [Garcia] was in that ring, but Danny didn’t look like he had dog in him no more. I still got dog in me, man. Especially, now that I’m coming off of an “L.” You know I want that, “W.”

Now I know what LeBron James feels like losing Game 7 by one point. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I’m the fighter that said, I have an 0 and I ain’t afraid to let it go. If you can beat me, beat me. I said that and I meant it and I still mean it. Who’s gonna beat, “One Time” two times? It’s not about losing, it’s about being in a fight that you could’ve won. That’s the heartbreaking moment in sports. Tiger Woods missing a putt to take home the green jacket. It’s annoying. It’s just a four-foot putt. It’ s something you’ve made a thousand times in your career, but today you miss. 

Zenger: I’m a Saints fan. I know all about those type of heartbreaks. I would rather lose by 50 points than to lose by a last-second miracle.

Thurman: Man … exactly man. I would rather be dominated. I would rather be knocked out. It’s what competition is all about. Those fine margins. Something about injuries. … I don’t blame my injuries; I’m going to tell you what I blame — mindset. I blame the mental game. Trust me, when the head game here is strong, and the mindset is strong, it’s over, man. It’s over. I’ll handle the business. I showed a little bit of a moment of weakness, I showed a little moment of, nah, you don’t need to push yourself, maybe the draw is on the table. I don’t think you lost today, but I lost that day. Always go for the gold. Always be prepared to push yourself and put yourself out there. I would’ve rather been dropped in the 12th round than to lose by one point. I should’ve stuck my chin out there. I was ready for round 13, 14, 15. Those rounds ain’t coming. At the end of the day, do it again. Run it back like we playing Madden back in the day. Mortal Kombat, I’m not finished. Finish Him! Finish Him! Finish Him! Thurman is not finished. Who is gonna do it? Who got it? I just love the fight game, man, and I don’t think these people really understand. They’re not bred in it like I was.

Zenger: What do you think it will take on your end to get the biggest names in the division in the ring with you?

Thurman: I don’t have a title. I don’t have the crown. I’m not a position holder. So, I guess put myself in a position to mandate it if I was to have one fight that would put me in position to mandate one of these champions to get in the ring, and they would be subject to approval or denial and vacation of the belt. If these fighters think they don’t want to be champion, that their names are big enough and they don’t need these belts anymore and they don’t need Keith Thurman, then they are going to have to prove it. Once I get active again, best believe, I’m climbing right back up that ladder right to the top. I know how to get there. I’ve been there before. I might step down, but I’m only a few steps away, baby. I’m not that far. I’m just a few steps away. They can’t hide forever, man. We going to see what happens. I don’t know why they don’t want great fights. I don’t know why they don’t want to challenge themselves.

Zenger: Given the fact that you are coming off of a loss, given the fact that COVID has slowed things down for boxers and you didn’t fight in 2020, do you feel like you appreciate the sport more?

Thurman: Definitely man. Just coming off a “L” in general. We’ve seen it in the past. One of my favorite fighters to lose and then to win, and then he lost a lot more after that. but at the end of the day, the way he lost and then the way he won, that was tremendous, and I’m talking about Victor Ortiz. Victor Ortiz got beat down by Marcos Maidana in a fight he was winning. And then all of a sudden, he couldn’t block a right hand and he gets slapped, and he gets slapped and he gets slapped. I’m like, “Lord, please block Victor, dang.” That fight was crazy. He dropped Maidana; Maidana dropped him, but Maidana was the one that got up and wanted to fight like a dog. Victor didn’t want that. The dog turned into a you know what. I don’t wanna say it. Once he was on his backfoot with his tail tucked in, Maidana finished him. Finished him so hard, that boy got the mic in his hand and said, “I don’t know if boxing is for me.” How hard did you get hit, boy? And that was embarrassing. Oscar De La Hoya’s face on stage was like, please shut up. He was an undefeated fighter. This was his first loss of his career. You lost to an Argentinian pitbull who got bricks for hands.

At the end of the day, when he came back, he fought my beloved brother, Andre Berto. And when he fought Andre Berto, I think Berto found himself in a slight, complacent situation. And he figured, look, that boy couldn’t take the right hand, he ain’t gonna take my right hand. But guess what, that day when he got dropped, because Victor still got dropped by Berto, but what happened when he got up? That dog didn’t have his tail tucked no more. That dog came to brawl. That dog came to fight and do more than bark. His jaw was locked. He didn’t want to let go. The spirit in man is the most powerful thing. And we see it in fighters all the time. That’s what we mean, when we say heart. It’s not just the blood pumping; it’s not just the adrenaline, but it’s the spirit behind all that. And that’s what happened to me. My spirit is awakened. I’m back on it. They can’t stop this. You put me down, I’m gonna get up like a dog. And I’m going to put in more work than that Pac fight.

Zenger: Ideally, when would you like to return to the ring?

Thurman: I would love to get back as soon as possible. Just any date, as soon as possible. Hopefully, put two fights on the books this year. I would love to be in the ring twice this year. I know it’s hard out here. I would like to get the ball rolling, but if not, just one great fight. I want a champion, or I want somebody and then a champion. It don’t matter to me. I want great fights. I believe I bring greatness into the ring each and every time I step into it. Being a non-champion, Keith “One Time” Thurman has to be one of the greatest welterweight challengers in the division. Like I said, I was a champion before they gave me a belt; I’m a champion afterwards. I’m not finished.

(Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Alex Patrick)

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