Keith Thurman calls out Floyd Mayweather Jr. (and everyone else)
LAS VEGAS – Most boxing fans and media regard the Amir Khan-Devon Alexander welterweight bout, which headlines a Golden Boy Promotions card at MGM Grand on Saturday, as an unofficial elimination bout for pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s next opponent.
However, Keith Thurman, who faces Leonard Bundu in the co-featured bout of the Showtime-televised quadrupleheader, let the public know that he has his sights set on a 2015 Mayweather clash during an open workout inside the MGM Grand on Wednesday.
When asked by the MC of the public workout, Los Angeles radio personality Tattoo, who he would like to fight next year, the undefeated young contender made it very clear that he wants boxing’s biggest star.
“I want Mayweather,” said Thurman, THE RING’s No. 7-rated welterweight. “I want the top dog. He’s getting old and I want to fight him before he retires.”
After a couple minutes of vigorous shadowboxing and interacting with the crowd of onlookers around the ring that was set up near the sports book, Thurman continued to talk about Mayweather in front of a group of media members.
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“Mayweather’s on his final lap, I think we all know that,” the 26-year-old boxer-puncher said. “He’s not going to be here five years from now. I will be here, but I want to fight the best while I’m in my prime.
“I want to fight any top welterweight who will face me, but Floyd is in the mix in 2015 because I don’t know if he’ll be fighting after next year. The Showtime contract is his road to retirement. If you can’t retire on that money there’s no hope for you. But he’s got two fights left (on the Showtime contract) and only God knows if he’ll fight again after those two fights.”
It’s only natural for Thurman (23-0, 21 knockouts) to call out Mayweather. Every contender and titleholder from 140 to 160 pounds wants a piece of the future first-ballot hall of famer for obvious reasons, but most fighters who are just a few days away from a bout at least pretend to be focused on the opponent in front of them.
Is Thurman overlooking Bundu? He doesn’t view it like that.
For Thurman, the Mayweather talk is motivation. His obsession with fighting the No. 1 welterweight in the sport has fueled every training camp since he was named THE RING’s 2012 Prospect of the Year. Since that honor, the native of Clearwater, Florida has strung together four impressive performances – a shutout of former beltholder Jan Zaveck, a 10th-round KO of then-unbeaten Diego Chaves, a brutal ninth-round stoppage of rugged gatekeeper Jesus Soto Karass, and a three-round drubbing of Julio Diaz.
Thurman was at his destructive best against Diaz, which took place in April. Diaz, a former two-time lightweight titleholder, was 0-2-1 in his three bouts prior to their Showtime-televised bout from StubHub Center in Carson, California. However, gutsy veteran was regarded as a legit gatekeeper having held future titleholder Shawn Porter to a draw and nearly beating Khan in a close points loss.
Thurman tore through Diaz with a frightening display of athleticism and precision power punching. After scoring a knockdown in Round 2, Thurman hurt Diaz to the body so severely that the proud fighter remained on his stool after Round 3. Diaz announced his retirement after the fight.
“I felt great in that fight,” Thurman said. “I was so ready for Diaz after 10 weeks of hard training. Mayweather was my main focus for that fight. I kept him in mind when I was hitting the bags, when I was on the treadmill.”
Hardcore fans have kept Thurman in mind when discussing potential high-profile welterweight bouts. To those who have watched him develop from hyped prospect to bona-fide contender the only drawback with Thurman, who sat out for six months while rehabbing a shoulder injury, is that they don’t see enough of him.
His appeal to diehard fans is due to his seek-and-destroy style, and his intensely sincere mentality outside of the ring. Thurman doesn’t bulls__t. His straight-forward answers to every question from the media on Wednesday kept members of the boxing press engaged and chuckling.
They asked him if wanted to fight Manny Pacquiao. He did, of course. When one reporter asked how he would fare against the Filipino legend he gave the guy a hard stare before saying “I’d do just fine, man; way better than Chris Algieri.”
Thurman added that Algieri is a good boxer but was simply in over his head against Pacquiao.
“Pacquiao is not the same fighter he was a few years ago, or before [Juan Manuel] Marquez knocked him out,” he said. “His ring intelligence has grown over the years. With the experience he had, it was just too big of a jump for Algieri to deal with. He went from [Ruslan] Provodnikov to Pacquiao. He should have gone from Provodnikov to Tim Bradley to Pacquiao.”
Many would say that Mayweather is too big of a jump for a fighter of Thurman’s experience. Thurman says they may be right. But he’s willing to take the risk or roll the dice against another elite fighter.
“I’m not afraid to lose,” he said. “That’s how you grow and learn as a fighter. If I lose I can reflect on what I do wrong.
“Maybe I’ll go unbeaten for as long as Floyd has, maybe nobody will be able to capitalize on my mistakes, but if someone does beat me, it will only make me better.”
In some ways Thurman’s boxing philosophy is the antithesis of Mayweather’s, which prompted some writers to ask him if he thinks the 18-year pro will risk facing him.
“I think so,” Thurman said. “If he’s really TBE (the best ever), he’ll fight me. If I have to earn my shot by fighting someone else, I’ll do it. I’d love to fight [Marcos] Maidana. I’d fight him ‘one time’ and do it right the first time.
“If I do that, Floyd should fight me. If he’s really TBE, he’ll fight me. Of course, for me, TBE is something that you earn after your career. But he’s given himself that brand now. That’s why I say he’s old. He’s already thinking about leaving the sport. I just want my shot at him before he goes.”
If he doesn’t get Mayweather, Thurman says he only wants to face the best 147 pounders in the sport in 2015 and going forward, and he’s not afraid to name names.
“We can start from the bottom of the top 10 and work our way up,” he said. “Robert Guerrero, maybe he’ll finally get in the ring with me, Maidana, the Khan-Alexander winner, Kell Brook, Tim Bradley, Pacquiao.”
Thurman has the talent, look, personality and mentality of a future star, but his journey begins in earnest on Saturday against Bungu.
“I’m always looking for the knockout,” he said, “but I’m going to fight a smart fight and I’ll be ready to go 12 rounds if I have to.”
We’ll see how far that philosophy takes Thurman.
Bundu looks solid
More than a few fans have dismissed Bundu as a threat to Thurman, especially Americans who are unfamiliar with the unbeaten (31-0-2) veteran. That’s nothing new for the Italy-based European welterweight champ, who was written off by pretty much everyone going into his last two fights – a 12th-round TKO of former title challenger Lee Purdy and a deserved split decision over undefeated Frankie Gavin.
“I was the underdog in both fights,” Bundu told RingTV.com during Wednesday’s public workouts. “It didn’t really make sense, especially in the Purdy fight. He had just been stopped by Devon Alexander in a title bout before fighting me.
“I guess it was because I was fighting in their home country, Britain, but I knew I had a chance. I was confident like always.”
Two reasons Bundu is not considered a threat against any welterweight contender: his low knockout ratio, he’s only scored 11 KOs in 33 pro bouts; and his age, he turned 40 last month.
However, it should be noted that Bundu has scored four stoppages in his last six bouts since winning the European title three years ago.
And if looks count for anything, Bundu is likely a very good athlete. He’s got a rock-solid physique that a boxer in his mid-20s would be proud to own. The Sierra Leon native also flashed fast combinations during his brief shadowboxing stint at Wednesday’s fighter meet-and-greet with the public.
Bundu, whose mother is Italian, also has solid amateur credentials. He won a bronze medal at the 1999 world amateur championships and he represented Italy at the 2000 Olympic Games.
“I feel that I am better now than I was five years ago,” he said. “I’ve got experience, and I’m a little more skillful.”
He says he’s done his homework on Thurman and will need his experience and skill to upset the odds once again.
“I have to neutralize his power,” he said. “I have to outbox him, out-smart him. It won’t be easy because he’s not just a puncher. He’s a skillful boxer. But he does like load up on his punches. Sometimes he throws too hard and overextends himself.
“I have to be ready to counter when he does that.”
Video by Doug Fischer
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