Tuesday, January 31, 2023  |



Keith Thurman, Robert Guerrero deliver in boxing’s return to NBC



Photo by Harry How / Getty Images

Photo by Harry How / Getty Images

LAS VEGAS – Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero were determined to put on a show for their welterweight showdown that headlined boxing’s return to network television after three decades. And after a lackluster co-main event where Adrian Broner and John Molina failed to live up to expectations, Thurman and Guerrero made up for it with a barnburner that was the perfect way to debut the inaugural PBC on NBC show in front of a raucous 10,106 fans at the MGM Grand Garden.

But it would be Thurman’s exceptional boxing ability and scintillating power – which scored a 9th round knockdown – that made all the difference as “One Time” retained his WBA welterweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Guerrero in a fight where the scorecards didn’t exactly reflect the excitement in the ring.

Despite losing with scores of 120-107, 118-109 and 118-108, “The Ghost” had nothing to be ashamed of. Well, except that he should have closed the distance a lot sooner and forced a dogfight.

Thurman, who predicted he’d score a early knockout, came to make due on his promise early as he rushed at Guerrero armed with punches filled with bad intentions. However, Guerrero (32-3-1) was prepared for whatever Thurman attempted to launch at him and found success with some slick counterpunching that eventually earned Thurman’s respect as the rounds went on.

An incidental head butt caused a nasty hematoma to form over Thurman’s left eye and perhaps that helped change the strategy of “One Time” who settled into a game plan that saw him utilize lateral movement and sharpshooting from the outside. The shift in his approach worked as Thurman took over the middle rounds and left Guerrero struggling to find range while his opponent scored with straight right hand.

Although he was comfortably ahead, Thurman (25-0, 21 knockouts) still sought the knockout that had eluded him for eight rounds. In the ninth, the 26-year-old ripped Guerrero with an uppercut that sank “The Ghost” to the canvas. For a minute, it looked like as if Guerrero would be knockout victim #22 but he rose to his feet and survived a hellacious onslaught of punches. With his back against the wall, Guerrero came out in the 10th round and immediately sucked Thurman into a phone booth brawl that brought the fans to their feet. The two engaged in dogfight where the heart of Guerrero took over his mind as the two danced to a vicious ballad of power shots and infighting.

Clearly out of his comfort zone, Thurman managed to regain the edge in the 11th round by circling away and shooting Guerrero’s advances down with the right hand whenever “The Ghost” was in striking distance. It may not have been the bloodbath that fans wanted to see continue, but it certainly worked in Thurman’s favor until the close of the fight.

Thurman – who, according to Compubox, landed 172 power shots to Guerrero’s 74 – saw his hand raised in victory but had to credit Guerrero’s durability and the fact that “One Time” needed a lot more than one punch to get rid of the former four-division champion.

“He was a little more calm and I thought he was going to press the action harder in the beginning rounds,” Thurman said afterward. “I was able to knock him down late though and I knew I was hurting him each and every round. But he was a veteran who tried to pace himself.

“This was a tremendous fight and a learning experience for Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman.”

With a thrilling victory in the books, Thurman will likely look toward as showdown with Marcos Maidana, which is sure to have boxing fans clamoring due to what would immediately be recognized as a potential fight of the year candidate. Meanwhile, Guerrero had no problem tipping his cap to Thurman.

“I know why they call him ‘One Time,'” Guerrero said. “When I went down he got me good but I got up and did what I had to do.”

And although outgunned, Guerrero was well aware of the show he put on for the fans.

“That’s the kind of performance that wins the hearts of fans even when you don’t win.”

Not only did Guerrero and Thurman win over some new fans, but the entire sport of boxing thanks to their performance on prime time television. And that’s exactly the shot in the arm the sport needed.