Saturday, June 22, 2024  |


Keith Thurman happy to be back in the spotlight after two years away

Photo by: Douglas DeFelice/Prime 360 Photography
Fighters Network

NEW YORK — ”We back, baby, Brooklyn…you know what I mean, it’s just been a long time and I’m happy man, finally slim and trim,” said Keith Thurman, in front of a gaggle of videographers and a few writers at the famed and fabled Gleason’s Gym in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, days out from his fight this Saturday with Josesito Lopez.

It’s been about two years since his last fight, and oh yes, the game has changed. Nobody in the US knew what DAZN was….HBO boxing was still a thing…and Thurman hadn’t been hurt, and gotten married, and plumped up to almost cruiserweight status eating the home cooking in Florida.

Two years, and it was most clear that the man has missed all this. A majority of the fighters who come to these media workouts do so if not against their will, then under some duress, or, at least, find themselves preferring they were doing something else, like maybe being on line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Not Thurman; for a solid hour, “One Time” took press questions, first in a scrum, and then while shadow boxing, getting a lil sweat going as he took questions on matters inside and outside his weight class. All the while, he maintained a dignity and decorum and an air of joviality and dare I say it, class…which had me telling myself repeatedly during the session that I missed this guy.

That didn’t mean I didn’t grill him, lightly. Things is, Thurman can handle it. He doesn’t get prickly and defensive when you ask him about semi sensitive stuff. He gets it, that all this is part of the package. The paychecks are outsized and that is because you are a public figure, and people care about what you say and do, and how you fight and what you do outside the ring. He gets it, because he’s a cerebral cat.

He isn’t smart “for a fighter,” he’s SMART, period, and that’s why he’s been missed while he’s been out of the ring.

You saw the glimmer in his eye as he ripped off solid lines, and also informed us what he’d been doing since he fought last against Danny Garcia. He’s 30 now, and yes, he said it’s different now….it’s a bit harder to peel off pounds. He was at 183 at one point, but carving down to welter again, the whole process,  it’s clearly suiting him.

“I’m hoping to continue this, being an active fighter and being one of the best welters the world of boxing has to offer today.”

Wait, wait, wait..”one of” the best..or THE BEST, I asked, as I tried to recollect what the Thurman persona is.

“You know I’m humble baby, don’t get me out of character, you know I’m humble baby,” he said, while cracking up. “That’s how I stay humble. You gotta strive, the day you tell yourself you number one, that’s the day you done.”

He was part preacher, part WWE-er, a little Ali, a pleasant mix that I say it again, we’ve missed.

Cocky, just enough, but with a humility that reduces the number of “fans” who tune in to see him lose.

He touched on what he’d heard while on the shelf, the fans and the media and even the fighters, like Errol Spence, who busted on him. He took in some of what the fans said, he told us, but he shared that he got a lot of love from random fans while walking around NY on his hiatus.

He said he doesn’t expect fans to know what it’s like to be a big-time athlete who is trying to get well after injuries. But what about when a fellow fighter snipes at him?

He brought up Spence, who spoke up at the Fox up-fronts and took at aim at Thurman. He questioned Thurman’s durability, basically. Thurman shared that it was awhile back that he said hi to Spence, and way back when, told the Texan that they’d scrap down the line.

“But I got here before you,” he said. “But we will meet.”

More tidbits…Thurman said four titles should be on the line when him and Spence meet.

Also, he thinks he will fight twice this year, just two times for “One Time.”

Plus, “AB is the boy who cried wolf,” said Thurman, when asked what he thought about Broner’s effort versus Pacquiao. He’d supported Broner before, and said he rooted for him to put up after talking the talk. “Who’s AB today? About Bullshit!” he cracked. That Broner-Pacman fight nearly put him to sleep, he said.

Media had to hope their phones were charged as they taped the man shadow-boxing, and taking queries. He was in the zone–not DAZN–as he said what he thought would happen the next time he fought Shawn Porter….and how he wants to stick around at 147 for a long spell, because he wants to be lumped in with the mega-stars, like the Leonards and such, who are melded with that division.

He slid left, talked, slid right, talked…he barely paused while shooting straight rights at shadows.

Yes indeed, he’d welcome a crack at a Manny Pacquiao, he said. Thurman was ready to handle incoming from any angle, on any subject. What about Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan, he was asked….”This is a beautiful time to be in boxing,” he said, noting that platforms left and right and center are tossing around beefy piles of loot.

Bop…bop, he’d exhale as he shot combos…

The pony tail bobbed as he touched on matters like: how he respects what Crawford does at ESPN…and how he thinks Mikey Garcia might be too small to handle Errol Spence’s bombs in March. Especially that right hook from the Texan…

Thurman’s breath held steady as he boxed and answered questions…Oh, by the way, his trainer Dan Birmingham told me we won’t see any rust in evidence on Saturday, because ample gym work, sparring and all that, will leave Thurman looking top shelf.

His humility, we spoke on that…”I’m one of the best, I’m one of the best,” he asserted, and that was refreshing, hearing someone self-actualized enough to allow nuance into his psyche. Maybe I’m not THE MAN, he said…maybe a Spence will beat me, but I will have a blast finding out.

That was the main takeaway from this media workout at Bruce Silverglade’s fight factory – Thurman is ultra amped to be doing his thing. And his thing is pugilism. He adores making you miss, and making you pay. He loves having the media surrounding him and curious what will next come out of his mouth. “This is the funnest thing in the whole world for me,” he said, and we all believed him.

My three cents: I enjoy what I do for this living more when I cover the Thurmans, who don’t rely on nastiness and negativity and such to stay “relevant.” I won’t pretend, I’m happy he’s back on the scene. Here’s hoping he sticks around and stay healthy and we can get more of where this came from. Oh, and for the record, lest anyone forget, the guy who was mentioned like twice in the span of an hour that Thurman held court, Josesito Lopez, will on Saturday be working his ass of to diminish that relevance, at Barclays Center and on Fox.

Woods, a Brooklyn resident, was a staff writer at NY Newsday, before joining ESPN The Magazne (2003-2011).  He edited (2007-20015), publishes, calls fights for Facebook Fightnight Live and does the “Talkbox” podcast for Everlast.