By Robert Hough
Keith Thurman, who fights 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, said “Hell no” he will not be fighting when he’s 40. What comes after boxing is unclear, but the candid, often-hilarious 30-year-old would make a helluva good talk-show host.
Thurman (30-0, 22 KOs 1 NC) faces Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) in each man’s second fight of the year. The Filipino senator dominated Adrien Broner in January and Thurman mostly dominated Josesito Lopez (36-8, 19 KOs) one week later, though he got cracked hard in the seventh round. That moment of trouble might have motivated Pacquiao to make the fight, Thurman said.
“I got caught,” he said. “I was in danger. I remember after I got caught and then I got caught again. And then after that I got caught again. I got hit with three big shots that round. I said (to myself) ‘You better put your hands up. You better move your feet because only you know you’re okay right now. The whole world thinks you’re going to be knocked the f*** out. The whole world thinks you’re about to be knocked the f*** out, but just get out of this round and let’s show them what kind of champion you really are.’ So, it isn’t about too much talk, it is what it is.
“It probably was one of my most vulnerable rounds of my career to date.”
It was also a round that showed what he has, the Clearwater, Florida native and resident said.
“In the seventh round I showed once again that Keith Thurman is not a punk. If you want to fight me, fight me. You want to hurt me, hurt me. If you drop me, you drop me, but you better stop me. As long as you don’t stop me, I’m coming out the champion like I always do because that’s what I do.”
Dwell on imperfections and perceived shortcomings if you must, Thurman said, but nobody can say he’s dull.
“You can throw some criticism and some shots if you want but, I believe that I bring entertainment to the welterweight division, always have, always will,” he said. “If I win, I’m your entertainment, if I lose, I’m your entertainment.”
For 22 months, he was one of the most invisible fighters in the welterweight division. Thurman had elbow surgery in May 2017; a year later he suffered what was described as a deep bruise to his left hand.
“I didn’t do a lot of talking in my inactivity because I like to talk positive,” he said. “I like to talk action. Being an inactive fighter, to me, there’s not a lot to talk about. What am I going to talk about, my struggle, or am I going to talk about my depression, my sadness? What am I going to talk about?”
The fears cut deeper as time went on, Thurman admitted
“It’s human nature that not every day is going to be our best day and for me my thought process started to get a little morbid,” he said. “I started having to ask myself the question, ‘Are you ever going to fight again. Is your career over at the age of 28, 29 years old? Are you done? Is that all that you will ever accomplish in your career?’
“It was sad, but I could still be proud about being a two-time world champion unifying the WBA with the WBC when I defeated world champion Danny Garcia, who was undefeated. But I was still in my prime so it was quite depressing to start thinking like that and obviously I got myself out of that chain of thought and getting into the gym also helps because as you’re not training, you’re not feeling good either.”
And along comes a long-sought dream fight for someone long-driven by his dreams.
“I was rebellious; I was a dreamer and I didn’t know it at a young age,” he said. “I’m a dreamer and you can tell your kids, ‘You need this and you need that,’ and I looked at every adult and said, ‘I need to dream. I need to live my dream and if I fail, I’ll listen to every little bit of advice that you have from here on out.'”
Thurman, who’s quick to speak of himself in the third-person, recalled that he’s always been suited to the freedom that boxing provides.
“Keith Thurman is just not a 9-5 kind of guy,” he said. “Know thyself. I’ve always known what I wanted for myself. I was 10 years old when I said nobody is going to be the boss of me. And I shocked a lot of people with that statement. I can barely listen to my own mother, how am I going to have a boss?”
More recently, the progress was slow and the route was frustrating, but the big one’s here now.
“I wanted this fight six years ago, at the MGM Grand,” Thurman said. “I always thought it would be a beautiful fight. I always wear red, white and blue. I never change my colors. When Keith Thurman is in the ring, he is living out his American Dream. I’m fighting a legend. It’s as if I’m fighting Sugar Ray Robinson. It’s like I’m fighting Roberto Duran.”
Fighting Pacquiao will take skill, flexibility and quick thinking, Thurman suggested.
“Movement will make it difficult for a fighter like Pacquiao to have the output he wants to have,” said Thurman, who noted that a lot of fighters don’t go to Pacquiao’s body. “If I feel like he’s getting off too much, maybe I will increase the movement.”
Pacquiao’s a decade older, had more than twice as many fights, but Keith Thurman’s apparently not of a mind to save a little something for the championship rounds, see if the 40-year old can take his best heat down the stretch.
“At the end of day, I’m gonna do to him what I did to Danny Garcia: I’m gonna hit him as soon as I can hit him.”
It will be entertaining and it will be done with intelligence, said Thurman, who repeatedly spoke of a commitment to leaving the sport before he ends up being one more punch-drunk mess.
“I’m going to do my best to not take too many shots come July 20th. A few more of these paychecks and we won’t be here when we’re 40 years old. I don’t need $100 million in life. I just need a little bit of moolah.”