For Keith Thurman, a win this Saturday night in Brooklyn over Shawn Porter will be the result of 20 years hard work and dedication after taking up boxing at the age of 7.
The 27-year-old already has the WBA World welterweight title, and is one of a handful of men who could fill the void that Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao have left.
Hearing about it and talking about it is wearing thin for Thurman. He wants to separate himself from the pack. He wants to go one better than Kell Brook, for example. The Brit took Porter’s IBF world title from him in 2014 with a majority decision verdict. but just winning isn’t enough for Thurman.
“I’m gunning for a KO victory. I would love to set my performance apart from the performance that Kell Brook gave [against] Shawn Porter,” Thurman told Boxing Monthly recently.
Thurman has watched the fight between Porter and Brook, but doesn’t believe that what the latter did is anywhere near a template in how to beat his friend, a man he describes as a “good dude”.
“There’s only one template in boxing, period,” Thurman said. “And that’s what boxing is. The definition of boxing is to hit and not get hit. That’s the template. The template is to always do more damage to your opponent than your opponent has done to you.”
Thurman believes Brook was able to succeed with the basics of boxing. The Floridian says Brook was simply was more accurate, tied his man up well, and that Porter smothered his own work too often. An opinion that is shared by many.
“The only reason I’m not using Kell Brook’s [win] fully as an example are because he dominated Shawn Porter with the jab and right hand only. It was a basic one-two performance that Kell Brook was giving Shawn Porter. I like to throw more punches from different angles.”
“Shawn was putting himself in the position to be held, was how I was looking at it,” he continued.
“You want to keep more distance so you can keep fighting, than be on the inside. I don’t want to hold Shawn in the fight. I don’t want to hold Shawn to neglect his offence. I’d rather use my movement and my footwork. But what Kell Brook did show is that Shawn Porter can be beat. That if you’re man enough to sit there, take the punches and fight back then you have a chance of beating Shawn Porter.
“Hey, Adrian Broner (who Porter beat last June) was able to hit Shawn Porter, but he did not throw enough punches to really compete with Shawn Porter, and that’s the one thing that Kell Brook did. He made his offence be heard in the fight. It gives me confidence that Kell Brook was able to hit him. Adrien Broner was able to hit him, he just didn’t hit him enough. I think we’ll able to hit him. We’re going to be in shape. We’re going to be ready to fight. Everybody knows that I come to fight. I’m willing to do enough, and I believe that will be enough to have victory. But because Shawn continues to get caught, and he’s been caught by everyone in my opinion, my big punches should eventually put a toll on him in the fight.”
Thurman and Porter have known one another for over 10 years. They’ve sparred together, they’ve trained together. Shawn and his father Kenny have been to Keith’s mother’s house, Kenny once bought Keith dinner in Vegas. It’s friendship before and after, one that goes way back. What comes in between when the bell rings at the Barclays Centre on Saturday is just strictly business.
“Yeah man, it’s just boxing,” Thurman said.
“When you’ve got a friend, and he’s in the same weight class as you, and he wants to be champion of the world that’s what happens. It’s been common before where brothers, who are both talented and world class, choose not to compete against one another. But for me there’s no reason for friends not to compete. This is business, and this is what we’ve worked our whole lives to be. The best fighters in the world. If I’ve got to go through a friend of mine to prove how good I am in the world of boxing, then so be it.”
Boxing Monthly asked the articulate Thurman how he would describe Porter both inside and outside the ring.
“Shawn’s a great dude. Works hard, trains hard… wants the best. He pushes himself, he tries to push his opponents and give it his all every single time in the ring. Even when he lost to Kell Brook he still gave it his all, and that’s Shawn Porter’s fighting spirit.
“He’s real cool [outside the ring]. Calm, collected… just a good dude. He has a real close relationship with his father. That’s real apparent, everybody notices that. Always dresses to impress, and upholds his image.
“From what I can see he’s doing his best to be a good example for young kids, and just trying to be a classy champion. He doesn’t run his mouth because he already knows he’s going to give it his all. Plus, it seems his daddy does all the trash talking. All Shawn has to do is focus on the fight.
“To me, on the outside, it seems to me like they have that kind of connection. All Shawn needs to do is perform. He was already world champion. I knew Shawn Porter had the ability to become world champion one day from growing up with him. He acquired the championship, he lost the championship, and now they’re looking for another opportunity to become world champion again and trying to go through me to do it.”
The rearranged fight [from 12 March] against Porter, after the champion suffered injuries in a car accident, is the perfect time for Thurman to turn on the afterburners in his career. Talk to him about his last three fights, and wins, against Leonard Bundu, Robert Guerrero and Luis Collazo, and you hear a slight sigh of discontent. It’s acceptable but not good enough. These haven’t been fights that have perhaps lit a fire under him.
After putting Bundu down in the first round of their fight [in December 2014] Thurman told BM he thought he would have the fight over by the 4th or the 5th round. He allowed the wily veteran time to make adjustments so that he would minimise his own risk, thus frustrating Thurman who would pick up the WBA’s interim title after a 12-round decision win.
Thurman expected more from Robert Guerrero when they fought two months after Thurman was elevated to full champion. Another 12-round win, another performance that left some wondering if ‘One Time’ was the real deal.
“He [Guerrero] didn’t start trying to walk me down until the seventh round. Until then he was on his back foot, he was really timid, patient, and [I] just didn’t expect to have that kind of fight out of Robert Guerrero that day,” Thurman recalled.
We may not have seen the explosiveness that we saw from Thurman earlier in his career, but that doesn’t prevent him from believing he is only one punch, one performance away from recapturing those displays that had many purring.
Twenty-seven years old, undefeated, and a world champion. He’s a happy man. It’s a beautiful time for the welterweight division, he says.
“I’m happy to be one of the three undefeated welterweight champions of the world. I think it’s such a beautiful moment in time that here we are in boxing in the welterweight division, which has already been throughout history one of the most exciting divisions. And right now we currently have three undefeated welterweight champions. So the ability to make some great fights happen is right here, right now, and I really couldn’t be more excited with what’s going in my career at this moment in time.”
Thurman is on record as saying that he envisions himself having two more world titles by the end of the year. A win over Porter could line him up against WBC champion Danny Garcia or the winner of the September IBF/WBO unification clash between Kell Brook and Jessie Vargas.
The numbers have to be crunched correctly, but in the meantime Thurman says he would have no qualm with travelling to the UK to fight Brook.
“Kell Brook won the IBF title abroad, I don’t mind trying to win it abroad and bring it back home.
“I want to get past Shawn Porter. I want to look spectacular while doing it, and then I want to challenge the other world champions to a unification bout later this year.”