Thurman looks to establish his own legacy

by Gary Shelton on June 9, 2016 · 0 comments

in Boxing, general

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Thurman has waited a long time for this fight.

Thursday 6 a.m.

Eventually, it may be Shawn Porter who he has on the run.

For now, Keith Thurman smiles. He dances, and he swats his opponent on the head, and he dances away. His opponent chases after him. Thurman swats again and grins. He ducks his head and clenches. His opponent tongue is hanging out now.

Thurman swats him again and darts away. It is all there, the quickness, the speed, the competitiveness.

Finally, his opponent has had enough. He laid down on the mat on his back and rolled over, vanquished. And just like that, Thurman had tamed another beast.

This time, it was Little Champion, his eight-month-old pit bull.

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It was Thursday, in the middle of Thurman's Media Day workout at the St. Petersburg Boxing club. There were cameras and microphones and conversation about the upcoming fight between Thurman, the WBA Welterweight Champion from Clearwater, and Shawn Porter, who Thurman, frankly, plans to treat like a dog.

Thurman, 27, is itching for this fight. The fight, originally scheduled for March, was postponed after Thurman's auto accident. This encounter, perhaps the toughest of Thurman's career, will go a long way toward saying who the next talented star in the division will be.

"This fight is one of the pinnacle fights of my career right now,” Thurman said. “This fight is one of the biggest platforms, biggest stages. This fight means a lot to the welterweight division, which is in a flux with Floyd Mayweather announcing his retirement.”

"Three years ago I was calling myself 'The New Kid on the Block,' and (talking about) how hard it was for the new kids to get the spotlight. But now with these big moneymakers, these big headlines fighters, out of the picture, the cameras, the fans, they want to know where to focus their attention next. This fight is one of those fights everybody is paying attention to.”

Is Thurman the next Floyd Mayweather? He makes a face. He doesn't buy into that sort of talk.

There’s not a next after something already occurred, right? You don’t get a next. But if you want to say who’s next, who’s the next superstar. It’s not about replacing Floyd Mayweather. Floyd Mayweather has a legacy that’s long and steep. Nobody, especially at 27 years old, is going to replace a Floyd Mayweather overnight.

"Everybody wants my title.”

Thurman is capable of trash-talking. Most boxers are. But with Porter, he takes a measured approach.

He is an intelligent fighter. He's known as a power puncher, but he can move around, too. If you want a comparison, yeah, he has traces of the late Muhammad Ali to him.

"Ali was a showman," Thurman said. "He was a great person. He stood up for all of his beliefs in life, from changing his name, religious views, political views, boycotting the war. I wish I grew up with Muhammad Ali. To look back, it’s very evident, very clear, that Muhammad Ali was something special. He was an Olympian, gold medalist. Tremendous skills as an athlete. … I really believe Ali is one of the major sources on awakening the America public on how popular any sport can be.”

"Ali opened to doors to show that boxing is a great sport. In his time, he made it the best sport in America.”

Forget the conversation about “the next” great fighter. Thurman has a chance to be the face of his division. If he can win his next three, four fights, he should be on the doorstep.

"I remember growing up and all I remember saying to myself is I want to be the face, I want to be the guy, who brings boxing back. When people come up to me and say they enjoy watching me fight, or they’re enjoying boxing more since they’re seen my fights, got them back into boxing, that really makes me feel good.”

"I’ve thought of myself a knockout artist since I was 14 years old, knocking out grown men with 16 ounce gloves and headgears. Ever since then, I’ve been dropping people like a bad habit. I love being a power puncher. My first favorite fighter of all times was Mike Tyson. It was my goal to have more knockouts than him in my professional career.”

Look ahead. If Thurman can win two fights this year, then two more the next, where will he be?

"By the end of '17, I would love to be closer to being undisputed welterweight champion of the world," Thurman said. "There’s only been so many undisputed champions of the world in the history of boxing. I love the history of boxing. In that time frame, fighting at least one of the other champions.”

"It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve been doing this since I was 7 years old. For me another thing about this fight, it’s a 20th anniversary for me, 20 years of being focused on boxing, still moving forward, still looking for bigger and better things.”

For a long time, Thurman was one of the young fighters trying to get in line to fight Floyd Mayweather. It never happened.

Now, Thurman seems content to forge his own path.

"It's hard to keep barking up the tree and not get any action. The old man’s old. Let him retire. I’m cool with it. He’s got his own legacy.”

For Thurman, this fight could be a reason for America to pay attention to him. Then come the bigger fights against the bigger names.

And eventually?

Well, Little Champion is getting older. He's a beast, and eventually, he's going to want a rematch.

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