Thurman carves out his own legacy in boxing

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2015 · 1 comment

in Boxing, general

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

Inside a small building, constructed by sweat and held upright by dreams, the

Thurman: 'I'm a bad man.'

Thurman: 'I'm a bad man.'

champion of the world sits on a bench and grins.

In front of him is his home, the ring. Around him, bags of various shapes dangle from the ceiling. There are boxing posters on the walls, surrounding motivational phrases. There are trophies.

For Clearwater's Keith Thurman, the St. Pete Boxing Club is home. Here, away from the bright lights and cameras, away from the sport he considers to be the most difficult in the world. Here, he is a soft-spoken man of perspective, not the hunted, not the hunter. Just a guy hanging out at the gym and talking about the dogs, and fighting, and history.

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“All b.s. aside, I'm a bad man,” Thurman says softly. “I've been bad since I was 13 years old and I started knocking out grown men with 16 ounce gloves and headgear on. That was the start of being an animal.

"You know, that was when I was  13. I'm pushing 27 now. Some time has gone by, and that animal has gotten to learn a lot of things while staying in the ring. I learned how to be a beast like Mike Tyson. One of the first dreams I wanted was to be like Mike Tyson. Get knockouts like Mike Tyson. Then I learned to tame the beast and learned about the true art of boxing.”

He is called One-Time, and the world knows his power. He has been the WBA Welterweight Champion of the World for two years. He is a home-run hitter, a finisher. The world is mesmerized by those who can punch the way Thurman can punch. In 26 professional fights, all wins, he has knocked out his opponent 22 times, providing a sudden, violent ending to his night.

But boxing is about more than knockouts, Thurman will tell you, which is why he considers it to be the hardest sport in the world.

“It's the challenge of the warrior,” Thurman said. “It takes a certain type of person to participate in this sport. Most people don't wake up saying 'I can't wait to get punched in the face today.'”

He laughs.

“Well, we don't want that, either. But it's an occupational hazard. It can happen. That's why a few years ago, I decided this was the hardest sport in the world. You have to move forward. You have to move backward. You have to move side to side. You have to throw punches while you are doing it, and you have to endure the punches of another person is coming to hurt you. A 12-round fight is one of the hardest things to achieve.”

He is 26, old enough to have been the WBA Welterweight champion for two years, but young enough to be considered in the sports' next wave after Floyd Mayweather. Thurman talks longingly about stepping into the ring with Mayweather, but he has begun to doubt if Mayweather will fight long enough to get to him.

“It doesn't look like he's going to stick around,” Thurman said. “For years, I've pondered working my way up, trying to be one of the young guys to get one of those final shots at a great legend, someone whose done great things in the sport of boxing. At the end of the day, though, I'm champion. I already have accomplished a lifelong goal.

“And as champion, I plan on having my own legacy. I would love to be in there with the king, one of the greats. You want to fight the best fighter from that generation that is on his way out. But with or without Floyd Mayweather, I am determined to dominate the 147-division and create a name for Keith 'One-Time' Thurman.”

You ask Thurman to pick his four-man tournament from the welterweights. He picks Mayweather, and Sugar Ray Leonard, and Ray Robinson and Aaron Pryor.

“That would have been great to see Pryor-Leonard. What would it be like if I got to fight one of those fights? My legacy has just begun. In time, I hope to make my mark on history.”

There are a lot of contenders among welterweights. The one thing that Thurman has that the others lack?

“The will to die in the ring,” Thurman said. “The one thing I fear the most is that the referee would wave his hands at any point in my fight if I am conscious. I fear that a referee somehow in some scenario will over step his boundaries. I 'm more of old school. If two men are fighting, someone should end up getting hurt.”

Shudder if you will. This is the mindset of a man who has grown up in the ring. He was 7 when he started this, about three years after he wanted to be a martial artist (he loved watching movies of Steven Segal and Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan). He played football for a while – he played in Raymond James and won his team's defensive MVP as a 13-year-old – but this was the sport that claimed him.

The “One-Time” nickname comes from his father, Keith Sr., who used do some backyard brawling back in Cincinnati.

" They called him One-Time because he would hit people with these body shots that would make them go to a knee. So I adopted it. Because it was my father, and because in boxing, One-Time is everything.”

Before he is finished, before the book is closed on Thurman's legacy, he still has goals he would like to accomplish.

“There are a few other titles,'' he said. “It'd be nice to unify. My ultimate dream is to be  the undisputed champion of the world. I would love to gain all the titles in the world."

He has always dreamed big, He has fought hard.

For Thurman, it's a simple-enough legacy.

It only takes one time to define it.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cecil DeBald September 22, 2015 at 11:46 am

Good column, Gary, boxing was a favorite of mine, but I haven’t had anyone to root for in a long time. Hope Thurman continues to do well, he seems like the kind of fighter you can pull for.

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