5 Reasons to Keep an Eye on Keith Thurman in 2013

Sean LeahyCorrespondent IIFebruary 15, 2013

5 Reasons to Keep an Eye on Keith Thurman in 2013

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    If you had queried the name Keith Thurman at the start of 2012, you might have had a very disparate perspective of the man also know as “One Time,” to the same name search at the onset of the current calendar year. 

    This is because although the 24-year-old welterweight from Clearwater, Fla. had compiled a 16-0 record, with 14 knockouts to his credit through 2010, he saw no action in 2011 due to a knuckle injury and two canceled bouts.

    Thurman emerged from his squared circle sabbatical, with results that proved he was cultivating more than his cornrows, which could still be slightly tighter for the purists, during his absence. In fact, his out of the ring craft cultivation resulted in winning all four of his bouts with knockouts in 2012. 

    He is next slated to slug it out against Slovenian Jan “Mr. Sympathicus” Zaveck in a WBO title eliminator on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins vs. Tavoris Cloud main event, on March 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

    In addition to looking forward to his next bout, here are several reasons to look forward to the current calendar year and beyond, when it comes to Thurman.

2012

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    Thurman got back to the business of busying himself in the ring in 2012, as well as making up for the lost year that was 2011, ensuring that "One Time" stays on the collective minds of foes and fans alike.

    All four of his wins came as a result of knockouts, none of which took him more than six rounds of work to achieve. And although the first three opponents' combined pedigree was fairly paltry, it was his most recent stoppage of Carlos Quintana in November of 2012, which turned heads, literally in Quintana's case, towards Thurman's potential.

    It was Thurman's first showing with a veteran light middleweight, who had previously fought the likes of Andre Berto, Miguel Cotto, and twice with Paul Williams. The Clearwater native proved through his purely stalking style that he was too overwhelming for Quintana.

    He made his intentions clear from Round 1, catching Quintana with a hulking left hook to the body that brought the Puerto Rican to one knee, and the crowd to their feet.

    The assault and aggression that Thurman brought for the remainder of the bout, while somewhat untamed and not always technically sound, disallowed Quintana to ever recover from that first round submission to the praying position. And it was a wonder in Round 4 when Thurman hit him with that final measured straight right with mustard, which prompted referee Jack Reiss to stop the fight, that Quintana managed to stay on his feet.

    Quintana publicly degraded Thurman, when he stated in the last press conference before their match that he was looking past the fight towards a possible match with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The 24-year-old showed a refreshing pure pressuring style throughout, resulting in Quintana's post match announced retirement.

A Call Out to the World of Boxing

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    "What makes Keith Thurman different than anyone else that wants a title shot but has barely done anything to merit the shot over more deserving opponents?" Malignaggi told ESPN NY.

    If he wasn't with Al Haymon, no one would know who this guy was, so when he does something to get himself in position I'm sure all the world champions will take notice of him. But until then, signing with Al Haymon isn't an accomplishment that makes you deserve a title shot. Solid wins over top guys get you title shots, and Keith Thurman has none.

    The above was in reaction to the fact that Keith Thurman has perpetually made it universally clear that not only does he want to challenge Malignaggi, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Timothy Bradley Jr., but also the “world of boxing” in general.

    Of course when one dissects the virtually prenatal record, in boxing terms, of the 24-year-old Thurman, it is feasible to quip, “Who has he fought other than Quintana?”

    Point taken, but, in order to be the best, a fighter has to not only want to fight the best but beat the best, and in addition to fulfilling my sports cliché quota for this piece, it is an accurate summation of Keith Thurman’s lofty desires.

    Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Early in my career...I had to choose between an honest arrogance and a hypocritical humility...I deliberately choose an honest arrogance, and I've never been sorry.”

    The natural progression of most of the great fighters in the sport began with a self-belief and the willingness to communicate that self-belief through chatter inside and outside of the ring. To the dismay of won-loss and statistical analysts, Thurman is bold in his chatter.

    Time will tell if his confidence and record intersect on a parallel line, and he will be the architect of a truly noteworthy career, but for now he is earning his percentage in the arena of self-promotion.

One Time

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    Keith Thurman has won 18 of the 19 professional bouts that he has fought, via knockout, 16 of which have taken place in the first three rounds of the contest.

    Granted many of those bouts came against fighters with questionable records early on, but a man can only plate the possibilities that are placed in front of him. As such, he has lived up to his half of the bargain, knocking out his first eight opponents in the first round.

    From a style standpoint, the nickname is appropriate, as Thurman is looking to throw the old "good night Irene," literally from the moment he bursts from his corner after the opening bell.

    He has yet to match up against a fighter with the same ability to chin check him in the way he has chin checked his opponents thus far, but he sticks to his gameplan when it comes to the one and your done mentality.

    He has Dan Birmingham, trainer for "Winky" Wright, in his corner, and having exposure to Birmingham as well as Wright by affiliation, can only help in matters of refinement to Thurman's technique and style as he matures.

    Nevertheless, he is a pressure fighter and even despite his attempts at escaping this type of onslaught, Carlos Quintana found out all too well that Thurman tries to physically embody his nickname in the ring from Round 1.

From Prospect to Proven?

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    Thurman was voted the 2012 Prospect of the Year by fans in the Ring.TV’s end of the year polls. Whether this is legitimate or not, as it is a fan based poll, is debatable, but the front of the mind consciousness he achieved through his workload is not.

    Although his professional career is in the inception stages, Thurman put in a significant amount of work as an amateur, notching 101 victories, 76 of which came via knockout. He also won six national championships, one of which was the 2006 PAL National Championship.

    Although he is not to be found currently in the list of top ten fighters in either the welterweight or junior middleweight (where he seems a more natural fit) categories, that can easily change with the continuation of impressive performances in 2013.

    The first of these opportunities in 2013, will be in the WBO Welterweight title eliminator with Jan Zaveck on March 9.

    Zaveck at 32-2, with 18 knockouts, currently has a slightly higher ranking among welterweights than Thurman, despite being out recently with an elbow injury. In fact, ESPN’s Dan Rafael has Zaveck as high as number eight in his list of top 10 welterweights.

    With the fight being on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins vs. Tavoris Cloud main event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and more exposure via HBO, if Thurman is able to do justice to his nickname against Zaveck, the positive implications are manifold.  As well, it will earn him a shot against one of those fighters who he has been calling out, Timothy Bradley Jr., who he incidentally faced as an amateur.

More Than Just Self-Promotion

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    Part of progression in the sport is recognizing the need for proper representation, and so it can only benefit Thurman to have the likes of Al Haymon and Golden Boy taking care of that aspect of his career.

    Regardless of the perceptions of Haymon, his client list is expansive and impressive, as well as his ability to generate exposure through major PPV. And in fact it was Floyd Mayweather Jr. who stated, “If I would have had Al Haymon from the beginning, I probably would be a billionaire right now.”

    Thurman is not in the same echelon as Mayweather Jr., but he is represented by the same man, and there is no doubt that Haymon's clout will result in a significant upgrade in exposure for the 24-year-old.

    The arena of promotion in boxing in many ways dupes the pugilism taking place in the sports arenas, and so the importance for a boxer to be affiliated with one of the major stables is paramount. Thurman is among the current crop of those fighters represented by Golden Boy, and that matters significantly to the trajectory of his career.

    It is what will ultimately result in more exposure on undercards like the one in Brooklyn, N.Y. on March 9, as well as his transition to the top draw on these fight bills. Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya summarized the significance of the bout with Zaveck, stating:

    Keith Thurman is the definition of an exciting fighter. He is on the fast track to a world championship, but first he has to get past a very tough customer in Jan Zaveck on March 9 which will be no easy task.