The time is drawing near.
At some point in the future, when the boxing world holds its breath about a high-profile fight in the 147-pound spotlight, no one named Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be involved.
And while that scenario may bring shudders to promotional executives whose mortgages hinge on pay-per-view buys, the involuntary jitters may have eased just a little on Saturday night.
Because when Keith Thurman’s hand was raised after inducing an eighth-round surrender from ex-claimant Luis Collazo about 30 minutes from his Gulf-side hometown, it didn’t only prolong the 26-year-old’s possession of the second-tier WBA welterweight title—it cemented his status as the next best thing in boxing’s best division.
Even if it’s not a mantel he’s not particularly interested in picking up just yet.
SB Nation's boxing blog Bad Left Hook was optimistic regarding Thurman's continued success in the ring:
Thurman was on the record during fight week saying he was far more interested in punching Mayweather than succeeding him, and it was a theme he freely repeated upon meeting up with ESPN’s microphone in the Sun Dome ring after the methodical dispatch of the 34-year-old New Yorker.
“I’m a young, strong champ, Floyd. Come get it,” Thurman said.
“I’m ready. I beat this fighter. I can beat any fighter.”
Few could argue that the Floridian has worked his way into Mayweather chatter with recent welterweight accomplishments. The Collazo victory was No. 3 in a seven-month post-injury run that already included a technical whitewash of a rugged Leonard Bundu (UD 12), alongside a decisive beating of former two-division champion and 2013 Mayweather victim Robert Guerrero (UD 12).
Still, where Money is concerned, there’s a gap between deserving a shot and getting one.
The pound-for-pound king has already announced plans to exit after one more fight, but should the 38-year-old Mayweather decide to continue after a September scrimmage with an opponent to be named imminently (please God, not Andre Berto), there’s certainly no shortage of options for the straw that stirs the sport’s most pricey drink—even in the twilight of an unscathed five-division run.
A match with British-based welterweight Amir Khan has been a near-miss for what seems like an eternity; while the Miguel Cotto-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez middleweight fight in November may yield a megabuck return bout/swan song with that winner next spring.
But even if that precludes Thurman’s own money shot, he probably won’t be leaving anytime soon.
He’s positioned No. 8 in the world by the Independent World Boxing Rankings, which slot all fighters regardless of the titles they possess, and is the first legitimately undefeated 147-pound commodity on the list after Mayweather at No. 1 and Kell Brook at No. 4.
Danny Garcia is ranked fifth, but his resume is light when it comes to anything past 140.
Meanwhile, the other full-time welters between Floyd and Keith—Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Shawn Porter and Khan—have combined for 11 losses, and the youngest, Porter, is 27.
And when the veteran guard clears out, those two young guns may not skip much of a beat.
Showtime’s Jim Gray planted seeds for a 20-something super fight when he sidled up alongside Thurman last summer—just moments before Porter’s ultimately unsuccessful evening with Brook.
“A lot of fans want to see that,” Thurman told Gray. “But I don’t know if the Porter team wants me.”
Whether he does or not, it’s nice to know that when the “Money” runs out, the excitement won’t.