The WBA Welterweight World Champion reflects on his return victory over Josesito Lopez, and addresses reports of potential bouts versus Adrien Broner and Manny Pacquiao.
No stranger to the rumor mill, Keith “One Time” Thurman has heard the latest regarding who his next opponent might be. But, according to the WBA welterweight world champion, his goal hasn’t changed since he made it public after defeating Josesito Lopez.
“I would love to have [the Manny Pacquiao fight],” Thurman said during the post-fight interview. “It could be Brooklyn, it could be Vegas, wherever Manny Pacquiao wants it. I’d fight him in the Philippines if I have to, baby!”
Oddly enough, Thurman isn’t too far from Pacquiao’s native Philippines these days. The Clearwater, Florida native is currently vacationing just a four-hour flight away, in neighboring Japan with his wife, Priyana.
“I’m trying to touch cities I’ve never been to,” said Thurman. “I want to spend one week in Kyoto. It’s the old capital, they have lots of shrines, temples and just Japanese history. Then we’re going to Osaka. I’ve heard of gyms out in Osaka so I might visit some. Sometimes I just pop up in a gym and surprise them. They’re like, ‘what brings you here, champ?’ And I say, ‘Google said you were nearby, so why not?’”
It’s been two weeks since Thurman won a majority decision over Lopez in Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Center. The fight ended a 22-month layoff resulting from multiple injuries.
“It felt so good to get back in there, to get back in shape,” Thurman said. “Usually, I don’t like coming down to 147. One, it’s stressful on the body and two, I don’t want to eat like a rabbit every day. But it really did feel good to lose the weight, get in shape and feel like a champion again. I’m inspired now that I’ve turned 30. I’ve created a level of success and I don’t want to let it go away.”
Thurman watched the Lopez fight for the first time upon arrival in Japan. Though satisfied with his performance, he believes there is room for improvement.
“I have the ability to do many things that I did not show that night. I wish I did more bodywork,” he said. “I was comfortable moving around, I know I can rely on my athleticism. I wish I put him on his backfoot a little more.”
Most viewers had Thurman winning decisively, despite the 113-113 card of one official judge. Nevertheless, eyebrows were raised when Lopez buzzed him during a rocky seventh round. Thurman rebounded to win by scores of 117-109 and 115-111 on the other two cards.
“I understand how some people say that my performance against Lopez might not be enough to beat an Errol Spence Jr.,” Thurman admitted. “But I told everybody that you’re not going to see the best Keith Thurman you’ve ever seen. But you will see a world class performance. I have a lot more to show so I am fired up.”
So, what’s next for Thurman? Reports of a potential bout versus Adrien Broner have hit the wires, reaching the shores of Tokyo. Broner dropped a unanimous decision to Manny Pacquiao on January 19.
“That’s the dumbest rumor that’s popped up all week,” said Thurman. “Personally, I don’t believe Broner deserves a world title shot. I think he’s more in a situation where he should have a title eliminator. You need to fight and you need to win before you just keep getting world title shots.”
“The day Manny Pacquiao fought Adrien Broner was like a catch-22 for me,” he continued. “Pre-fight, I was in Broner’s corner. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. One of the hardest things to live with is not living up to your full potential. All I wanted to see was Broner live up to his full potential. But I had an interest in seeing Pacquiao win too.”
Pacquiao, the WBA regular 147-pound champion, says he wants to avenge a 2015 loss to Floyd Mayweather. Yet he also welcomed a bout versus the other top 147-pounders, including Thurman who Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach mentioned as a potential opponent.
Thurman once sought a Mayweather bout too. When that didn’t occur, he ascended to the top of the division with a 2016 victory over Shawn Porter and a March 2017 win over Danny Garcia. Against Garcia, Thurman unified the WBA and WBC titles—he vacated the latter in 2018. The WBC title is now held by Porter, who won the vacant belt when he defeated Garcia last September.
Thurman wants what passed him by when Mayweather retired in 2015: The opportunity to beat an active, still-formidable legend.
“I want to fight Manny Pacquiao,” he declared. “Imagine what Pacquiao-Thurman is going to look like? He looked well at the age of 40. He looked strong. By the way Broner was fighting, he was respecting the power. Pacquiao-Thurman is a good fight. And when’s the last time Pacquiao fought an undefeated fighter?”
There is one obstacle Thurman sees to making it happen.
“I do believe that if Mikey Garcia beats Errol Spence Jr. on March 16, then Pacquiao-Garcia is a must for the sport of boxing. That’s my opinion. Why not take the momentum of this lighter guy who, if he beats Spence, is the new Manny Pacquiao? But I don’t think Mikey wins. I’ve known him since the amateurs and he’s a great fighter. But we have weight classes for a reason.”
“There are other options and fights I’m interested in, like Porter and Spence,” he continued. “They have youth on their side. Who knows how long Pacquiao is out there? For once in my career, I see Pacquiao in my sights and feels like he’s in my reach. So why not stretch my arm out and try to get it?”
Once Thurman returns to the U.S., he plans to sit down with his team and weigh his options.
“I’m hoping to hear some words from Team Pacquiao,” said Thurman. “We both fought early this year and I’d be willing to negotiate a fight for anytime he deems fit; summer, after the summer, September, October. I think it would be a great fight for the sport. Let’s make it happen.”