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One More Time’ Please: Why Keith Thurman Is America’s Best Young Welterweight

Posted on 12/19/2013

By Tyson Bruce

After Adrien Broner’s implosion last weekend at the clubbing fists of Marcos Maidana, the boxing public was left wondering whom, if not Broner, is the next savior of boxing? Of course that title was self appointed by Broner, but the vast majority of the media bought into the hype and acted as if it were only a matter of time before Broner became the next generations Floyd Mayweather. But, as Paul Malignaggi said during the Showtime broadcast there truly is only one Mayweather.

Photo: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/ Golden Boy

However, it does beg the question about which young fighter does deserve our attentions? On the undercard of the Broner-Maidana fight, Keith “One-Time’ Thurman certainly made his case by putting on a devastating display of boxing guile and explosive punching power against the very game Jesus Soto Karass. Combine that with his supremely entertaining post-fight interview and it left me thinking that perhaps we had it wrong and that it is Thurman who may be the future of American boxing, and not the more hyped Adrien Broner.

The first time I ever saw Keith Thurman fight was on HBO against a journeyman named Orlando Lora. Many fans, including myself, were disappointed and outraged that such a gross mismatch would be televised on HBO. This was during a period when HBO was under heavy fire for showing favoritism towards Al Haymon fighters, with guys like Andre Berto and Garry Russell Jr. consistently fighting stiffs for premium paychecks. This was almost worse because no had ever heard of Thurman. Combine that with the fact that Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley were basically worshiping the ground he walked on and the broadcast took on a bizarre and fabricated tone that left a bad taste in a lot of fans mouths. It’s a shame because it overshadowed the television debut of a truly exciting talent and probably hurt Thurman’s reputation among serious fans.

The same of course could have been said about Adrien Broner whose roster of opponents, save for a few names, is equally as dubious. Some guys just get away with it and some others don’t. That said, while the world was learning to accept Broner as the next big thing, Thurman was gradually stepping up the level of competition with every passing bout. The biggest difference between Thurman and Broner at this moment is that one is constantly improving as a fighter and the other appears to have plateaued.

Thurman, who was primarily regarded as a puncher, has shown patience and the ability to box against opponents like Jan Zavek and Diego Chaves who wouldn’t simply lie down. Broner, on the other hand, does essentially the same thing against every opponent regardless of the style. He is a pure counter puncher who takes a very wide stance (something that makes him very stationary) and looks to ‘pot shot’ off his opponent’s mistakes. Against slower opponents like Antonio Demarco this worked out great but against more dynamic opponents with hand and foot speed like Paul Malignaggi it was exposed as a flawed strategy.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of greats fighters is the ability to makes adjustments. Against Maidana, Broner looked lost—failing to effectively transition from offense to defense—and was never able to change the trajectory of the bout. Against Jesus Soto Karass (Maidana’s virtual equal for eight rounds) Thurman came out over aggressive and was stunned by a right hand. However, he recognized that more patience would be required and decided to box and gradually break Karass down. After that initial right hand Thurman was never again threatened in the bout. He constantly jabbed and moved but always mixed in effective body work and power punches. When the opening finally presented itself he finished Karass with ruthless efficiency, obliterating him with a vicious five-punch combination. It was impossible not to be impressed with his performance.

It wasn’t just the performances between Thurman and Broner that stood in stark contrast with one another; it was also there conduct. Throughout the build up and promotion Broner came across as a smug brat who rarely had an original or interesting thing to say. His post-fight behavior was even worse, as he left the ring without congratulating his conqueror and has since blamed his defeat on some bogus cheating allegations. Thurman, however, came across as genuine and sincere when he talked about the memory of his late trainer Ben Getty in his “I am a Fighter” segment and absolutely crushed his post-fight interview where he showed just the right combination of braggadocio and charm. It made me wonder why guys like Broner, who shamelessly self promote through tabloid controversy, and not guys like Thurman, who boast about his ability and ambition, are pushed to the front of the line?

Regardless of these kinds of cultural and social failings, Thurman is taking care of business where it counts, in the ring. He looked sensational and scored yet another knockout, bumping his record to a sterling 22-0-0-(20). More than that he showed that he is ready for the main stage against the marquee names of the division. Why not Marcos Maidana? That fight would be an explosive matchup between the two hardest punchers in the division. Thurman may not have the name recognition and fame of some of the other more celebrated welterweights, but if he keeps knocking guys out like this it will only be a matter of time before he does.

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