By: Sean Crose
Back in early 1985, the fight world was focused on the impending middleweight title superbout between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. Hagler was the longstanding middleweight champion of the world, a gritty, walking, talking skill set with power. Hearns needed no introduction. The tall, thin fighter could not only turn out the lights, he could box quite effectively, a fact “Sugar” Ray Leonard had almost become aware of too late in their legendary 1981 battle. Make no mistake about it, Hagler-Hearns was shaping up to be a mega-fight worthy of it’s hype.
One of the sidenotes in the leadup to Hagler-Hearns was the fact both fighters had previously battled the great Roberto Duran. Hagler had ground out a gritty decision win over the Panamanian slugger, while Hearns put Duran down and out via one of the greatest knockouts in history. Was it a knock on Hagler that he couldn’t knock out someone Hearns had? That seemed to be the implication from some corners. Hagler, however, wiped that implication away with his brilliant third round victory over Hearns the following spring.
In the spirit of “what’s old is new again,” some have been quick to point out that Keith Thurman’s inability to knock out Mario Barrios this past weekend pales in comparison to Gervonta Davis’ eleventh round destruction of Barrios last June. To say that Davis’ stoppage of Barrios definitively makes Davis a better fighter than Thurman, however, is ridiculous. Thurman is open to all kinds of criticism these days, and for a variety of reasons – some his fault, others not so much. It wasn’t all that long ago, though, that the welterweight known as “One Time” was one of the more popular fighters in the sport. That may no longer be the case (yet I’d argue Thurman’s still a “must see” attraction).
Injuries. Long periods of time spent not fighting. Such things take a toll on one’s reputation. On top of all that, Thurman appeared less than interested years ago in facing Errol Spence. Add in the irritating caveat that fans had to pay money to watch Thurman fight the less than famous Barrios on Saturday and it’s no surprise that resentment has kicked in. If Thurman had somehow looked like a force of nature against Barrios, as he did earlier in the fight, things might have looked better for him now. Yet Thurman, despite his best efforts, couldn’t keep Barrios from going the distance.
Hence the latest criticism. The truth, though is that Thurman looked good on Saturday. Flawed? Sure. But good. Very good. Whether or not he’s good enough to beat Spence or Terence Crawford remains to be seen, as does the question as to whether or not Thurman’s best days are behind him. He’s always had his weak points in the ring (body shots certainly take their toll on the guy), but Thurman’s determination, fitness and power usually make up for it. So long as he keeps busy and fights difficult opponents, Thurman should return to fans’ good graces in due time.
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