by Sean Crose
Mike Tyson. Manny Pacquiao. Tommy Hearns. There’s nothing like watching an exciting fighter at work.
And, make no mistake about it, Keith Thurman is exciting. Really exciting. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been around for a while.
“Boxing is boxing,” Thurman said on a Tuesday conference call to promote his December 13th bout with Italian slugger Leonard Bundu. “You never know what you’re going to get. This year my body did not allow me to fight three times as we planned.”
The important thing, however, is that Thurman will be back. He may be performing on the undercard of the Amir Khan – Devon Alexander bout, but he’ll be back nonetheless.
“I’m eager to perform back under the bright lights,” claimed Thurman. “I’m really happy to showcase my skills and my talent once again.”
Thurman may be on the undercard, but his opponent is no joke. Bundu is undefeated, just like Thurman. In fact, the man boasts a 31-0 record, is highly ranked by numerous organizations and has represented his homeland in the Olympics.
“It’s interesting, man,” said Thurman. “A lot of people in the U.S. don’t know Bundu, but we know Europeans can box.” Indeed. In fact, European fighters have been having quite the year for themselves in 2014. Bundu, then, is not an opponent Thurman is taking lightly.
“He is a smart boxer, (an) intelligent fighter and it’s going to be a great fight,” the man known as One Time claimed of Bundu.
As for Bundu, he didn’t appear to be at all frightened of the opponent he’s about to face in less than two weeks.
“I’m a very instinctive guy,” he said, referring to his strategy (or lack thereof) “so I don’t like planning much.”
Talk about confidence.
“When I get in the ring, I’ll adapt,” Bundu claimed. “I’ll put on a good show, for sure.”
Bundu’s age came up in conversation, of course. Then again, how could it not? After all, the man has just turned forty years old. “I feel as young as he is,” Bundu said good-naturedly of Thurman. “I don’t think like an old person… I still go to the gym every day. I feel fit. I’m prepared.”
I had a chance to ask both men if they were looking towards the future or keeping their sights focused on the present. After all, Thurman is considered a legitimate rising star. As for Bundu, well, one could only imagine the boost his career would get with an upset victory on the 13th.
“A great future is great but you must focus on the present,” Thurman told me. “I’m 26 years old and I learn from every experience. . .I’m truly looking forward to the challenges he presents.”
Bundu concurred with his opponent’s sentiment.
“Like Keith said, I take it one step at a time,” he responded.
The Italian slugger then continued, veering onto the subject of respect.
“I’m the underdog,” he said.
“Everyone’s looking at me as a lamb to be slaughtered. But I’m coming to win. I’m coming for respect. A lot of people don’t give me the respect I deserve.”
Thurman, for the record, is not one of those people. For this is one of those cases where two opponents seem to have a genuinely high regard for one another (“I really appreciate Keith’s words,” Bundine actually said at one point).
Still, this is boxing and each man intends to get ahead at the expense of the other. Commenting on the fact that he’ll be fighting the same night as Khan, Alexander, Timothy Bradley and Diego Chaves, Thurman was crystal clear.
“Not only do I want to win,” he said. “I want to outperform every welterweight (who’s fighting).”