San Diego, Calif., January 25, 2019 – Once upon a time, Keith “One Time” Thurman ruled boxing’s welterweight division. But for some time, “One Time” Thurman has become “Not for a Long Time” Thurman.
Our jabs at Thurman aren’t exactly original. Thurman has only fought twice in three and a half years, and not at all since March 2017’s victory over Danny Garcia. It’s hard to believe his entertaining, close fight against Shawn Porter was back in 2016. A combination of long stretches between title defenses, capped with a 22 month pause due to injuries Thurman suffered to the right elbow and left hand kept him out of the ring and generated the parlor game fans and writers like to play with his nickname.
Finally, Thurman returns to the ring to reclaim his place in the division Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs), age 30, faces Josesito Lopez of Riverside, California (26-7, 19 KOs), age 34. The card airs on Fox Sports starting at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. with early undercards streamed live on Fox Sports GO.
Thurman can’t be pigeonholed
Thurman is a complex, intriguing personality. He explores interests outside boxing from international travel to philosophy to music. He enjoys a conversation that goes sideways down an alley and is more than willing to spar with media and enjoy a good joke at his own expense. Because he can’t be put into a box or stereotypes, some people don’t know what to make of him.
It isn’t that Thurman doesn’t hear criticism or wisecracks. “You reach the highest level in the sport and then the setbacks happen. I had to believe in myself,” said Thurman. “The truth is I’ve been out of the ring for two years. I was 28 years old the last time I fought. I’m 30 now. It’s a little disappointing, missing some of those years of my youth.
“There were some moments when I had some morbid thinking and negative thoughts, but we’re back in action and really excited. I’m fighting Josesito Lopez to remind the world who Keith Thurman is, what it looks like when he’s fighting, how entertaining he can be.”
Thurman says he took heart watching a 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao perform so well in the ring against Adrien Broner a week ago. “Watching Manny Pacquiao win a fight at 40-years-old motivates me,” said Thurman, who says he’s in good shape, injury free, and ready to shine.
Lopez used to playing the underdog role
Lopez, known for his moniker “The Riverside Rocky,” is a veteran opponent who is well liked in boxing circles and who gives everything he’s got. He is playing the familiar role of the underdog, but says it means he isn’t put off being overlooked. “I don’t mind it, said Lopez. “Does it bother me? Not at all, really. It motivates me. It has motivated me. And to whoever it may be a surprise to – I’m taking the championship belt this Saturday.”
In 2012, it was Lopez who pulled off a surprise upset, breaking the jaw of Victor Ortiz on the way to what was supposed to be an easy win for Ortiz. Lopez then got his opportunities to fight several big names, including Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana. He nearly beat a prime Andre Berto. Lopez was winning handily when Berto knocked Lopez down and the fight was quickly stopped, prematurely in the eyes of many.
Lopez also had his own long layoff of 21 months out of the ring. He returned to work with a new trainer who’d set up shop in Riverside County, the well-respected Robert Garcia.
“You know what? I’ve had several great battles against some warriors, some very good champions,” Lopez said. “But I think what I bring to the table now is adding a little more intelligence and skill to that will that I’ve showed in previous past fights.” Lopez says he’s sparred with everyone from 140 to 160 pounds. “He (Thurman) chose the wrong opponent to come back to. And I’m going to prove that,” insists Lopez.
Prediction: Thurman wins by decision
Lopez is not a power punching threat. He’s put in a lot of hard rounds over the years. It’s possible he has a new focus and enough gas left in the tank to take out a rusty Thurman who doesn’t have enough motivation to survive a war.
But it’s difficult to bet against someone with the pedigree, ring IQ, and life intelligence of Keith Thurman. He may not be the Thurman of his busier prime years, but as long as his injuries have truly healed and his physical conditioning is up to snuff, Thurman should be able to get the win. It’s likely he will need all 12 rounds to do it. There isn’t any real need for Thurman to risk his record or his health going for a stoppage, but if he feels he needs to re-assert himself, now is the time for One Time.
Undercard features heavyweights Adam Kownacki and Gerald Washington
In the co-feature, local Brooklyn based, Polish born heavyweight Adam Kownacki hopes home cooking will give him the edge over opponent Gerald Washington in a 10-round fight. Kownacki (18-0, 14 KOs) is eager to rise up the ranks in the heavyweight division and get a title shot opportunity against one of the bigger names among the big men, including his friend and sometime training partner Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.
Washington (19-2-1, 12 KOs) from Vallejo, California, is a former USC football player and U.S. Navy veteran who fits the modern heavyweight prototype along the lines of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Washington was giving Wilder a highly competitive fight when he made a mistake and got knocked out two years ago. The 36-year-old Washington hopes to get back into the title hunt himself with a win over Kownacki.
“He’s looking to come back, too,” said Kownacki. “If he beats me, that gets him in the top 10. And I can’t let him do that, so I’m really focused. I took this fight because I’ve taken my last couple fights like they’re championship fights. So, this is like a championship fight for me.”
Washington, who only began boxing at age 30, Washington is in his second fight with trainer Shadeed Saluki. His last loss was to Kownacki’s Brooklyn buddy “Big Baby” Miller. Washington says he’s using it as a learning experience.
“I came home, worked on things, and I’m excited to return against a good opponent in Adam Kownacki, who is from New York. I’m excited. I can’t wait to show the boxing world where I’m at today compared to the last time I fought there,” said Washington.
Prediction: Washington in an upset win
Washington will be facing another bulky heavyweight in the Miller mode when he squares off against Kownacki. “It’s not a Mr. Olympia contest or a bodybuilding contest,” said Kownacki. “I know I’m always in great shape, even though I might not look like I am. I’ve been working hard to change my physique up a little bit. But that’s not the main key for me. I’d rather do two hours of boxing than do two hours at the gym, lifting weights and stuff. The key for me is boxing, not to look like Zeus or something.”
Washington is at a disadvantage coming to boxing so late in life, but he’s a smart fighter in the ring. If he can use his height and reach and avoid getting leaned on by Kownacki or drawn into a brawl, he could pull off the upset. We haven’t made an upset prediction in some time, so we’ll go big and call this one for the California heavyweight.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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