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“One-Time” Fa Ya Mind

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If there’s no crying in baseball, then there’s no lying in boxing. WBC/WBA welterweight champion Keith “One-Time” Thurman is not the IBF welterweight champion– that would be “The Truth,” which just might set him free.

“Unification doesn’t happen except for right here,” said Thurman, pointing over at Errol Spence Jr., the unbeaten IBF welterweight champion (up next 1/20 vs. Lamont Peterson @Barclays on SHOWTIME 9PM/ET) with a nickname related to honesty. “Ain’t nobody worried about Jeff Horn overseas. That’s real talk.”

And with that, ended any discussion about the merits of facing the wildly popular WBO welterweight champion from Australia, Horn, or the 2017 FOTY expected to carve him like so many sacrificial lambs, former undisputed super lightweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford. That was October 2017, as Thurman made a rare public appearance since defeating Danny “Swift” Garcia via split decision last March, and faced the media with Spence just before Jermell Charlo V Erickson Lubin in Brooklyn.

In Tokyo, Japan with his wife, Priyana, and still on the mend following a brutal elbow injury (which required major surgery) suffered during combat with DSG, Thurman sent letters from the orient over a bowl of capitalistic flair with chopsticks. But he wasn’t to be souped up. With an acerbic, nanosecond wit of silent total recall hurled like a boomerang, Thurman (28-0, 22KOs) refused to hit rewind on a topic of non-existent forward progress. From his viewpoint, Crawford still hasn’t “whacked up a welterweight” and Horn won’t qualify as a hit, even if he turns The Hornet into a seriously swatted one as expected in March.

I didn’t think he definitively beat DSG last March (and told him so in vociferous fashion), opting instead to blitz DSG at will after the opening bell, only to unveil a prevent defense during the middle rounds before settling on survival mode in the championship rounds. This, despite DSG never really hurting him with his best punch, the vaunted left hook. “Ponytail” had somehow given volume to ‘Daddy’s Boy’ and his big mouthed father, who called him things you could see and still not believe.

“All good brother, you’re entitled to your opinion. I’m a world-class athlete so course I’m going to be open to scrutiny. Outside of that, I’m living my dream like Martin Luther King,” offered Thurman.

“People thought Danny could beat me and I took care of him with one arm.”

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Fighters are often times loathe to media and for good reason. Ink spillers can pander and pontificate; paint poems of paltry displays while never administering a paint job, let alone taking one. In July 2015, three days before his bout with Luis Collazo at USF in Tampa, I stood in front of Thurman and wanted to know about his gameplan. Not as a writer, but as a fighter. He looked at my older hands and goes: “Southpaw right?”

Boxing is a game of exacting science in nature with precision. Certain things are calibrated for specific results. On this day, he laid out a sequence he was working on to catch Collazo with a short right hand. It was sound. But I pointed out if he failed to time this- even ever so slightly, he could be caught with Collazo’s best punch since it was based on Luis opening up his left shoulder. I’ll be damned if lightning didn’t strike in the form of a nuclear left hook to the body in round 5.

After surviving, Collazo was vanquished after another 9:00 trial. 24 rounds of Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, a horrible Mustang crash with multiple injuries, a badly damaged right arm and a critical bastard like myself, it seemed like a good time to check in on the world champion across the world.

John Gatling: So… as the WBC/WBA welterweight champion and people like myself almost acting like you’re the NABF champion or some shit like that, does it give you an added edge as Errol Spence Jr takes center stage, as the consensus best welterweight in the world? I mean, especially with talks of a superfight with Terence “Bud” Crawford? Even though in your words he hasn’t ‘whacked a welterweight’? In this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport that seems to have forgotten your wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, viewing them more as escapes, you gotta be feeling like Rocky. No?

Keith Thurman: I’m not a fan. I am a performer. As a performer, I have performed more times than EJ and I’ve accomplished more. Every fighter is different and unique in their own sense, just like rappers on stage. He (Spence) is a devastating fighter and excellent performer. He’s exciting to a lot of people, he’s more active than I’ve been able to be, but when you look at the three world champions in the welterweight division, I am the only champion that has fought and beaten anybody in the top 5. Not saying that I don’t believe that EJ won’t beat Danny Garcia or beat Shawn Porter, but even with my lack of activity my legacy is superior. What boxing people think? I don’t know. EJ has fans that believe in him, I have fans that believe in me. But what matters the most is I believe in me. This sport would not be fun at the top if there was no real competition. I look forward to the day when the match is truly made, until that day and on, I’m gonna do me. We were all born to die so why live with fear? I love boxing. Always have, always will.

JG: Ok… He also has those legendary sessions with a vintage Floyd in 2013. AND– knowing he beat Kell Brook, who was unbeaten at welterweight and survived the gauntlet of Triple G, and was seriously heralded for fiery sparring sessions with Jermell Charlo- a big WBC super welterweight champion, doesn’t that force Team Thurman to take camp to levels unseen before, to ensure you make an emphatic return over say, a Jessie Vargas?

Keith: Well, yes and no (laughing). I train for the man I’m about to fight. This game is one camp at a time. The day I’m in camp for EJ, I will put something nice together out of respect that he is a real one.

JG: Your endurance is, in my opinion, the division’s best. But Spence appears to be a small super welterweight at 147. Does it cross your mind that superior stamina and athleticism could be negated by his strength and conditioning?

Keith: There’s things about EJ that’s not perfect. Sometimes a fighter’s strength is also his weakness. I have speed and I have power. What makes me different is my ability to change how I box. I would love to go into detail with you, but you seem to be a little bit on the EJ train. One factor that you do leave out is this… What about him taking my blows?

John: Hmmm… He took Kell’s. Some would say Brook was the biggest puncher in the division…

Keith: Haaa! We both didn’t stop Shawn. But I shook that boy three or four times. Made him pull out the bear hug. That’s why I don’t worry about fans. You know what you see on TV, I know the life. I live it.

John: Ok… Good counter on that. I’m remembering those instances. Kell clinched Shawn much more. What you and EJ don’t have is a common opponent to gauge.

Keith: But when two true world class champions go toe-to-toe, that’s what makes history. That’s what makes a great fight. All that talk doesn’t matter bro to be real Manny Pacquiao and Floyd had common opponents it didn’t change anything two men step in the ring one man steps out victorious, that’s all that matters, that’s why I have a “0” and I’m not afraid to let it go! If you can beat me, beat me! Every fight fan has a Miss Cleo dilemma, trying to predict the future. You need it if you’re a bookie. You need those skills if you about to drop some bands. But otherwise, you just trying to read the future. Trying to play the “I Told You So” game. I was right! I knew it! I guess that’s the fun part about being a fan. But as a fighter I’m just doing my job and doing what I love. At the same time way up. I’m blessed.

John: Many have said, “Ok.. Keith’s married now. Couple injuries. Looked happy in the layoff and the hunger’s gone. Now along comes Crawford and FOTY with high expectation on your block. How would you rate your motivation in comparison to becoming a champion?

Keith: The hunger to become champion is not really there. But the hunger to stay champion is another topic. I don’t have the desire to be something I was 4 years ago. The game is not over yet. The legacy still continues. I’m still in Tokyo with my wife, time for me to go to sleep but I am interested in your prediction for this up-and-coming EJ fight. I haven’t stayed up on any of the news. But regardless, do you have it going 5 or less? Within 10 or the whole 12?

John: He stops Peterson inside of 10. I think he makes him quit around 8. Lamont is really, really physically strong, but Derrick James is a master strategist who knows Peterson is a slow starter. We rarely change who we are. Spence will probably invest inside early and get outside dividends later. Spence TKO 8 in a war of attrition.

Keith: EJ and his team loves to look strong. Nobody can be number one wall to wall, but they really want to be perceived as such and I know he didn’t like how slow he started with Kell Brook. I expect him to start fast. I know he’s strong. Peterson is smaller, so I think there’s a good opportunity for him to land the big punch in the opening five, but that’s just me as a fight fan. I know Peterson should be wise and has never wanted to get caught with a big shot ever since the Matthysse fight; which is why he lost the Danny Garcia fight, he should not have fought scared. He had that shit! But for Peterson being the vet, if you want to show the world anything now’s the time.

John: I think EJ will start as fast as Charlo did with Lubin. He ain’t knocking L.P. out like that, but L.P. definitely thinks more early. He’s an inside bruiser over time– but having that done to him early will most likely leave him undone. You better get some rest before you get in trouble!

Keith: Yes sir till next time.

 

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About John Gatling

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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