Player Hater’s Corner: The Case of Keith Thurman



Player Hater’s Corner: The Case of Keith Thurman

It was supposed to be the return of one of boxing's most enigmatic performers. This former unified world champion was set to once again be at the forefront of the newest venture for Premier Boxing Champions—this time on Amazon Prime. Instead, Keith Thurman sat at home and watched a bloody Sebastian Fundora and Tim Tszyu battle in a messy and compelling affair.

Fundora, who had been stopped by Brian Mendoza in his previous bout and was returning from almost a year out of the ring, seized an opportunity and now holds the WBC and WBO super welterweight titles.

Initially, Keith Thurman was set to face Tszyu at a catchweight of 155 pounds.

Although the WBO wouldn't sanction the fight for their title, Thurman garnering a win over an undefeated fighter as an underdog would have done wonders for his career.

It would have been the type of attention that Thurman needed to jolt back his career that has been on life support for almost five years.

Unfortunately, due to a bicep tear in his right arm that required surgery, the former unified welterweight champion had to pull out.

“As you guys already know, my biceps tendon snapped,” Keith Thurman said on social media a few weeks back. “So, it's very unfortunate. I apologize to everyone who was really looking forward to this competition and who was in my corner trying to support me.

“It's been rough. It's never easy for a competitor to step out of the competition, especially when we were two weeks out, five pounds to go, working and rolling hard.”

While some fans felt empathy for Keith Thurman, there was also a segment that rolled its eyes with indifference.

In this stop-and-go era of boxing, where fighters let their momentum slip by, Thurman's story is well-known.

Keith Thurman

He’s likeable, but at heart, fans wonder if Thurman is a “true warrior,” because he rarely fights

He's become the poster child for inactivity, and Thurman is aware of its negative impact on his reputation.

“Keith “Some Time” Thurman,” Thurman recounted some of the names nicknames he's been called on social media on an episode of Amazon Prime's Gloves Off. “Keith “Once Upon a Time” Thurman.”

Some of the reasons for this were out of his control, with injuries amassing, but the most recent absence out of the ring was head scratching.

After losing to Manny Pacquiao in July 2019, surgeries and a reluctance to step back in the ring in an empty arena during boxing's COVID era kept Keith Thurman in exile.

He wouldn't return until February 2022 against Mario Barrios in what was supposed to be the start of a campaign that would see him ascend back to the top of the sport.

That didn't happen. In lieu of more fights,

Thurman stayed idle.

“I was hoping to get a little bit more active,” Thurman told Brian Custer on the Last Stand Podcast. “You know, make up for lost time. The fight dates didn't manifest, and any time I was inactive; I've had plenty of it in my career. I don't look at it as inactive. I look at it more like hibernation, aka meditation.”

While Keith Thurman has been hibernating over the last few years, NY Fights has explored his career.

In 2022, after his win over Barrios, we looked at the many roads that were available for him.

One of the roads was to rebuild himself the hard way by staying busy and taking on top-ten welterweights like David Avanesyan, Eimantas Staniosis, and Radzhab Butaev, which could have put him back into title contention.

Then, in 2023, we examined Thurman's unwillingness to follow the path of fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Bernard Hopkins, and even his fellow St. Pete Gym stablemate, Winky Wright, who all dared to rebuild themselves after tough losses multiple times.

In contrast, Thurman would gamble his career on the sidelines, waiting for a big fight to manifest itself.

“I think it all just depends on Keith,” said former Thurman rival Shawn Porter about Thurman's next steps in an interview with

“He is in the latter stages of his career. I just know from experience, and I know from what I've seen from other fighters for so long, the energy and everything that you gave boxing early on in your career, the middle of your career, it's just much different than it is on the back end of your career.”

Fundora has plenty of options, but Keith Thurman doesn't seem to be one of them.

He has two mandatory challengers, Serhii Bohachuk and Terence Crawford.

According to his promoter Sampson Lewkowicz, a rematch with Tszyu may happen next, and the PBC having Spence challenge him post-fight is guiding Fundora to challenge the former welterweight champion.

However, we won't see the near 6'6 southpaw back in the ring until the fall.

The Nevada State Atheltic Commission physically suspended Fundora until late September due to suffering a broken nose in the first round of his fight with Tszyu.

The direction of Thurman's career has been wretched since the loss to Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao battles Keith Thurman on PPV, July 20, 2019.

Keith Thurman on PPV, July 20, 2019

Despite there being a catchweight, Mayweather's victory over Canelo Alvarez has aged like wine due to Alvarez's accomplishments after that loss.

For Pacquiao, thus far, the victory continues to lose its luster with each passing year as Keith Thurman inches closer to obscurity than a world title.

Here's the thing: now that it's again a mystery when we'll see Thurman back in the ring, the question at hand is, what's the game plan?

Does he look for another chance at a fight similar to Tszyu, where he's the underdog?

Will the anticipated fight with Errol Spence finally take place?

Should he take a fight if he has no chance of winning and cashing out? Or maybe, just maybe, retire.

After an endless amount of setbacks and bad decisions, how big is Thurman's desire to fight?

“At 35 years old, it's easy to say that I've done enough,” Keith Thurman said on Gloves Off. “But this life is a continuum. And the dreamer keeps on dreaming. All I need to do is to have my mental game strong.”

Thurman is a product of his environment, a product of his era. His story will be different.

It won't be rooted in what we believe are characteristics or actions of success.

One of the biggest fears of any performer, whether in combat sports or professional wrestling, is the reaction they will receive after being away for years.

Will the fans react?

Do they still care?

Or will they hear crickets? The sound of silence at that moment would be deafening.

At this point, a decision has to be made: whether we've already seen Keith Thurman in the squared circle for the last time or if we'll see him one more time before “One Time” turns into ‘who cares.'