Semi fascinating move by Keith One Time Thurman, the Florida 147 ace who put out an open letter to the “boxing is dead” legions who have grown in ranks since Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao hatched their stench Bomb bout.
Thurman offers up a promise, a pledge to serve, to perform, to uplift. At worst, it makes me more curious to see who he fights next. At best, it has me slightly more optimistic that 2017 will finally return the model to the “best fighting the best” setup which is the only way we don't see our sport loss more eyeballs, ground and relevance.
Undefeated 147-pound world champion Keith Thurman is one of the top young stars leading boxing into its next chapter. (Amanda Westcott/Showtime)
An open letter to boxing fans from Keith Thurman:
There’s been a lot of talk of late that boxing is dead. To those who choose to believe that, I say bullshit. Boxing is not dead. It’s as alive as when the bell rings—signaling two fighters to meet in the center of the ring.
What the sport is doing is evolving, and thus the conversation is changing.
Some pundits like to suggest that boxing is in trouble because of a lack of superstars—let me quickly stop that talk right there.
I'm one of boxing's biggest stars—WBA welterweight world champion, on all the pound-for-pound lists, celebrating 20 years in the sport I fell in love with when my elementary school janitor showed me a sparring match for the first time. I draw millions of fans to watch my fights, whether they are on NBC, ESPN or CBS. I set network ratings records, sell out arenas and give the fans what they want every time I walk into the ring.
Deontay Wilder, GGG, Andre Ward, Roman Gonzalez, Anthony Joshua, Terence Crawford, Sergey Kovalev and Canelo Alvarez—all are superstar fighters who have had tremendous victories this past year on both cable and network TV.
You’ve also seen rising stars emerge—Robert Easter Jr., Errol Spence Jr. and Carl Frampton, just to name a few. We are all one in this sport—young, smart, hungry fighters who are fully aware that our fans want to watch us.
Fights are fights. You put two athletes in a 16-by-16 ring, and may the best man or woman win. That’s boxing.
I hear the chatter and gossip: This fighter is ducking that fighter; this promoter is avoiding that matchup. To that I also say bullshit. Fighter’s fight; promoters promote. Timing and schedules aren’t always in our hands. The matches we as fighters want and you as fans want to see will be made. The speed of evolution runs its own race.
When I look back over the last two years I’m amazed at how much and how quickly boxing has changed. These days, you can pretty much watch a boxing match every weekend on network or cable TV—something you couldn’t do in recent years.
As a young fighter, it was always about getting on TV—about the networks taking a chance and saying yes to us. It seemed as if getting all the networks to understand our sport was the bigger challenge. We wanted a chance to have the air time that our brothers in football and basketball had decades ago when their sports evolved. We knew we had an audience; fans just wanted the opportunity to watch us outside of the pay-per-view model.
My division—the welterweight division—has one of the strongest and diverse fighter pools around. There's an incredible arc of fights set up in this weight class going into and through 2017. But it’s not just my division. The featherweight, middleweight, heavyweight—hell, almost every division—is six-to-eight quality fighters deep. The talent pool is global, and the ability to create fights and tournaments within these weight classes is there for the making.
My former coach and mentor, Ben Getty, prophesized this moment for me and knew that our sport would be bigger than ever during my career. I’m proud to be one of boxing’s leaders and proud to be part of its evolution. I cannot wait to see what comes next as both a fighter and fan.
I’d like to thank Al Haymon, Premier Boxing Champions, all the networks that carry the PBC—NBC, Fox, CBS, ESPN, Showtime, Spike, Bounce, Fox Deportes, ESPN Deportes, NBCSN—and most importantly the fans who have stuck by me throughout my career. Stay tuned, because you will be seeing more of me and my colleagues on TV, and we promise to make you proud to say “I am a boxing fan.”