We're soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look aroundYou're out of touch
I'm out of time
But I'm out of my head when you're not around– Hall and Oates, “Out of Touch”
An 80's fighter he is not. As I'm working my way through the bowels of Barclays Center on a blustery Saturday night in Brooklyn, I nearly bump into an angry 50 Cent before reaching the arena.
“Sorry Kanan… I knew you weren't dead,” I declare, referring to his alter ego from the hit show on Starz “Power”.
Proving he's not out of character, Fiddy nods and maintains the ice grill for a split second, before breaking his phone convo to give me and quick dap and a hug. I thank him for inspiring Tom Brady, as #12 recently used his cult classic “Many Men” as ammunition before gunning down the Kansas City Chiefs.
I have a quick vision of WBA (super) welterweight champion Keith “One-Time” Thurman (29-0, 22KOs) entering the ring to this tune, for so many seemingly wish death upon him as a fighter. That notion is quickly discarded when considering the nature of Thurman, one completely antithetical to the urban hip-hop community.
Think Grateful Dead and images of Woodstock instead.
Last week in Las Vegas, the WBA's “regular” version of a welterweight champion, Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, looked like the actual super variety while easily solving “The Problem” that is Adrien Broner. Pac-Man's impressive victory put all of the pressure squarely on Thurman to sell the possibility of a classic match-up in his long-awaited return against pesky veteran Josesito Lopez (36-8, 17KOs) and can't wait to see how he does it– or doesn't. But first (and this is the reason I've run into 50), I've left the media dining room to get a live look at the WBC featherweight title eliminator between tough Dominican slickster Claudio Marrero (23-3, 17KOs) and Mongolian legend Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9KOs).
Everything I've heard matches up with the result, as the 26 year-old badass pressed and pounded his way to a hard fought and crowd pleasing UD over the game Marrero. “This sets me up for big fights. Whatever big fights are presented to us, we'll take it,” said Nyambayar, who can look forward to an intriguing showdown with WBC featherweight champion Gary Russel Jr next.
I'm fortunate enough to be flanked at ringside by eclectic fight aficianado from the Bronx, Jason Gonzalez, and Elie Sechback of EsNews, who can probably take credit for revolutionizing YouTube content in boxing.
As we watch Poland's baby fat heavyweight Adam Kownacki (19-0, 15KOs) turn Gerald Washington into a 250lb bobblehead doll on legs of tortellini in less than two rounds, Elie tells me that I should re-think a pre-fight prediction that has “One-Time” dismissing Lopez in six. “Nah, I don't think so. I saw of lot of his camp and he was breaking ribs of solid sparring partners. Robert Garcia has him ready to cause a lot of problems,” Seck spills. Hmmm… I'm listening, but it also dawns on me that Kownacki's been beating the hell out the same fighters WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has had a few problems with.
Wilder V Fury II is slated for either April 27 or May 18 at Barclays, and I'd love to see Kownacki on that. card. He'll never win a physique contest, but Kownacki is the proverbial book by its cover judging mistake. That mother%&$#@ can fight!
On to Thurman and the reason why we're all here. Or, are we? After Kownacki does Washington, seemingly 1/3 of the announced 9,623 fans go with him. There's also a very palpable lack of energy in the arena, as many of the same world champions from Premiere Boxing Champions on hand in Vegas for Pacquiao V Broner have decided to skip this event. There's no Errol Spence Jr in the building. No “Showtime” Shawn Porter. And not that we expected him from Top Rank, but there's no Terence “Bud” Crawford either. After a welcome back first round of sorts, Thurman deposits Lopez on the canvas in the 2nd and looks on the way toward an early shower. Then, we discover what they all must know: Thurman is the same “regular” WBA welterweight champion he was in 2015 and not on their level. I'd asked in the previous article, “Can Pac-Man Gobble One-Time?” The answer to that question is an emphatic yes.
Facing what appeared to be a faded 2008 version of Oscar De La Hoya in Lopez, Thurman, in his absolute prime and in pristine condition following of plethora of physical maladies, routinely relents to pressure, as is the case in virtually every fight he's had since 2015. It is the equivalent of a star quarterback leaving the pocket under minimal duress. Heading into the seventh round, I've got it 4-2 Thurman– but its a tight 4-2, and boy does Thurman get bludgeoned in this round.
Referee Steve Willis (Is there a more hilarious referee than Willis?) looks like something out of Saturday Night Live, as his myriad facial expressions and uncanny movements add to the suspense of the worst three minutes of Thurman's life. He's hit more in that round by shots of the head-snapping variety, that his ponytail could've given him welts all over his face and neck. I've seen instances in which fights were stopped for less. Thurman did recover and revert to form to collect a majority decision, but we honestly expected more. I had this fight 115-112 for the champion, believing Lopez challenged for the title a little better than those who saw it 117-109 Thurman. Always candid and frank, Thurman told us during the post fight presser, that he didn't expect to look good– but shouldn't he expect to be great?
After a two year hiatus and this showing (following the theme of candid and frank), its time for Thurman to move on from trainer Dan Birmingham and shock his system. I'm reminded of unified cruiserweight champion Oleksander Usyk, who parted ways with his trainer last year, who declared: “Being good guy is not a profession, I've learned all I could and it was time to depart.”
As Thurman waxed intelligent philosophical from the podium after the official ho-hum post fight presser, we're reminded of who he is– and who he's not.
He's not really “One-Time”, he's almost “Out of Time”, and PBC promoters have no time to allow the sometimes long-winded Thurman to extol the virtues of Malcolm X on the eve of Black History Month.
He's just not the stuff of legend and too decent for boxing.