After 22 months away, and battling some blues which can, no doubt, pop up when you deal with repeated injuries and aren't sure if your doc is going to tell you to hang up the gloves, Keith Thurman made a semi-triumphant return to the ring.
If rust was a factor, he hid it quite well, until round seven. He got buzzed and the had to work his tail off to stay in it, because Josesito Lopez was one stubborn sonuvagun.
Thurman, age 30, held onto the WBA 147 crown, over Lopez, who has fought many A grade hitters, and, it must be said, not been able to get the better of them. And again not at Barclays Center on Saturday night, in Brooklyn, but not for lack of commendable trying.
After 12, the cards were read: a majority decision was his. 113-113, 115-111, and a too wide117-109 for Thurman.
Thurman had won, but no, the old aura hadn't returned. “One Time” hasn't been able to turn back the clock and get back some of his once pretty vaunted power. And thus, Lopez was able to stay in his face, stalk him, and come close to grinding him down.
“He had me buzzed and shaken up in the seventh round, but I tried to stay on the outside away,” Thurman said after to Heidi Androl. “I was a little off in my prediction of how long his arms were. He lunged in and was really willing to commit to the knockout. He came right for me. I said you wouldn't see the best Keith Thurman tonight, but you'd still see a world class performance, and I gave you that tonight. I would most likely definitely take the Manny Pacquiao fight this year. I feel good. That was a beautiful fight. I'm ready to fight wherever Pacquiao wants it.
And did his body hold up? “My hand took some contact tonight. Lopez had a tough head but we held out strong. I wish I had gone to the body more, because I saw him breathing heavy. Either way, I will be back later this year. Believe that.”
In the first, KT was sharp and quick. He wasn't too over-amped, looking to jam ten rounds into one in front of 9,623 in the joint.
To the second, we saw KT moving, giving his legs some work, sliding left and then right, and popping some. JL advanced, looked to close the distance, pressure him..and theh he got dropped. The bell likely saved him. The telling blow was a short and sweet left hook.
In the third, KT was chill, getting work, having fun. His right hand was very sharp, on message and his ring generalship top tier. To the fourth–a clipping left hook smashed JL coming in. KT was not looking or acting like rust was a factor, for sure.
In the fifth, JL stalked but without effect to the cause. He'd press but then not fire. Meanwhile, Thurman was moving real well, very relaxed, seeing everything coming at him.
To the sixth–KT stood and let Lopez wing shots, as he worked off the ropes, mostly working on his D. A lead right, sharp, let Lopez know who was the A side here, late in that round.
In the 7th, the Florida boxer moved laterally, then got tagged. And then he ran for dear life. A left hook started the problems..and then lead rights snapped his head back. This was the change over round…
In the 8th–Thurman seemed most all the way back, to where he was in the sixth. OK, maybe not, because Lopez had that much more zest in him. He knew Thurman could be wobbled and he smelled a bit of blood. In the 9th, Joesito stalked, and he seemed like he energy was equal or better to Thurmans.'
To round 10: we saw Thurman make JL miss, plenty…but not often enough making him pay. He did score with a sharp right, but Lopez took it unblinking. To round 11–we saw Thurman throw more while in retreat. His left hook to the body, oooof, that had to hurt. KT was holding by the end of the round.
In the 12th, we saw bruising brawling. This was a fight, and oxygen a valued commodity. Lopez ate rights, but bless his stubborn soul, he kept advancing. And we advanced to the cards…
My three cents: Not sure replay how Thurman will see this…This was HARD work. And hard work is to be expected. But was it foreseen that this comeback would be that hard? I'm dubious. Props for both for giving us an entertaining prizefight, of course.