By Anthony "Zute" George
This article is written under the assumption that Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman will be one-hundred percent upon his return from right elbow surgery. It would be the best scenario the boxing world could ask for. Before his injury, Thurman was the undefeated welterweight king and headed for stardom. He is one of the more outspoken and honest pugilists of today. One could say he is a bit quirky. At his core, Thurman is a good guy and is great for boxing. A healthy return to the sport is what he deserves.
Thurman plans to fight in the near future. However, given the nature of his injury, Thurman will not be matched with the cream of the crop in the 147-pound division from the onset. Indeed, after Thurman gets his feet wet, a plethora of talent welterweights await.
When Thurman was active the division was stacked. Since his departure, the emergence of Errol Spence Jr. and the addition of Terrence Bud Crawford means the division went from a double to a triple decker sandwich. All vegan ingredients of course.
With that said, based on past success, Keith Thurman should still be considered the man to beat in the division. It was Thurman who was willing to fight the best the division had to offer. Both Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia were the best possible challengers in the division at the time. Thurman embraced both challenges and beat both pugilists soundly.
What makes Thurman’s victories even more impressive is that both Porter and Garcia are still viable players in the division today. They set to face off for Thurman’s vacant WBC title later in the Summer.
For as wonderful as Spence Jr. and Crawford are, they have yet to show their willingness to fight the best at 147. Spence Jr. should be fighting Yordenis Ugas next. Ugas has fought his way into a title shot and Spence Jr. seems more interested in fighting Jessie Vargas. While Vargas is a formidable opponent, he is not more deserving of a title shot than Ugas.
In no way, shape or form.
Team Crawford has not uttered the name of one top ten contender in the WBO. And both Spence Jr. and Crawford do not seem anxious to fight each other.
Both fighters have a lot of work to do before they can claim they have made as big of an impact at 147 as One Time has.
Of course, the natural conversation is how will Thurman fair against either Spence Jr. or Crawford.
At his best, I think Thurman beats them both.
I do not think Spence Jr. has enough diversity to deal with the skills Thurman has showcased. Keith can handle himself on the inside, control distance and has showed a god chin.
Spence Jr. will have to do a lot more, and stand up against a lot more, if he wants to close distance against Thurman. What Thurman does so well, and gets little credit for, is set traps for that right hand. More than one boxing insider has told me that Team Spence Jr. has moved mountains to avoid big punchers. Thurman is one of the biggest punchers in the division.
Against Terrence Crawford, it is a much tougher match up for Thurman. Bud has more ways to beat you and is the best switch-hitter in boxing today. Maybe of all-time. As much as I love Marvelous Marvin Hagler and think that he is the best fighter I ever saw, the Marvelous One was not nearly as good when he fought right-handed.
Crawford looks so natural both as an orthodox fighter and as a southpaw. In many of his recent fights, Bud has fought primarily as a southpaw. Crawford is a nightmare to prepare for and even more of a horror show when you get him in the ring with him.
One reason why I think Thurman would beat him is because Keith can utilize his jab and control distance if Crawford stays righty. And Bud would be vulnerable to the big right hand as a lefty. The other reason is strength. I just see Thurman as the naturally bigger, stronger man. A bigger man with skills will neutralize much of what a smaller man does well. Even someone as great as Crawford.
Lastly, Keith Thurman is much more battled tested than both Spence Jr. and Bud by a large margin.
Of course, this is all contingent on the fact that Thurman will be the same fighter he was before the layoff. A dynamic that worries me a bit.
However, a healthy Keith Thurman means we will have three great fighters, who are all undefeated at welterweight. What could be better than that? They all fight each other of course.
Which leads us to the second part of this boxing carousel. Politics.
Keith Thurman is an Al Haymon fighter. This means that a fight which Spence Jr. is more realistic. Being under Top Rank, Terrence Bud Crawford may never get a chance to fight Thurman, Bud or even the Danny Garcia vs. Shawn Porter winner. Also, what are the odds that Haymon and the PBC will cannibalize two of their best fighters in Thurman and Spence Jr.?
First things first, Keith Thurman needs to get back in action. He will have to deal with some major ring rust and he will be testing out that right elbow; a major body part needed for a boxer.
If all goes well boxing will be better off for it. And a modern-day warrior will have a chance to wreak havoc on possibly the most talented division in boxing.
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