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Trend reversal for Thurman
By Joaquin Henson
Tue, 11 Jun 2019
On Feb. 22, 2016, “super” WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman suffered a whiplash in a car accident and was forced to lay off the gym for six weeks. He was scheduled to face Shawn Porter in Uncasville, Connecticut, on March 12 so the fight had to be postponed to allow for his recovery.
The bout was rescheduled for June 25 that same year and Thurman scored a win by a unanimous 12-round decision before 12,718 fans at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Since then, Thurman has fought only twice, outpointing Danny Garcia by a split decision and Josesito Lopez by a majority verdict. Five of his last six outings went the distance, including the last three and for a fighter known as “One Time” for his knockout power, it’s a trend reversal. Thurman has a 29-0 record, with 22 KOs, meaning he has won seven on points, five going back to 2014.
According to writer Gary Shelton in The Ring Magazine (Aug. 2016), Thurman was driving on an access road and hit a patch of water on a rainy day. “His Shelby GT hydroplaned, spun out of control and careened into another car,” wrote Shelton.
“I was in Florida but I felt like I was driving on ice,” said Thurman, quoted by Shelton. “It was like I was going in slow motion. The airbag did most of the damage. I’ll tell you, a lot of fighters wish they could hit that hard. It was like I was hit by a whopping overhand right, like more than one. It was like getting hit by Diego Chaves.” Thurman referred to the previously unbeaten Argentinian whom he stopped in the 10th round in San Antonio in 2013.
Thurman got out of the car, stood upright and surveyed the damage to his vehicle. He was shaken up but didn’t think it was serious enough for a trip to the hospital. Thurman walked away like nothing happened. The next day, he showed up for training at the gym with the Porter fight less than three weeks away. Thurman suddenly couldn’t move his neck. He sought advice from his doctors who confirmed it was the effect of whiplash. Thurman postponed the fight.
Porter’s father Kenny came out in media doubting Thurman’s condition, demanding proof of injury and hinting of a cop-out. Thurman was annoyed by the rants. “I could care less about your emotions and feelings,” he said. “It is what it is. I’ve got a statement of $13,500 in damages to my car. I’m a professional athlete. I’ve done this job for 20 years. I’ve never had a job besides boxing.”
Moving up the ranks, Thurman was criticized for preying on patsies. One journeyman Quandray Robertson even dropped him in a 2010 fight. The first top 10 contender whom he defeated was Robert Guerrero and that came in 2015 in his 25th bout. And throughout his career, Thurman has shown a habit of laying off. For instance, he didn’t fight in 2011 and was inactive for 15 months for no apparent reason. Then, after defeating Garcia, he took a 22-month leave from the ring to recover from surgery in his right elbow and an injured left hand.
But Thurman said never to doubt his warrior’s mentality. “I have the will to die in the ring,” he said. “The one thing I fear the most is that the referee would wave his hands at any point in my fight if I am conscious. I fear that a referee somehow in some scenario will overstep his boundaries. I’m more of old school. If two men are fighting, someone should end up getting hurt. It’s always been my dream to accomplish as much as I can accomplish. Nobody’s going to stop me but me. I always say this: I’ve got 12 rounds to hit you one time. The odds are in my favor. I feel like a professor or a doctor, someone who is well-acquainted with speed, technique, footwork, stamina, angles. I’m thinking about all these forms of attack at a rapid pace every single round.”
Thurman said the car accident hit a pause button in his career but he’s back in form and ready to battle “regular” WBA titlist Manny Pacquiao in the ultimate WBA unification title showdown in Las Vegas on July 20. “It’s an opportunity for me to show people how I’m the one they’re talking about,” said Thurman, reflecting on the Porter fight. What he said then has relevance to his coming fight against Pacquiao. “With Floyd Mayweather gone, instead of the focus being on the cash cow of the sport, it’s going to be on the multitude of fights,” he said. “All I’m looking forward to is a way to separate myself from the others.”
Thurman didn’t look particularly awesome in his last fight against Lopez. Some quarters claim he has softened up maybe because of the car accident or the elbow surgery or the left hand injury or his marriage to Nepalese Priyana Thapa in 2017. Thurman, whose mother Debra Thorsen is Polish-Hungarian, met Priyana while on vacation in Tokyo the year before they were married. She worked for her father in a bar called Vibration in the Roppongi district.
Thurman silenced the skeptics when he came out of his car accident to beat Porter then Garcia. Now, the skeptics are back wondering if he has what it takes to bring down Pacquiao. Despite the doubts, Thurman is the slight favorite to beat Pacquiao in the betting line but the odds are expected to even out by fight week.
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