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Thurman’s last three fights

By Joaquin Henson
Fri, 12 Jul 2019

Thurman (L) and Shawn Porter.

Undefeated Keith Thurman will battle Manny Pacquiao for the WBA welterweight unified title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on July 20 with a history of not-too-impressive wins in his last three outings over the last three years.

In that span, Thurman defeated Shawn Porter on a unanimous 12-round decision in Brooklyn on June 25, 2016, beat Danny Garcia on a split 12-round verdict in Brooklyn on March 4, 2017 and struggled to outpoint Josesito Lopez on a majority 12-round decision in Brooklyn last Jan. 26. You’ll notice that Thurman didn’t see action in 2018 and fought his last three bouts exclusively in Brooklyn. He took a 22-month layoff to recover from surgery in his right elbow and an injured left hand.

The Porter fight was postponed from March 12 to June 25 after Thurman figured in a car accident, driving his 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 into another vehicle during a rainstorm. The airbag that deployed caused Thurman to suffer whiplash and doctors ordered complete rest, meaning no gym work, for six weeks.

Against Porter, Thurman showed his vulnerability to body blows. “Porter’s body punches were starting to make Thurman hold a little more in the eighth round,” wrote Jack Hirsch in Boxing News. “In the ninth, Porter appeared to shake up Thurman a couple of times and cut him in the process.” Thurman went to the ropes a lot and later said it was deliberate on his part to invite Porter inside his strike zone. “Whether it was or not, the strategy backfired,” said Hirsch. “Porter had him where he wanted him and went to work. Not that Thurman didn’t have his moments while backed up. He countered with a right off the ropes in the third which hurt Porter who quickly came back with a hard blow of his own.”

Porter looked like he was gassed out in the late going and Thurman took advantage. Unlike Porter, Pacquiao isn’t expected to tire out when the championship rounds come in so Thurman will have his hands full until the final bell, assuming their tussle goes the distance. Judges Eric Marlinski, Waleska Roldan and Steve Weisfeld scored it 115-113, all for Thurman but the decision was lustily booed by the crowd of 12,718. “A draw would not have been out of line,” wrote Hirsch.

Porter said he deserved to win while Thurman claimed defense led to his triumph. “I was able to rock him with clear, effective blows and I believe that was the difference,” he said. “Defense is the key to victory. I had a great defense tonight.”

Against Garcia, Thurman built an early lead but slowed down in the late rounds. Thurman had a strong start and an overhand right clearly hurt Garcia in the first stanza. Garcia rebounded with a serious body assault and late in the 10th, Thurman was staggered by shots to the midsection and his sides. “Thurman walked slowly to his corner at the bell,” noticed Hirsch.

The decision was close. Judge Kevin Morgan saw it 115-113 for Garcia while judge John McKaie had it 116-112 for Thurman. Judge Joseph Pasquale scored it 115-113 for Thurman and if he had awarded one more round to Garcia, the outcome would’ve been a split draw. Thurman said he tapered off in the late rounds to preserve his lead without taking any chances. “I wasn’t giving the fight away,” he said. “I felt I had a nice lead. My defense was effective----he wasn’t landing.”

Against Lopez, Thurman was deadly in the early rounds. In the second, a left hook sent Lopez down. But Lopez soldiered onwards, attacking Thurman’s body to try to slow him down. In the seventh, Lopez landed a left hook-right straight combination that snapped Thurman’s head back. Thurman ran away as Lopez went in for the kill. Lopez connected with more punches but Thurman stayed on his feet. The three judges scored it 10-8 for Lopez even as Thurman never went down. In the 12th round, a vicious right hand pounded Thurman but it was too late for Lopez to capitalize.

Thurman admitted he was hurt by Lopez. “If a 34-year-old warhorse like Lopez could do that, it makes you wonder whether the injuries suffered by Thurman have taken a toll,” said Hirsch. Judge Don Ackerman saw it a draw, 113-all but Weisfeld had it 115-111 and the third judge Tom Schreck 117-109 to give Thurman a win by majority decision.

From his performance in the last three fights, there are several indicators----Thurman is a strong starter, has suspect stamina, fades in the end, is weak in the body, packs power in both hands, is dangerous with the overhand right or the left hook, is quick on his feet particularly in avoiding an attack and fights intelligently.

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