Keith Thurman did not fight in 2011 due to a knuckle injury and a pair of cancelled fights, but the 24-year-old boxer-puncher made up for lost time in 2012 by scoring four consecutive knockouts, including a fourth-round stoppage of Carlos Quintana in November.
Thurman’s TKO of the still-dangerous former welterweight titleholder, which was an HBO-televised co-feature to the Robert Guerrero-Andre Berto welterweight fight, was impressive enough to sway enough fans vote him the Prospect of the Year for 2012 in RingTV.com’s year-end awards poll.
Thurman, a native of Clearwater, Fla., who has won all but one of his 19 pro bouts by knockout, made enough noise with his powerful fists in 2012 to edge out two dynamic heavyweight standouts – 2008 Olympic bronze medalists David Price and Deontay Wilder – in RingTV.com’s poll. Thurman garnered 32.9 percent of the vote, while Price, a 29-year-old native of Liverpool, England, who knocked out a quartet of British veterans – John McDermott, Sam Sexton, Audley Harrison and Matt Skelton – in four rounds or less was close runner-up with 29.2 percent.
Wilder (26-0, 26 KOs), a 27-year-old athletic specimen from Alabama, who scored six stoppages in 2012, including a Knockout of the Year candidate one-punch blasting of fellow undefeated American Kelvin Price, was third with 17.8 percent of the vote.
However, Thurman’s brutal dismantling of Quintana, who was coming off a sixth-round TKO of junior middleweight fringe contender Deandre Latimore, was more impressive than any of the knockouts the big men scored.
Quintana possessed the experience and skill to spring the upset and he clearly came to win. In fact, the normally soft-spoken veteran was so certain that he would outclass Thurman he used the final press conference for their crossroads match to call out WBC 154-pound titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Quintana shouldn’t have overlooked Thurman, who let the savvy southpaw and the boxing world know that he’s for real with a debilitating body shot delivered in the opening round. Quintana was dropped to his hands and knees by the thunderous left hook to his ribcage and barely beat referee Jack Reiss’s 10 count. From that point on, Thurman calmly walked Quintana down until he cornered and overwhelmed the tough stick-and-mover with a ruthless barrage until Reiss halted the fight at 2:19 of the fourth round.
Thurman did not defeat a cadre of world beaters in 2012 – his first three victories came against journeyman Christopher Fernandez (TKO 1), unbeaten Missouri club fighter Brandon Hoskins (TKO 3) and rugged-but-limited Mexican vet Orlando Lora (TKO 6) – but he exhibited patience to go with his obvious power and solid boxing technique despite his vow to pursue knockouts in every fight.
And his knockout of Quintana should not be underrated. The proud Puerto Rican had been stopped before – in all three of his previous losses – but those setbacks occurred in welterweight title bouts against Miguel Cotto, Andre Berto and Paul Williams, who he upset for the WBO belt in 2008. The 147-pound beltholders had a combined record of 85-1 when Quintana lost to them.
Quintana had never been beaten fighting above welterweight – until he faced Thurman.
There’s no telling if Thurman will accomplish as much as Berto and Williams, let alone Cotto, but he has the ingredients that a young fighter needs to develop into a top-10 contender, including a strong amateur background and world-class trainer in Dan Birmingham.
And his somewhat eccentric look and personality – the long-haired bookworm immerses himself in classic philosophy and religious texts when he’s not in the gym – along with his entertaining style ensures that fans will watch him every step of the way.
Next year-end award: Round of the Year
Photos / Naoki Fukuda, Craig Bennett