SAN ANTONIO — During the post-fight press conference following his 12-round shutout unanimous decision over Jan Zaveck at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in March, welterweight Keith “One Time” Thurman got into a shouting match with Paulie Malignaggi and called out the then-WBA 147-pound titleholder.
A lot has changed since then.
Malignaggi was dethroned following a split-decision loss to Adrien Broner in June, even as he rebounded with a unanimous decision over Zab Judah this past Saturday. Thurman (21-0, 19 knockouts) scored a ninth-round TKO of previously unbeaten Diego Chaves at the Alamodome in San Antonio in July, dropping him twice on the way to ending the loser’s streak of five consecutive stoppage wins.
Thurman will return to the Alamodome on Saturday night, where he will face the rugged Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KOs) on the undercard of a quadrupleheader whose main event features Broner (27-0, 22 KOs) in the first defense of his belt against Marcos Maidana (34-3, 31 KOS).
One thing that has not changed is Thurman’s desire to be the best, even if that means facing Broner, who is also promoted by Golden Boy and advised by Al Haymon.
“Paulie was on my mind due to that title. Adrien Broner took it, so, you know, I’m really looking forward to stepping into the ring with A.B. in 2014 if possible,” said Thurman, who turned 25 last month.
“A lot of fight fans want that fight, and I want what the fans want… I’ve got a few sayings in the world of boxing. One of them is KOs for life, and another one is, ‘Don’t blink.’ The other one is I’ve got an ‘0,’ and I’m not afraid to let it go.”
Thurman, Broner, Maidana and Soto Karass were among those on hand during Wednesday’s open workouts at Market Square. The stacked card includes WBC junior featherweight beltholder Leo Santa Cruz opposite Cesar Seda, and WBA light heavyweight beltholder Beibut Shumenov against unbeaten Tamas Kovacs.
Asked about Thurman’s comments regarding a potential clash, Broner said, “I don’t care,” adding, “I just want Keith to keep on winning.”
By the time Thurman was born, the fighters whose skills and accomplishments he most aspires to were nearing the end of their careers. They are legendary boxers such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Aaron Pryor and Marvin Hagler.
“I’m not really worried about really ducking and dodging and collecting that bank roll. I want to be a true champion. I’m old school. I want to be an old-school champion,” said Thurman, during an earlier interview with RingTV.com.
“I want to be that Sugar Ray Leonard type of champion. That Tommy Hearns type of champion. The Roberto Duran champion. Aaron Pryor. Marvin Hagler. That’s what Keith Thurman’s about. Evander Holyfield and guys like that paved the way for me to do what I do.”
Thurman re-iterated his affinity for those boxers on Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to challenging myself. I’m looking forward to seeing if I am the best. I’ve been working so hard my whole life to be the best, and to be one of the greatest, and to make the history books,” said Thurman, a resident of Clearwater, Fla.
“I remember when I was 11 years old, and for Christmas, I got this boxing book and it had all of the great fighters in it. I remember flipping through those pages and saying to myself, ‘Man, it would be something if your name was in a book like this some day.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Thurman’s quest can continue or be derailed on Saturday by Soto Karass, a winner of two straight since falling by eighth-round stoppage loss to Maidana in September of 2012.
“I think that he’s 120 percent hard work and dedication,” Thurman said of Soto Karass. “He has a new passion for the sport, and I believe that. I’ve had a hard camp and I’m looking forward to a tremendous fight on Saturday night.
“Soto, all that you have to do is watch his fights. He gets hit, and he tends to have a little bit of boxing skills. We’ll see if his team was working on that this fight. Because no matter what, I plan on being the sharper fighter, the stronger fighter, and the smarter fighter come Saturday night.”
On the main event of the Thurman-Chaves card, Soto Karass rose from an 11th-round knockdown to drop and stop former two-time welterweight beltholder Andre Berto in the 12th round. Prior to facing Berto, Soto Karass had earned a majority decision over Selcuk Aydin in January.
“This going to be one helluva fight, and I’m looking forward to 2014,” said Thurman. “God has just blessed me. I come hard. You see how I come hard. I’m hungry all of the time.”
Trainer Dan Birmingham concurs.
“Keith is a sharp, deep, mental kind of guy,” said Birmingham, who celebrated his 62nd birthday on Wednesday. “The fans love him because he backs it up in the ring.”
Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org