CARSON, Calif. – In just two years, Keith Thurman has developed from a raw KO artist to a hot prospect to a bona-fide contender with legitimate star potential.
Fans who tune into the undefeated welterweight’s Showtime-televised main event against Julio Diaz tomorrow night at StubHub Center expect to see the same intelligent boxer-puncher that impressively dismantled unbeaten Diego Chaves and rugged veteran Jesus Soto Karass last year.
In stopping Chaves and Soto Karass in the late rounds of Showtime-televised bouts, Thurman (22-0, 20 knockouts) was smart, fast, elusive, economical and accurate with his punching but also offensively creative and explosive. In short, he looked like the kind of fighter that both boxing purists and blood-thirsty fans can appreciate.
Although Diaz (40-9-1, 29 KOs) has proven to be a formidable gatekeeper, giving both Shawn Porter and Amir Khan all they could handle in recent bouts, most fans expect Thurman to knockout the Southern California veteran.
Thurman also expects that outcome. His love of knockouts inspired his nickname “One Time,” which means he only needs to deliver one good shot to end a fight. It’s not just a motto or credo with Thurman. He’s referred to it as “philosophy” and “movement” in the past.
However, following Thursday’s final press conference, the 25-year-old native of Clearwater, Fla., said being forced to go the 12-round distance and into the late rounds of 12-round bouts have helped mature him into the well-rounder boxer that some view as the future of the 147-pound division.
“Every single fight helps a fighter develop but for me it was going from eight- and 10-round fights to 12-round fights,” said Thurman, who won his first eight bouts by first-round knockout. “I like knockouts so much that I used to be in a rush because there wasn’t a lot of time to get them when I was fighting four- and six-rounders.
“I wasn’t showing the skill that I have in those fights but with these 12-round bouts, I have a lot of time to get the knockout and I can show other aspects of my game that I work on in the gym.”
Thurman said his victory over former IBF titleholder Jan Zaveck last March, which went 12 rounds, was the first time he truly exercised patience in the ring.
“I wanted to get the knockout but with his chin and the way he covered up, I had to show the world that I could box, go 12 rounds and carry my power late in a fight,” he said.
“It was a good win for me even though, deep down, I was disappointed because of my desire to stop my opponent, but that fight helped me realize that you can’t get ‘em all out of there.”
Thurman’s next fight was against Chaves, a fellow puncher and former amateur standout from Argentina who carried an impressive record of 22 wins with 18 KOs into the co-featured bout to a Showtime tripleheader headlined by the Andre Berto-Soto Karass fight last July.
“I got back to my ‘KOs for Life’ philosophy with that fight but I also proved that you can put me in with a dangerous young puncher just like myself and I can handle him,” Thurman said.
“We went toe to toe in the early rounds of that fight and then I changed it up a little and basically told Chaves ‘Welcome to America’ and to circle boxing. I got some distance, used my footwork and controlled the ring, and broke him down that way.”
Thurman dropped Chaves in Rounds 9 and 10 before scoring a 10th-round stoppage. The victory earned Thurman a top-10 ranking with THE RING magazine and the WBA.
“I’ve always been prepared to change up my game plan but Zaveck and Chaves were the first to make me do it in a fight,” he said.
Thurman’s next and most recent bout was against Soto Karass, who stopped Berto in the 12th round that night in San Antonio. The fight, which took place last December, was the co-feature to the Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana headlined card in the same Texas city. Apart from one wobbly moment in the opening round, Thurman dominated the resurgent gatekeeper to a ninth-round TKO. Many fans view it as Thurman’s best performance.
“I just fought my fight that night,” he said. “I wanted to prove to Soto Karass and to the fans that I can do more than punch, that I am a boxer-puncher.
“I didn’t want to make the same mistake that Berto made fighting him. Berto was too flat footed in that fight. I’m young, I’m athletic, I can move around the ring, so I did that, but I was also looking for the knockout and I got it.
“I realize now that sometimes I have to be patient but the fact that I’m always looking for the knockout is the reason I’ve been getting attention from fans and the media, and it’s the reason I’m the main event this Saturday.”
Against Diaz, Thurman said he plans to continue to exhibit his boxing skills along with his athleticism and punching power.
“I’m going to show Diaz that I’m way smarter than he thinks I am,” he said. “I’m going to be watching what he does, how he holds his head and his hands, looking for openings. I’m going to watch how he approaches the fight early on, whether he comes at me or tries to keep it at a distance, and I’m going to time him and hit the chin.
“Then I’m going to hit the body. Then I’m going to hit the chin again. Then the body. Then the chin. Then the body. Then the chin. I’m going to see how long he lasts. I’m in no rush. I’ve got 12 rounds to work with.”
Video / SHOWTIME
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