With his face visibly marked up having scraped by a perennial gatekeeper, Josesito Lopez, Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman triumphantly declared “The champ is back.”
Whilst he was glad to be back with a win, his performance against the man known as ‘The Riverside Rocky’ did little to suggest that the WBA titleholder was back to his very best.
Thurman showed little sign of ring rust early on. He frequently landed with a variety of power punches and showed good footwork and upper-body movement. In the second round he even threatened to live up to his ‘One Time’ moniker by dropping Lopez with a single left hook to the head.
However, as the rounds went by, Thurman’s punch output diminished. The vaunted power that he has been lauded for throughout his career looked to have suddenly abandoned him. The commentators speculated that perhaps he had re-injured his shoulder, as he became seemingly hesitant to unleash his right hand. Whatever the cause, Lopez was beginning to score with his own punches and was barely flinching from the champion’s attacks, which lacked their usual spite.
The tide of the contest dramatically swung in Lopez’s favor in the 7th round as he landed a crunching left, that shook and badly hurt ‘One Time.’ The assault continued for the rest of the round and referee Steve Willis must have considered halting the bout during what was a torrid round for Thurman.
To Thurman’s credit, he showed admirable heart to remain on his feet and deny ‘The Riverside Rocky’ of an underdog victory, befitting of his nickname. He dug deep and did just enough to get him through the bout with his title intact, via majority decision.
Perhaps the criticism is harsh and the long layoff played a part in his below-par display. However, the alarming rate with which he took punishment and the vulnerability he appeared to show under duress must be a cause for concern for Team Thurman. Thurman’s preference to fight from a distance and his unwillingness to box on the inside was also a problem. His perpetual circling around the ring in an attempt to evade his relentless challenger caused him to tire and was a major contributing factor to the increasing regularity with which Lopez was having success.
His fellow welterweight champions must have enjoyed what they witnessed of the WBA champion and one could envision Shawn Porter, Errol Spence and Terrence Crawford closing the show with ruthless efficiency if they had him reeling like he was in the 7th round.
When asked of his future plans, Thurman named Manny Pacquiao as his primary target. This perhaps gives credence to those who claim that Thurman’s return to the ring is motivated by the allure of financial reward’s rather than the opportunity to reign supreme amongst this generation of welterweight’s.
Whilst compiling a 29-0 record, Thurman has unified two titles and defeated current and former champions; Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. It is fair to say that Keith Thurman has achieved an impressive amount in his career so far and therefore understandable should he wish to pursue lucrative fights, above legacy building ones.
The landscape of the division has altered during the 22 months that Thurman spent recuperating from his injuries. The ultra-talented duo of Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence have established themselves as the best at 147lbs and would likely have too much in their arsenal for Thurman at this stage in his career.
Keith Thurman can feel proud that at one time he was perhaps the best welterweight on the planet. However, his unconvincing performance against Josesito Lopez may be an indicator that injuries and inactivity have decayed his abilities to the extent that his time amongst the elite is up.