Does Keith Thurman Have A Bit Of Jackrabbit In Him?

By Paul Magno on January 29, 2019
Does Keith Thurman Have A Bit Of Jackrabbit In Him?
Some fighters have built their entire ring style around this character trait. (Getty Images)

Back in my youth, the crusty old-timers in the gym would sometimes disparage a young, developing fighter by saying that he has “a bit of jackrabbit” in him…

Back in my youth, the crusty old-timers in the gym would sometimes disparage a young, developing fighter by saying that he has “a bit of jackrabbit” in him. This meant that when the kid got hit and hurt, he’d giddy up and run for his life in fear, with self-preservation trumping the will to win.

More often than not, the “jackrabbit” tag was applied to otherwise studly fighters—beautiful physical specimens gifted with real, elite-level athleticism—who, when actually knocked around in battle, would choose “flight” as their “fight or flight” response. Mind you, this was not about being hurt and holding on for dear life— something which happens to most fighters at some point. It’s about a fighter whose default reaction to being banged is panic. It was an instinct, something that couldn’t be expunged from a man’s character. And, while strategies could be built around this defect and other attributes could be cultivated to make up for having this issue, sooner or later this perfectly normal human instinct would lead to a fighter’s downfall.

None of this means that a fighter can’t become a world class boxer with “a bit of jackrabbit” in him. Some fighters have built their entire ring style around this character trait and have worked long and hard, developing skills to make sure they feel the buzz of big shots as little as possible. Matchmaking can play a huge role in negating the “jackrabbit.” Playing the weight game, fighting at an artificially low weight for as long as possible, can also keep these fighters from being bent under pressure.

But most “jackrabbit” fighters will eventually be exposed, beaten, and removed from the game.

The question is this—Does Keith Thurman have a bit of the jackrabbit in him?

It would be easy to dismiss an uneven performance and a nearly catastrophic seventh round against Josesito Lopez last Saturday at the Barclays Center as the product of ring rust. After all, Thurman had been away from the ring for 22 months. But fight fans have seen the same blank-eyed panic in “One Time” before, notably in the fifth round of his 2015 bout with Luis Collazo when he was badly hurt with a body shot from the veteran spoiler.

In Thurman, there seems to be a switch that goes from “brilliant” to “oh, hell…let’s get out of here” and all it takes to flip that switch is one brief moment where a game opponent busts through Thurman’s best laid plans. It happened Saturday against Lopez, a few times, and it will keep happening as Thurman ages, slows down, and opponents pick up on this apparent character trait.

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, while not feeding into the “jackrabbit” theory, did come out in a recent interview and flat-out say that he felt Thurman was done as a fighter.

“Well I don’t think Keith Thurman can fight anymore,” Arum told Fight Hub TV. “I thought he was awful with Lopez. I mean let’s be honest about it: Lopez is not an elite fighter, never was an elite fighter, and he had Thurman out of there in the 7th round. And you know Lopez is not known for knocking anybody out, and the referee could’ve very well stopped the fight in that round.”

And the post-Lopez fight reaction from around the boxing world supports Arum’s assessment. Former Arum client and now Thurman PBC stablemate, Manny Pacquiao, has been tossed around as a possible Thurman foe. And Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, who previously would not have let his guy within sniffing distance of a physical specimen like Thurman, is suddenly embracing the idea of Pacquiao-Thurman because, as Arum said, “Freddie sees the same thing I did.”

Whether Thurman is on the verge of being exposed as a gifted, but fatally flawed fighter remains to be seen. Thurman was able to overcome Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia “as is,” but those opponents’ built-in flaws played perfectly to Thurman’s strengths and he was able to use his natural gifts to eventually ride to victory.

The question of Thurman’s long-term viability as a major player in the division will be answered in the coming months as the current WBA welterweight champ moves forward in his comeback, inching closer to elite-level challenges against fighters like Errol Spence and Manny Pacquiao whose offensive strengths play into Thurman’s apparent weaknesses.

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  1. Ray Smith 04:11pm, 04/08/2019

    Now that the Thurman and Pacquiao camps are working hard on a PPV, and it looks like Thurman v. Pacquiao will happen, we will see something. We will see if Keith Thurman gets cracked, again, by Pac the way Josesito cracked him, will he turn “rabbit” again and run, this time, from a old man!!

  2. don from prov 08:37am, 02/01/2019

    Would enjoy an article on Greb/Tunney—how those fights helped Tunney grow.  Yes, some “pretty” boys like Tunney and Ali are as tough as any fighters one could hope to find.  And yes, Frazier as a boxer is “silly stuff.”

    Think though that prime Dempsey presented more than swarming.

  3. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 04:18pm, 01/31/2019

    Don from Prov… Yank Durham said that when Frazier first starting fighting under him that Joe was actually trying to dance and move and that he quickly put an end to that. Don’t recall Frazier having that style in the Olympics but just going by what Durham said. Durham took one look at Joe and told Joe to knock that silly stuff off, that he was too short and his arms were too stubby to think about being a boxer. Frazier did try to move around somewhat in the rematch with Big George but Joe was just simply too small and outgunned by Big George. Not knocking the legendary Frazier, it is just that sometimes like Dirty Harry said, ” a man has got to know his limitations.” No biggie, Big George would have knocked the crap out of swarmers like Dempsey and Marciano. With Tyson it is up for grabs. A prime Tyson was a lot faster and so explosive that I just don’t know. Pretty boys like Gene Tunney, Ali etc., always have the same rap against them, but they win. Of course, Tunney and Ali were also tough as nails despite their pretty boy looks. Both proved their toughness against fellows like Greb and Dempsey and in Ali’s case, Liston, Frazier, Foreman as well as a few others.

  4. FrankinDallas 03:15pm, 01/31/2019

    Thurman makes Macho Camacho look like he’s (Camacho) fighting in cement boots.

  5. don from prov 12:38pm, 01/31/2019

    Mr. Mau-Mau-

    “Fighting like a warrior didn’t help Joe Frazier too much when he took on Big George. Frazier kept coming and kept being knocked silly. Not a good game plan.”

    To be fair, there was no (not ever) Plan B with Frazier—
    Picture for a moment, Joe Frazier “on his bicycle.”  When you stop laughing, tell me how much body-chunking you think Thurman would walk through
    from someone who hit like Spence Jr. before he decided to call it a night.
    Myself, I’m not sure, but don’t think he would keep getting up like Frazier.

  6. Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers 09:35am, 01/30/2019

    “studly” or “beautiful physical specimens?” Easy Magno, you are starting to show your feminine side. Unattractive or plain women HATE attractive women and I think men are even more catty than women when they see a guy who is “studly.” Obviously the pretty boy can’t fight or he is a flat out pucci. Those old timers in the gym you are talking about just might have had a little “suga” in their tank or were lacking somewhere else. Fighting like a warrior didn’t help Joe Frazier too much when he took on Big George. Frazier kept coming and kept being knocked silly. Not a good game plan.

  7. Bobby Peru 09:14am, 01/30/2019

    Physicality you dum shitz! He’s making the most of what he was given just as he always has! It’s not his fault that for some Goddamned reason he got more of his physical make up from his Mom than his hulk of a Dad!

  8. Thrashem 07:46am, 01/30/2019

    I’m not a Thurman fan but the ringside judges are. He took the last two rounds off in the Garcia fight which I had scored a draw, at best. In the Josesito fight, Thurman was landing but had no strength in his jab, so Josesito was walking right through it looking for the KO. Josesito made the fight and came to fight. You need power in the Welterweight Division because of the talent. Thurman will not be a unified champ in that division. If he fought Loma next fight, he would lose. Arum is right!

  9. Pete The Sneak 06:11am, 01/30/2019

    I think Arum’s comments are totally disrespectful to Lopez. He came into this fight knowing that Thurman coming off an injury was away for a couple of years and came in totally determined to take advantage of any potential ring rust Thurman may have had. It was probably Lopez’s last opportunity (at the time) of getting a title shot and on being on a national stage again and he was going to go all out and almost pulled it off. I’m not a big Thurman fan and I think Josesito would have given Thurman fits even if he hadn’t been away for awhile, but to say that Thurman is finished because Lopez almost had him out is taking away from Josesito’s game efforts to try and score a major upset…Peace.

  10. Your Name 03:58am, 01/30/2019

    WELL…HIS NICKNAME IS BICYCLE THURMAN!

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