Keith Thurman is NOT that good

By Paul Magno on October 19, 2017
Keith Thurman is NOT that good
His sloppy but entertaining win over Shawn Porter showed Keith Thurman at his very best.

Fast, but not elusive…strong, but not powerful…brave, but not fearless, Thurman is less than the sum of his parts…

Listen to the boxing experts and you might think that the welterweight division has been whittled down to two elite fighters on a collision course to determine ultimate supremacy. It’s Keith Thurman vs. Errol Spence Jr.—and the winner will be the next superstar in a long line of welterweight superstars to claim dominance of the historically glamorous 147 lb. weight class.

And, yeah, Spence may soon prove himself to be the heir to the throne held by Mayweather, Whitaker, The Sugar Rays, etc. He IS potentially that good. But Thurman? Nope. Just decent, nothing more.

Fast, but not elusive…strong, but not powerful…brave, but not fearless, Thurman is less than the sum of his parts. His movement has no purpose other than to show movement. His “One Time” power is more like a solid thud than an explosive blast.

Thurman is more like a three-sport high school standout athlete wearing boxing gloves than a born fighter. And even though he has been boxing since he was seven, when he was “discovered” by late trainer-turned-school janitor Ben Getty (!), he’s still pretty much employing PAL-level ring strategies.

Current trainer Dan Birmingham—the brains behind Jeff Lacy’s skills (!)—has done little to corral Thurman’s assorted physical gifts into one cohesive unit. Thurman’s more basic than basic game plans look to be devised using Colorforms and a Magic 8-Ball. Move to move…punch hard…try not to fall down…reply hazy, try again.

But a fighter, given the right matchmaking, can coast on raw talent as he moves up the ranks. Thurman’s liabilities were only an issue in theory for the first 90% of his career.

After going through an opponent list of the usual fall guys and no-hopers, like most prospects, Thurman was able to pummel heavy-legged punch-eating machines Diego Chaves and Jesus Soto-Karass, but not before taking way too many shots, himself. A red flag was raised. Someone sold as speedy shouldn’t be getting hit as often as he was and someone sold as having awe-inspiring one-punch power shouldn’t need nine or ten rounds of flush punches to stop guys whose only defense is the sign of the cross.

His bout with the fringe contender from Sierra Leone by way of Cisterna, Italy, Leonard Bundu, showed even more defects in Thurman’s game. Presented with a more complex puzzle to solve, Thurman was tentative and he stuck to working on the outside. He still got hit plenty—and often flush—but only when he dared venture inside. He also landed several hard shots that had no effect on Bundu. A smattering of boos could be heard throughout the latter stages of the fight as Thurman cruised to a unanimous decision victory.

In his next fight, Thurman again got cracked hard and often, this time by Robert Guerrero, who had fought just once in the nearly two years since his emasculating de-pantsing at the hands of Floyd Mayweather. A gaunt and weary-looking Guerrero walked through Thurman’s very best in the early rounds and made it a battle late, landing some serious leather on Thurman, raising welts on “One Time’s” face. Ultimately, though, Guerrero didn’t really do enough to win more than two or three rounds on any scorecard and would lose a wide unanimous decision.

Next, matched against light-hitting veteran gatekeeper Luis Collazo, Thurman almost bit the big one, furthering the idea that the Thurman hype train was one good penny on the tracks away from derailment. Jumping to an early lead, flinging the occasional bomb from the outside, Thurman got caught with a perfect gut shot from Collazo at the end of round six that nearly dropped him and had him fleeing in retreat, looking to hold on. Thurman reacted less like “The Next Big Thing” and more like a front-running football team running out the clock. “Luckily” for him, Collazo would pull an indirect quit job one round later by claiming that the blood from a cut over his eye had blinded him, essentially forcing the stoppage by the ringside doctor.

Thurman’s subsequent graduation to “elite-level” opposition has been a mixed bag.

His sloppy but entertaining win over Shawn Porter in June of 2016 showed Thurman at his very best—but against an opponent stylistically limited and chronically uneven in execution. Thurman showed plenty of guts and conditioning in his biggest challenge up until that point of his career, but he looked plenty sloppy himself and could, really, never do much better than be slightly sharper than a tough, but limited title challenger.

Nine months later, against fellow welterweight titlist Danny Garcia, Thurman served up a heaping helping of disappointment as he played it mega-safe against a passive and utterly disinterested Garcia en route to a split decision victory. Garcia was definitely there for the taking and it’s hard to imagine any true elite-level welterweight, from any era, playing it safe from the outside like Thurman did, content with just doing enough to walk away with a close decision.

The Garcia fight was Thurman’s biggest fight to date and it could’ve provided a highlight reel KO for a career that was riding high post-Porter performance. But him playing it safe, laboring to “box”—and it was a fairly sloppy, incomplete stab at “slick” boxing—was a troubling harbinger of what could be coming from a Thurman fully graduated to more dangerous opposition. Will fans be seeing a “boxing” Thurman trying to utilize “skill” to “box” his way to wins? Thurman IS good enough and athletic enough to totally stink things up if he so chooses…and if he DOES so choose, man, his bouts will be about as compelling as his hillside flute recitals.

But, honestly, where does he go with his approach to fights when his options may boil down to two—go to war against opposition that may be sharper and stronger than him or stink out joints and hope to be athletic enough to carry an edge on scorecards?

Expect Thurman’s weaknesses and liabilities to keep being exposed, little by little, though. Eventually, someone will come along and put Thurman down and he’ll settle into his proper place in the sport as a mid-level Top 10 guy, waiting on the day when some stud—likely Errol Spence Jr.—comes along to put him away

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  1. dustin 06:32am, 10/25/2017

    Funny how he finds a way to keep on winning and has won in a fashion that is unquestionable.  He always wins in a noticably large margin. The only fight that was close was the Porter fight and that was because of Shawn’s style. Come forward, cock-strong, head first looping hard punches. Plain and simple. You can set there and bad mouth the guy all you want or express your opinoin of why you think he is not worthy of the elite level and that he wont stand a chance against Spence, yet the guy holds two belts in the welterweight devision and has fought everyone they have put in fron of him. He has been turned down by numberous fighters. Marcos Miadona turned him down for a card in Ohio before Marcos fought Floyd. I think it was even before he fought Devon Alexander. Robert Guerrero turned him down twice before eventually fighting him. So first off you cant say he hasn’t fought anyone or wanted to fight the best because anyone who know boxing knows that its all business and politics. You fight who they want you to fight. Secondly, the arguement of Spence comes up every single time. I know people are going to say well Spence stopped Bundu, and Algerie who have never been stopped. Listen, neither one of those fighters fight their styles. Bundu is a runner, a mover just like he did in the Thurman fight. Now miraculously Bundu wants to come forward for the Spence fight????? Come on man. There is boxing and there is boxing business. Spence has been being built up since the amaetures. It’s a huge money fight for both guys. set it up, make each fighter marketable. Make each fighter look like they did something the other one can not do or has not done. keith Thurman is an elite fighter in the game today and is reconized as top 5 p4p by all major bodying sanctions yet the average fans want to say hes overratted?  lol. Stop knocking fighters and encourage the positives of each person. Thats whats wrong with the world today. Keith is a remarkable fighter in his own way and is deffinetly an elite level fighter. As will Spence be. But give him some time. When the time is right this fight will happen and the best man will win.

  2. ceylon mooney 03:02pm, 10/24/2017

    man, ive only come across one other guy who noticed how collazo hit the brakes real hard after wobbling thurman. i dont think much of “some time.” that garcia fight sucked. ugh. maybe garcia will actually try to win next time.

    spence would be too much for him—same fight as porter, but spence has a little more than porter and aint quite as reckless.

  3. nicolas 10:33am, 10/24/2017

    While he is top two today. I have not really been impressed with the three matches I have seen him in. The Porter fight appeared more like a draw to me, and I was not surprised that his fight withGarcia was a split decision. Garcia for me did n to seem to really want to be there. Guerrero, no hard puncher, actually marked up Mr. Thurman. I do feel that if Errol Spence were to fight him, Spence would win. But give Thurman his due, he has not lost. The present Welterweight division has been described as talented. I would argue more that it is competitive. I really would question if we today could suggest that any of these Welterweight boxers fighting are in the top twenty of all time, or even top 30.

  4. Cain Bradley 08:31am, 10/23/2017

    So true

  5. Steven Stahler 07:14pm, 10/21/2017

    Welters have been suffering from delusions. Pac is gone. Frauds gone and we’ve had a steady diet of puke. Garcia was over rated and had been beaten but received the nod. Porter is awesome but over rated. Broner…well…..I mean compared to the past era and before welters have been fun but lacking stardom. The millennials have apparently entered the fan base because fighters like Bud Crawford become God before they fight anyone of record.

    The path to Divadom was paved and now fighters pick who they fight. Bu ll ****.

    We have a lot of people in the P4P list that couldn’t make the top ten with the last generation of P4Ps and God forbid they were fighting in the 90s. They including Fraud would have gotten their asses beat over an over. Pac Man would have done much better than Fraud.

    Yep, boxing has begun to feed off itself and as soon as one boxer takes a knee I am done and can sh it can my TV. I am tired of these bitches and the new crop of disrespectful, racist and hating fans. Its pathetic.

  6. Kid Blast 08:43am, 10/21/2017

    I agree 100% with the title.

  7. Nicolas Maduro Moros 11:24am, 10/20/2017

    Title should read “Keith Thurman is not THAT Good”!

  8. Lucas McCain 09:24am, 10/20/2017

    Shrewd remarks, but Keith’s the guy taking the shots has been getting the job done.  Still, applause where it is due.  The line aboug “guys whose only defense is the sign of the cross” needs to be nominated for the next Boxing Writers Association Awards dinner

  9. Nicolas Maduro Moros 08:09am, 10/20/2017

    “Move to move….punch hard…..try not to fall down…..reply hazy, try again.” You just don’t get it do you? It’s the essence of mysticism as in Lara who has never thrown a three punch combo in his entire existence and has the power to put large numbers of people to sleep as he employs that lazy ass range finder jab and straight left over and over and over and over again zzzzzzzzzzz.

  10. Don from Prov 06:10am, 10/20/2017

    I finally agree with this writer, except——


    “...will be about as compelling as his hillside flute recitals.”  Huh, ever heard of Yusef Lateef, Eric Dolphy, or Rahsaand Roland Kirk—all pretty compelling.

  11. AkT 02:31am, 10/20/2017

    I am actually quite surprised at this article. Probably shouldn’t be - it’s this kind of substance that critics’ writings are typically made of. You have concluded that he is a mid-level fighter without giving Thurman a chance to let you down first. The bottom line is that the man has won all his fights and at this point can do no more. Therefore, he is nowhere near mid-level until time proves otherwise.

    Adjustments are necessary in the ring whilst learning about the opponent -
    so its definitely possible to have the odd mistake happen here or there whilst studying the fighter across the ring from you. Nothing new there. But does he prove to have fortitude, make adjustments, excellent understanding of the fundamentals of boxing? Then, for now, at least, let’s give him credit. He deserves that much.

    For the record, I believe it would go to a points decision if he fought Errol Spence. It wouldn’t end in a knock out. Thurman doesn’t have the one-time power, but he carries enough to keep you honest though. Who would win? Thurman fights a lot on the back-foot whilst Spence is unrelenting - Judges who like pressure fighters will give it to Spence.

  12. Michael Costantino 08:40pm, 10/19/2017

    I totally agree with you. I’ve been waiting for the longest time for someone to come out and say Thurman is not an elite fighter. He has never impressed me one somebody like Spence jr. Who not only knock out Thurman but will rule the welterweight division.

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