At 26, Keith Thurman still feels he’s getting there. “One Time” is 25-0 (21 knockouts), recognized as one of the top young welterweights in the world, about to fight before a nationwide audience Saturday night against stubborn veteran Luis Collazo, and he has that underlying belief that there is more to come.
Probably because there is.
Thurman feels he’s not even close to how good he can be yet, and he’s going to test that self-evaluating theory against the rugged Collazo (36-6, 19 KOs) in the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions debut show on ESPN/ESPN Deportes, from Tampa, Fla., at 9 p.m. ET.
“I am only 26, and there’s a lot ahead of me,” Thurman said. “In the (Robert) Guerrero fight, for example, I used those last two rounds to work on something new. The fight got more entertaining after Guerrero got knocked down (in the ninth round). I put myself in a more slightly dangerous situation. But I think I found more options as a fighter. It’s a lot different than sparring. It opens your eyes.
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“I think I can be better. No, I know I can be better and I will get better. I pay attention. I realize that I don’t have to fight the same way every time. I don’t have to do what they think you’re going to do, what they expect that you’re going to do every time. I learned against Guerrero that you don’t go into every fight with expectations. I have a lot to improve and I know that I’m going to get better.”
Thurman, who’s from Clearwater, Fla., just a stone’s throw from Tampa, stressed he won’t feel any pressure fighting in front of what amounts to be a partisan hometown crowd. His focus will be on the wily Collazo, who’s been in with Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz, Andre Berto, Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton.
Thurman knows how Collazo likes to crowd and fight inside, how he’ll try to coerce One Time into trading. But Thurman’s main priorities will be creating his own tempo and distance.
“I may have to chase him around the ring, we’re going to see,” said Thurman, laughing. “I’m going to move a little slower; not go right into my boxing skills. We’ll see what kind of state of mind Collazo is in. If he wants to trade and thinks he can outwork me, I’ll make adjustments. I will say Luis Collazo isn’t tailor-made for me. He’s tough, he’s durable. He moves forward and puts pressure on you.
“One of his strengths is that he’s an inside fighter. I don’t expect him to be afraid of me. I don’t want to give people the impression the fight is too easy. I’m looking forward to a great fight. I plan on looking good, but I can’t make the mistake of saying this fight is too easy. I won’t underestimate his ability.”
In a sense, Thurman is looking at this fight as an audition. He’s been on the periphery as to who’s up next for Floyd Mayweather in September. He’s hoping someone in Las Vegas may be tuning in to see him Saturday night.
“I think it is going to be an audition, but I think it’s going to be more of an audition for the American public than it will be for Floyd Mayweather, because I don’t know how interested Floyd is in fighting me,” Thurman said. “I know that I’m ready. I’m waiting for that phone call. I was brought up to entertain the fans who love boxing, showcasing my skills against the No. 1 fighter in the world. I’m a young, up-and-coming devastating welterweight who deserves an opportunity.
“Floyd doesn’t have to answer to anybody. He is in a very, very special situation in his career that I believe he’s taking advantage of. And I expect him to take advantage of it. With that, I don’t expect him to fight me. I’d like to give the fans something that they cannot stop talking about. It’s going to make them scream ‘Mayweather versus One Time, Mayweather versus One Time, Mayweather versus One Time!’ That may open the possibility. But at the end of the day, he’s a 38-year-old man. He’s older. He doesn’t have to do anything else. He’s accomplished so much; he’s made his mark in the sport. I don’t think he’s going to make any more numbers beyond his fight with Manny Pacquiao.”
Thurman knows he’s entertaining enough to deserve the fight. He yearns for the opportunity to prove it. The fear is he may never get it.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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