LAS VEGAS — Former unified welterweight world titleholder Keith Thurman was on hand for the Manny Pacquiao-Yordenis Ugas fight last week, working as an analyst for broadcaster Fox but he was also in a fighting mood away from the network’s cameras.
Thurman said he is anxious to get back into the ring for the first time since getting knocked down in the first round and losing his 147-pound title by split decision to Pacquiao on July 20, 2019, two-year-plus layoff caused by injury and the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t know what’s being thrown at me next, but I’m here, I’m ready to get back in the ring,” Thurman told a handful of reporters, including World Boxing News in the Pacquiao-Ugas media center at the MGM Grand.
“I hope it’s something exciting. If it’s just, let’s get Thurman back for the fans, let’s get Thurman back in action, and then I have to give you something very exciting in the next quarter, you know, I would love to see Errol Spence.”
Unified welterweight titleholder Spence was supposed to defend against Pacquiao on Aug. 21 in the pay-per-view main event, but when Spence was diagnosed with a torn retina during a pre-fight medical exam and had to pull out of the fight and have surgery a few days later, Ugas, who was already on the undercard, replaced him and beat Pacquiao by unanimous decision in the main event made on 11 days’ notice.
Spence figures to be sidelined for between six months and a year, but when if and when he returns, Thurman would still like to face him. That has been a fight talked about for the past few years, when both of them held titles.
Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs), 32, of Clearwater, Florida, said he was hoping the Pacquiao-Spence fight would have gone through and that Spence would have prevailed, so he could face him next.
“In my head, it was like, ‘Get through, Pac, do whatever you have to do or don’t do, whatever happens.’ And you want that next big pay-per-view fight, Thurman’s right here,” Thurman said. “(Adviser) Al (Haymon) calls you and says, ‘Do you want to have this big pay-per-view fight?’”
Spence previously brushed off facing Thurman, who he resented for not being willing to face him when he was on the way up before he had a title.
“Show me you don’t care no more,” Thurman said of Spence. “He’s the ‘Truth.’ We all want to test the truth. I want to seek the truth. But I love this sport. I always said it – I got an ‘0,’ and I’m not afraid to let it go. If you can beat me, beat me.
“I didn’t feel like Manny Pacquiao beat me, but he ended up defeating me. He gave me my first ‘L.’ It is what it is. Whoever they put in the ring, they’re gonna get the wrath of me taking the L. Real talk. You can say what you want about Thurman — he’s weak here, he’s weak there. Cool. Show me.”
Thurman also said he would have liked to challenge Ugas for one of his old belts, but it did not work out. Ugas was going to defend against Fabian Maidana in the Pacquiao-Spence co-feature, but around the same time Spence was forced out, Maidana suffered a cut in sparring and had to withdraw from facing Ugas, which paved the way for the re-worked Pacquiao-Ugas main event.
“I thought (facing Ugas) would have been a great fight for me this year to come back, but it didn’t happen,” Thurman said. “I would have loved for it to happen. It would have been great for me, especially (after) two years of inactivity. I would have loved that fight. That fight did not manifest. You should see me soon.”
A lesser possibility as a Thurman opponent is Gervonta “Tank” Davis, a fight that has nonetheless generated buzz on social media.
Davis (25-0, 24 KOs), 26, of Baltimore, holds a secondary lightweight world title as well as a secondary title at junior welterweight, which he won in his last on June 26 when he moved up in weight and knocked out Mario Barrios in the 11th round of a Showtime PPV main event. There has been chatter among fight fans that perhaps Davis would go up to welterweight with Thurman there to make a potentially major fight.
Thurman discussed in a YouTube interview that he had heard a rumor that Davis was interested in facing him, and he tweeted about it. Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, Davis promoter, responded with a tweet to Thurman that caused something of an uproar.
“Tank is not a ‘47 pounder, and Keith can fight his ass off, he’s a guy I got a lot of respect for, but that fight I’d make in 2 seconds,” Ellerbe wrote. “Tank would knock him the f—- out right now. Trust me if he’s serious, which I highly doubt that’s an easy phone call.”
When a fight fan responded to Ellerbe that he was not serious about matching Davis with Thurman, Ellerbe replied, “Bruh in nanoseconds – 100 percent.”
Thurman took exception to Ellerbe’s comments and expounded on them when asked about the situation in Las Vegas.
“Long story short, (Ellerbe) knows that’s not true,” Thurman said. “I don’t know what he had in his cup that day. The fans love this sh–. Some people don’t think it’s the greatest fight, but some people are very interested in it. So, at the end of the day, if (Davis is) moving up into the welterweight division, he might not fight Thurman today, but if he’s really in the welterweight division, it’s Thurman versus everybody. Ellerbe should know that.
“You see my mouth? You see me talk outta my mouth? I have not seen ‘Tank’ Davis’ mouth do this: ‘I’ll f— Keith Thurman up. I’m gonna knock Keith Thurman the f— out.’ I saw Leonard Ellerbe make a comment on Twitter. Where’s ‘Tank’ Davis at? It’s like with Danny Garcia. His daddy did all the talking (ahead of their 2017 title unification fight). When other people do the talking for you, Thurman don’t take it serious. I love ‘Tank’ Davis. He’s exciting. I love him as a lightweight. The moment you put anyone in the welterweight division, it’s Thurman versus everybody. Why? Because Thurman makes the great fights. Thurman-Ugas is a great fight, Thurman-(Terence) Crawford is a great fight, Thurman-Errol Spence is a great fight.”
Then, a laughing Thurman added, “If Keith Thurman could fight Keith Thurman, that would be a great fight.”
Davis won his first world title at junior lightweight and seems undersized as a junior welterweight, so Thurman said a Davis move to welterweight would probably not bode well for him.
“When lightweights move up, lightweights fight lightweights who already moved up into the welterweight division,” Thurman said. “Lightweights just don’t fight welterweights. Adrien Broner fought Paulie Malignaggi. That was not a real welterweight. When (Broner) got into the real welterweight mix. He started taking L’s. I’m not saying Gervonta Davis is just going to start taking L’s. He’s not that kind of fighter. At the end of the day, when you move up, you move up in the right way. A lot of people do it.
“I think Mikey Garcia is a great pay-per-view fight. Is that the fight? Do they really want to just go in with Keith Thurman? You know me. That’s why I’m calling out Ellerbe. Don’t play me. I’ve been here for way more than a nanosecond. I’ve been waiting on the phone call. I don’t play games. Please give me the contract. Show me the date, show me the money I’m about to put in the bank you, and you’ll see my name signed on the dotted line.”