‘Comeback of the Year’ is how undefeated welterweight champion, Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman (28-0-0) foresees his 2019. After a 21-month lay-off due to a multitude of injuries, the 30-year-old American takes to the ring this Saturday to defend the WBA Super World Welterweight title against opponent Josesito López (36-7-0)
Keith Thruman and Josesito Lopez at the fight press conference
Prior to his unplanned absence, the Florida native’s last fight was the highly anticipated welterweight unification between then-fellow undefeated champion Danny Garcia. Despite Garcia landing more of his punches, the fight ended in a split decision win for Thurman.
Following the Garcia fight, May 2017 saw Thurman out of action after surgery on his right elbow. 2018 proved the same and was another year ravaged by injury, this time concerning bruising on Thurman’s left hand. At the fight press conference, Thurman acknowledged his potential ring rust but admitted he feels faster and fitter than ever,
‘I feel great physically. We're working really hard and just getting back into everything we did before the injury.
"I need to come back and stay active and healthy. I'm going to remind everyone this year why I'm one of the baddest men on the planet. At the end of the day, I'm here to make a statement that 'One Time' is back.’
Thurman with his WBC Welterweight belts
It may be easy to look past Thurman’s opponent, Josesito López, however the 34-year-old Californian is no stranger to big fights. Having battled against Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz, Saul Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana, without doubt López is a veteran of the welterweight division. Also speaking at the press conference, ‘The Riverside Rocky’ is expecting a technical masterclass from Thurman,
"I've been in this position before and I've never shied away from big battles. This is another big one and I'm going to be ready for it and become world champion.
"No matter how active Thurman has been, the importance of this opportunity doesn't change. If anything we might see a better and healthier Keith Thurman than we've seen in years. I'm expecting the best Keith Thurman there is.
Josesito Lopez celebrating victory against Ortiz
"I'm going in against one of the toughest welterweights out there. I don't need anyone to believe in me but myself. I'm going to give it my all to come out with that title."
If the result is as expected, and Thurman secures a victory, the future looks bright for the 30-year-old American. Rumours are swirling that fellow World Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) will vacate his secondary welterweight belt in favour of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather (50-0-0). As mandatory challenger for this belt, Thurman could potentially fight Pacquiao this summer. With both of them sharing the same promoters in American based Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) this could be a relatively easy fight to make.
Aside from the mandatory challenge, Thurman has his sights set on only one man; IBF World Welterweight Errol Spence Jr (24-0-0). A 2020 PPV summer smash event is being touted as one of the biggest fights in US Welterweight history, however it seems Spence Jr doesn’t seem to share the desire,
“I’m not going to wait on him, it’s not like he’s (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.) or something.
‘With Keith Thurman he’s going to stay injured as long as I keep winning. I don’t think me and him are ever going to fight. If he retires, I’ll get [his] belt.”
Away from the main event, a mouth-watering heavyweight clash between Polish boxer Adam Kownacki (18-0-0) and former WBC World Heavyweight champion Gerald Washington (19-2-1) is a prominent fixture on the undercard.
More experienced of the two, the American Washington has previously faced two heavyweight giants in Jared Miller and Deontay Wilder. Washington lost against both, with an RTD in the 8th against Miller, and a TKO in the 5th against Wilder, the Wilder loss resulting in Washington relinquishing his WBC World Heavyweight title.
Constantly improving with 14 KO’s to his 18 fights, Kownacki won’t let Saturday’s tough test ruin his fairy-tale story,
“Gerald Washington is going to be a tough test, but if I get through him, I'm even closer to a title shot. That's the ultimate goal.
’It's a little bit of a fairytale story. I was just a little kid from Brooklyn wearing the Golden Gloves and now I'm fighting at Barclays Center. It's a whole new environment. Hopefully next year I'm the main event”
The fight will be held at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, USA on Sat 26th January, and UK fans can watch for free on ITV4 from 5am