Undoubtedly, there are many candidates waiting in the wings, all of whom have the talent to win fights and capture belts. Among the names on that short list should be Keith Thurman, a powerful puncher who seems as good a candidate as any to eventually become the future face of boxing.
In today's fight game, talent alone is often not enough, as superior fighters such as Andre Ward and Guillermo Rigondeaux are viewed as low box office draws due to their slick defensive style and low knockout rates. An unfair perception? Absolutely. Nevertheless, the perception seems to remain.
On the other hand, many fighters with more fan-friendly, aggressive styles, seemingly are somewhat hindered from becoming true crossover stars because they either have limited English fluency (think Gennady Golovkin or Sergey Kovalev), or perhaps lack a dynamic personality (think nice guy Leo Santa Cruz).
Golden Boy, Thurman's promoter, is rolling the dice and attempting to showcase him as the headlining fighter on Saturday's card that will be televised by Showtime. They are banking on Thurman's charisma and concussive punching power having the potential to attract more eyeballs to the sport.
If Thursday's final pre-fight press conference at the StubHub Center is any indication, they just might be correct.
Thurman displayed the full force of his personality at the press conference, winning over the throng of journalists and stealing the show from both the other fighters and promoter Oscar De La Hoya when he humorously proclaimed, "if you are a boxing fan, if you live in California, and if you aint coming out to this show, I don't know what you do with your life, man."
Thurman, 25, spoke with the infectious enthusiasm of a man who loves his craft, knows he has a bright future, and can almost taste the riches. For those of us in the media, that makes him fun to cover because he speaks earnestly and does not talk in cliches.
For fans, that makes him interesting because his self-confidence and talkative nature are at the very least, entertaining. The fact that his gift of gab comes off as charming and respectful, rather than cocky, makes him more pleasant to listen to than say, Adrien Broner.
A well-rounded individual who plays guitar, studies world religions, and has been boxing since age seven, Thurman is as much at ease talking about ancient African trading customs as he is boxing. Although such outside-the-ring hobbies are indeed interesting, one's personality can only take a fighter so far.
Fortunately, for Thurman, he also has the skills to pay the bills.
Thurman has adopted the motto "KO's for life," and it has proven true in the ring, as he sports a 22-0 record, with 20 knockouts. Hence, the catchy nickname "One Time," for his one-punch knockout power.
"When I sit down on my punch, and I hit with you with a right hand or a left hook, you're going to sit down too," explained Thurman.
In his most recent bout with rugged veteran Jesus Soto Karass, Thurman also revealed that he is more than just a raw fighter with great power, as he displayed good boxing skills and movement before eventually stopping his opponent in the ninth round.
Nevertheless, the fact that he is capable of boxing does not mean that Thurman -- who describes himself as a "boxer-puncher" -- will be trying to change his aggressive ways anytime soon.
"I desire the knockout probably more than the fans desire the knockout," said Thurman. "One of my favorite things to do is to make 'em miss and to make 'em pay."
Julio Diaz, Thurman's opponent for this interim WBA Welterweight World Championship bout, is a battle-tested veteran who has given young fighters, such as Shawn Porter and Amir Khan, their fair share of difficulty. Diaz is a true pro who will be ready to prove that he is no steppingstone fighter.
When asked how he would deal with such a determined veteran in the ring, Thurman gave the type of response that generates headlines and sells tickets, stating that he would "hit him in the chin, then hit him in the body. Hit him in the chin, and hit him in the body. Hit him in the chin, hit him in the body, and see how long he lasts."
Maybe it is now time for boxing to embrace "One Time."
News and Notes
- The Antonio Orozco-Martin Honorio undercard fight has been cancelled due to a visa issue involving Honorio.
- Thurman weighed in at 145.6 pounds, more than a pound under the 147-pound limit. Diaz weighed in at 146.8.
By Mike Elliott
Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com