When Keith Thurman beat Danny Garcia to unify his WBA and WBC Welterweight titles, the victory made him king of the hill in boxing’s most volatile division. Thurman had a close win over Shawn Porter in his most previous fight, Errol Spence had just won his IBF belt from Kell Brook, Terence Crawford was still a defending champion at Junior Welterweight and Manny Pacquiao had just shockingly lost his title to Jeff Horn.
For all intents and purposes, “One Time” was the man and had become so by proving his mettle against the division’s best. Though Thurman has yet to taste defeat or even defend his titles for that matter, the division has moved on without him.
While it isn’t Thurman’s fault that he’s been having difficulties coming back to the ring due to numerous injuries, boxing hasn’t stopped in his absence and the division has only gotten deeper in his absence. So deep in fact, that even the division’s main man lost his chair by default.
In the immediate aftermath of Spence’s 1st round KO of Carlos Ocampo, Spence said that Garcia/Porter winner is his immediate target, which is telling considering that Spence has been dogging Thurman since before he won his title. Crawford made nary a mention of Thurman, and the boxing public at large is clamoring more for a bout against Spence anyway and everybody else who is anybody either doesn’t care or isn’t bothering with the WBA champion.
Thurman is coming back to a division that may not need him, and he isn’t in a hurry to defend his stake as the division’s top fighter. Though he’s hoping to make it back in the summer after suffering a hand injury over the spring, Thurman is looking for a series of tune-ups before getting back into the thick of things. While it isn’t unusual for a fighter to take a soft touch on the way back in, Thurman is losing ground by the month as more fights start coming together.
Thought it probably can’t be helped, I’m sure Thurman isn’t losing sleep knowing that he no longer needs to make back-to-back rematches against Garcia and Porter to keep his titles and that Spence has relented in his pursuit of a match. The prospect of those fighters gravitating towards each other as Thurman tries to ease his way back into competition means a lighter playing field.
As Spence, Garcia and Porter keep each other busy, it’ll leave Thurman alone to defend his WBA title against the likes of Josesito Lopez, Konstantin Ponomarev or the winner of the potential Jesse Vargas/Adrien Broner rematch. While it is to be expected he’ll take a fluffer fight to work off the rust, it would not be a good idea to continually stalk the lower rungs of the division when everybody else is actively making attempts to fight one another.
Provided Thurman hasn’t lost a step in his recovery and doesn’t face a calamitous setback when he does make his way back to the ring, the division will have already moved on without him and whatever fledging claim he has on being the top guy in the division will ring hollow. If the desire is still there, the challenges are ready for him.
After beating both Porter and Garcia, as well as commanding a tremendous amount of attention on climbing up the ranks, Thurman seemed to be poised as the division’s breakout star, but now he finds himself a victim of circumstance. While it isn’t unfeasible to imagine Thurman can reclaim what was lost during his inactivity, “One Time” is going to have to make it count in a division far more dangerous than when he left it. It is a daunting task, but heavy is the head that wears the crown.