Can Keith Thurman Make It Back To The Top, Or Has “One Time” Had His Time?

Former welterweight champ Keith Thurman is 33 years of age, he has not fought since July of 2019, and he has suffered a number of injuries to go along with his months of inactivity (with the coronavirus and all its disruption perhaps not helping matters in this regard). But now, finally, “One Time” is set to return to action: February 5th, against the once-beaten Mario Barios. And Thurman is excited about his impending comeback.

“In 2022, I will remind the world of boxing that Keith Thurman is a fighter not to forget. I’m back, and I’m ready to fight!” Thurman wrote on social media.

But will this be a successful comeback or a short-lived one? Thurman is (or was) a superb welterweight, beating the likes of Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia. Thurman won both the WBA and WBC titles, and he looked set for real stardom. Then Thurman’s “One Time” nickname came back to haunt him as something of a bad joke, with Thurman fighting just one time per year, this in 2016 and 2017, with no fight at all in 2018, and with him fighting just one time in 2019.

And then, following the 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao, Thurman vanished completely. Fans wondered if the talented, personable, well-spoken Floridian would ever box again. Now Thurman is back (or he’s scheduled to be back; fingers crossed, the former champ suffers no injury during the remaining weeks of his training for the Barios fight). But is it too late? Thurman wants to rule the world again, but the current champions at 147 pounds are all tough, talented, and hugely proven fighters.

Can Thurman, at age 33, after losing all those peak, never to come again years, really beat an Errol Spence, a Terence Crawford, a Yordenis Ugas? Ugas and Crawford are older than Thurman, yet both men have been active – with Ugas beating Pacquiao and Crawford beating another former Thurman foe in Shawn Porter. While Spence has boxed just once since returning to the ring following his own layoff, this due to that car crash, Spence then being put on the shelf due to his eye injury.

Keith Thurman, Mario Barrios boxing image / photo

The Thurman who beat Porter and Garcia would have a great shot at beating one of the current top-3; maybe all three of them. But now, we simply have no idea how Thurman will look after two-and-a-half years out. It may take Thurman two or even three return fights before he feels he is ready for one of the champions. But can Thurman, 29-1(22) get through that many fights and that many training camps without suffering injury and having to take yet another layoff?

Only time will tell. Thurman’s comeback could be good for the sport – if he can get back to winning ways and keep the momentum going, Thurman could feature in some great fights. But if Thurman is never able to retain 100 percent fitness, then what? To plenty of fans, the odds are against Thurman ever regaining what he once had. Can Thurman change his style and approach, indeed, reinvent himself?

Next year, the returning Keith Thurman will be well and truly scrutinized by the fans, by the experts, and by possible future opponents.