Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman makes his long-awaited comeback next month against Mario Barrios on February 5th in what he hopes will be a fight that leads to a title shot in the summer against one of the welterweight champions.
Suppose Thurman can win this fight against Barrios. In that case, he’s got the chance for massive paydays against WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford and the winner of the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Yordenis Ugas contest.
Thurman is THREE fights away from becoming the #1 welterweight on the planet and making one of the successful comebacks during our generation. No one has done what Thurman strives to do this year by recapturing the #1 spot at 147 during our era.
The former world champions Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) and Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) headline on FOX PPV at the Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Although the former WBA ‘regular’ light welterweight champion Barrios has been chosen as the ‘opponent’ or sacrificial lamb, he’s got a genuine chance of beating this version of 33-year-old Thurman.
In the last two and a half years since Thurman last fought, his body hasn’t been in a physical state of suspended animation in which no aging has taken place.
‘One Time’ Thurman bragged recently that being out of the ring for 30 months was a good thing because his body hasn’t taken punishment like regular fighters, but the age is there to be seen.
It doesn’t matter if Thurman hasn’t taken punishment inside the ring; the wear & tear of aging are visible.
Does Thurman still want it?
“Keith Thurman returns on May 5th against Mario Barrios. This is Thurman’s first fight since losing to Manny Pacquiao in 2019,” said Chris Mannix on The Volume. “This is just his third fight since 2017, which is just wild.
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) January 5, 2022
“This guy was on top of the welterweight division in 2016 and 2017 has fought three times since then. Thurman has talked a big game about getting back on top of the 147-lb division.
“He’s 33-years-old. Do you think he can do it?”
“It’s possible,” said Dan Rafael on Thurman, potentially being able to recapture his #1 spot at welterweight in his comeback. “The reason for his layoffs, it’s not like he was in jail and strung out on drugs or in a rehab facility for drinking so much.
“By all accounts, he’s been taking care of himself. It’s because of injuries. He’s had problems with his hands, and I believe, his elbow. Those are things that you just can’t control in every sport. You’re injured, and you have to heal them and get better.
“You’re useless to yourself and your team. Boxing is an individual sport, but the point is he’s had those issues. They’re not fake; they’re real. I hope they’re over them. If he is, he can come back,” said Rafael.
Only Thurman knows if he still has the hunger for boxing. We’ve heard old ‘One Time’ talking boldly about wanting to reclaim his #1 spot on top of the hill at 147, but we’ve seen precious little action on his part.
According to Chris Mannix, Thurman didn’t look like he was working hard when he visited him at his gym not long ago. Mannix says Thurman didn’t look like he wanted to go through “hell” to get in shape, and he didn’t like the vibe.
From the way he describes it, Thurman sounds like he’s going through the motions for training for his latest comeback. This is his second comeback for Thurman, and the way he looks now is jarring.
His hair has gone south, and he looks visibly aged, and nothing like the person that defeated Shawn Porter in 2016 and Danny Garcia in 2017. Physically, Thurman doesn’t resemble the person he was back then.
Has Thurman lost his ambition?
“My issue with Thurman is I’m not sure how much desire he has to still be in the grind and still be a truly active boxer. It’s one thing to come back and grab a big payday in a fight here and there and disappear for eight or nine months or a year,” said Rafael.
— Keith Thurman Jr. (@keithfthurmanjr) January 7, 2022
“I don’t get the feeling from Keith, and I hope he proves me wrong. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I don’t get the feeling that his heart is in it at the level it once was,” Rafael said of ‘One Time’ Thurman.
“Like a Canelo, for example, who goes to the gym every day practically even when he doesn’t have a fight scheduled and is just living that life. Keith [Thurman] has made a lot of money and won a lot of big fights at this stage of his life.
“Having got married, traveled the world, and gone to different places. Maybe boxing isn’t a priority for him at this moment and time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“If he puts his mind to it and that’s something he truly wants from a physical point of view, from a talent and muscle memory and all that, I don’t see any reason why he can’t be back where at the top of the welterweight division.
“He’s already beaten some of those top guys, he makes good fights, and he’s a very good fighter. If he wants to put his mind to it, I think he can still do it, but I question if he has the desire to do so,” said Rafael of Thurman.
You can argue that much of the last five years, boxing hasn’t been a priority for Thurman. He made a lot of money after his fights with Manny Pacquiao, Danny Garcia, and Josesito Lopez, transforming him into a millionaire.
Making millions has changed Thurman
When a person no longer has to worry about working another day in their lives, it does something to their willingness to work hard.
There are two different types of people. Those who continue to work hard after they make millions, and then others, who sit on their backsides, getting fat, living the life of leisure, and sometimes spending their fortune until their rock bottom. Which category of person does ‘One Time’ Thurman fit?
Keith needs the killer instinct
“I have the same questions,” said Mannix about Thurman. “I remember being down at Thurman’s training camp before his fight with Pacquiao in Saint Petersburg at Dan Birmingham’s gym. I remember being around them for a few days.
“He [Thurman] was working hard, but you can see a guy that is willing to go through hell to get in the right condition. I didn’t get that vibe from Thurman being around him those few days.
“Dan Birmingham is a very good trainer, and Keith Thurman is still a good fighter at 33. All that being said, he should be able to beat Mario Barrios, who I think is just okay, especially in his first fight moving up to welterweight.
“But then, if you’re looking at Spence, Crawford, the two guys that he’s probably going to be eyeballing, especially in the case of Crawford. The killer instinct is still there with those guys.
“The edge is still there with those guys. I don’t know if Thurman can match that. It feels to me that Crawford could be first up. I’m not sure we’re going to get Spence-Crawford before the end of the year,” said Mannix.
“You’re going down the road that I was actually thinking, which is if Errol Spence is going to be fighting [Yordenis] Ugas come the spring, which is what they’re planning and is going to happen,” said Rafael.
The killer instinct would mean that Thurman would need to stay in the gym and continue to work hard for the remainder of 2022, following his fight with Barrios on February 5th. Can Thurman do this?
One gets the sense that Thurman rarely ventured into a boxing gym during the last two years. Leaving the sport for 30 months and now trying to return, it doesn’t appear promising for old ‘One Time.’
There’s something about the sport that Thurman doesn’t like, perhaps the hard work required to be successful.
Thurman back on the injured list after Barrios fight?
“Thurman is going to come out of the Barrios fight and is going to be back on the injured list, and Crawford is still a free agent and looking for a fight that is still marketable, that’s pay-per-view caliber,” said Rafael.
“At this point, frankly, Fox has shown the willingness to do anything on pay-per-view. Crawford vs. Thurman on a pay-per-view basis. If Thurman is coming off a good performance in his comeback, that’s an attractive fight.
“I’m not saying it’s doing a million buys, but if you’re a boxing fan and they tell you straight out ahead of time that the winner of that fight is getting a shot at Spence.
“Remember, Errol Spence and Thurman has gone back and forth where he wouldn’t give Errol the shot, and Errol was the champion, and he kind of looked the other way and wasn’t interested in fighting Spence because he had other things to do,” Rafael said.
Unfortunately, the likelihood is that Thurman will suffer a hand or elbow injury during his fight with Barrios, which will put him back on the shelf for the next 12 to 30 months.
That’s been Thurman’s pattern during the last five years of his career since 2017. Will it be different this time? I don’t see why it would. You’re asking Thurman to change his spots, and that’s not going to happen.
Thurman, if nothing else, has proven to be predictable with his need for long breaks in between essential fights. Ultimately, that’s stunted his career and likely wrecked it in the end if he chooses to take another extended hiatus after the Barrios fight.
Big fights available for ‘ONE Time’
“Errol, whoever wins that fight, if he wins that fight against Ugas, then he’s got three titles,” said Rafael. You can make an attractive fight with Crawford and Thurman as a pay-per-view. Say to your fans and your people that we’re going to go later in the year for the undisputed, now you’ve got a pretty good event.
“It’s a good fight [Thurman vs. Crawford]. Thurman can talk. Crawford hasn’t always been the most media and fan-friendly in terms of his personality, even though I think he’s a good guy.
“But he was a lot better in terms of talking it up when he was getting ready to fight Shawn Porter in his last fight. That, to me, seems like a more reasonable and doable path. Spence and Ugas come that April time frame. You’ve got Keith Thurman fighting Barrios in February.
“Again, he’s [Thurman] got to come out uninjured. And he has a quick turnaround and gets back in June or July, whatever? Summer fight for Crawford, and close the year with a big mega-fight between the winners; that sounds like a great plan,” said Rafael.
Thurman, 33, controls his destiny right now, as he can make HUGE money and recapture his #1 spot in the 147-lb division if he beats Barrios, Terence Crawford, and the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Yordenis Ugas winner.
‘One Time’ Thurman will need to run the gauntlet in 2022, winning three tough fights for him to retake his throne as the #1 welterweight on the planet.
The money that Thurman makes will be out of this world good, and the accolades he’ll receive from fans & the media will be unmeasurable.