I direct these remarks, without anger or malice, to fellow contributor James Simpson, whose column “Don’t Sleep On Keith Thurman,” was published on this fine website last month. And I want you to know, James, that I am not sleeping at all when it comes to the boxer who calls himself “One Time.” In fact, not only am I wide awake, but I have a few things to say about him and the assertions you put forth.
In your piece you express the opinion that Keith Thurman is “the best pure boxer on the planet at 147.” Now that is quite a statement. To which I say, “Where, my friend, are the receipts?” Because it’s easy to express an opinion, but to be the best, you have to beat the best. Not with boasts and trash talk, but in the crucible of the proverbial squared circle.
Let’s get the record straight: as of right now, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. are at the top of the welterweight division; some may have “The Truth” number one, while others, like me, prefer “Bud.” But there is no doubt that they rank above Keith. And a fact you cannot deny, James, is that many fans and pundits are right now picking a 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao to beat Thurman this Saturday night. In other words, forget being “the best pure boxer on the planet at 147.” Keith Thurman needs to defeat “The Pacman,” and do so impressively, just to stay relevant in a red-hot welterweight division.
But even if he does, given the fact that Thurman recently announced that he has no interest in ever facing Crawford, a message he sent along with a cheap-shot insult, he now appears to be disqualifying himself from ever being “the best” at 147. And this is based not on mere opinions, but on what Thurman himself has publicly stated!
James, boxing is a “what have you done for me lately” business in which, as the old adage goes, you are only as good as your last fight. Making Crawford and Spence my number one and number two, something many informed boxing observers agree with, is based on the fighters’ records and performances. It’s fine for you to believe, and even to say, that Keith Thurman is the “best pure boxer on the planet at 147,” but let’s face facts: your man “One Time” has had a grand total of two fights in two-and-a-half years! And I hate to break it to you, but he looked far from “the best pure boxer” in either his split decision win over Garcia, or in his near-disastrous comeback fight with Josesito Lopez.
Prior to the Lopez bout, Thurman bragged he was going to “make a statement” and “remind everyone … why I’m one of the baddest men on the planet.” But I’m afraid not much of statement was made at all that night. My colleague Alden Chodash did a fine report on that bout in which he posited that the old boxing adage “you are only as good as your last fight” is as true today as it ever was. And by that standard Thurman is barely top ten at 147 and certainly not championship caliber. Lopez almost knocked him out when Keith made the rookie mistake of squaring up to his opponent, leaving himself open to a big shot. Yes, he took that punch and lived to tell the tale, but only after he held on for dear life to survive the rest of the round.
James, you glossed over this in your article, simply calling the Lopez debacle “a competitive fight,” with no mention of how close Keith came to defeat. Add in the fact that the judges’ scores were all over the place, and no one with a straight face can say that Thurman’s performance was that of “the best pure boxer” in the welterweight division.
So here we are, a few days from Thurman’s third fight in over two years (two years, four months and 17 days to be exact) with a fellow aging but game campaigner, Manny Pacquiao. And I would counsel you, Mr. Simpson, and your boy Mr. “One Time,” to not “sleep on” the Pac Man. Yes, Pac is past his prime, but he had more than enough to put a sound ass-whipping on Adrian Broner, who can hold his own with pretty much any of the welterweight contenders. My best guess is Thurman will have no easy time with Manny and could be sorely tested in the later rounds. In the Broner fight, Pac was moving forward, aggressively, nearly the whole fight, while Keith was running for his life against Josesito Lopez.
So let’s get real, James. Keith Thurman is a boxer who is struggling to remain relevant. He isn’t going to fight Errol Spence anytime soon since they’re in the same stable, and, by his own admission, he isn’t going to rumble with Terence Crawford, my choice for the truly top man at welterweight. So no matter what happens this Saturday against the Filipino legend, Keith Thurman is not “the best at 147.” Because the simple truth is you can’t shit-talk your way into being “the best.” Thurman is way behind Crawford and Spence and, judging by his public statements, he knows it too.
Because when you do a lot of trash talk and name-calling, and then say you “have no interest” in facing someone, like it or not, you reveal something about yourself. “Want me to be your matchmaker?” Keith asked in an attempt to needle “Bud” Crawford. And that tells me deep down inside Thurman is afraid to fight Crawford. Back in the day, that kind of thing was called “whistling past the graveyard.” I don’t believe in ghosts, but if I see one, lawdy, lawdy, I think I’m going to piss my pants! That’s the Keith Thurman of today.
How else to interpret his about-face when it comes to Terence Crawford? Thurman has gone from “We can make that fight in 2020; it’s dumb to have three champions” to “I have no interest” in facing Terence Crawford. So anointing Mr. “One Time” as “the best at 147,” Mr. Simpson, contradicts Thurman’s own expressed limitations about himself. Because the best fighters fight the best, plain and simple.
James, most of us live in a reality-based environment. And in your column, you advise people not to “sleep on” Keith Thurman. I most certainly am not. But I am calling your favourite welterweight for what he really is. Based on his lack of activity, his most recent performance, and his own public statements. That’s called reality-based, “woke,” informed opinion, James. Which leads me to believe that the only ones who are in fact guilty of “sleeping” on Thurman are the dreamers who think he can ever be “the best.”
— Ralph M. Semien