Let Boxing Decide

So now Keith Thurman is under fire from critical boxing fans. Why? Because he took a vicious body shot from Luis Collazo during their PBC match last week. It was the same kind of punch that spelled doom in the past for luminaries like James J. Corbett and Oscar De La Hoya but Thurman somehow kept his feet, played it smart and weathered the storm. He then went on to win the fight after the game Collazo was essentially blinded by a cut. Body shot aside, Thurman handled the match extremely well. And yet the cry on social media was Thurman didn’t look good and definitely isn’t ready for Mayweather. Why is that?

The first reason is that so many underestimated Collazo. The Brooklyn native is a sound, capable opponent. Sure, Amir Khan was able to best him with seeming ease, but stylistically that match-up was all wrong for Collazo. The truth is Collazo remains a tough, skilled and determined foil for almost anyone. He’s faced plenty of good competition and has a well of experience to draw from. It was ridiculous that Thurman was so heavily favoured.

Collazo: underrated?
Did fight fans underestimate Collazo?

Furthermore, some fighters like Collazo, or say Emanuel Augustus, or Renaldo Snipes and, most recently, Chris Algieri, can make masterful competition look less than masterful. That’s just how it is in the fight game. And of course, it leads to the second, more pointed, reason as to why people are now “disappointed” in Thurman.

“One Time,” as he’s called, has taken on the role of Dauphin, the prince of a kingdom now ruled over by an aging monarch named Floyd Mayweather. Thurman, truth be told, is actually one of several princes now potentially in line to become boxing’s next poster child and big money-maker once Floyd finally rides off into the sunset.

Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is another dauphin. He may have lost soundly to Mayweather two years back, but he’s impressively taken on all comers since (an odd thing in the era of Al Haymon), has a superfight with Miguel Cotto on deck, and comes across as a pretty good guy to boot.

Gennady Golovkin, also known as “GGG,” is yet another heir apparent. A possible future opponent of Canelo’s, the man is a smiling middleweight terror. Although he doesn’t have Thurman’s unique personality or a built-in ethnic fan base like Canelo does, Golovkin has proven to be the very picture of skill and destruction in the ring. Also, courtesy of some brilliant promotional work, he’s endeared himself in a big way to Mexican fight fans.

Golovkin battles Murray: an heir apparent.

Last but not least, there is Deontay Wilder, the American heavyweight dauphin who has a stunning physique, some seriously heavy punches and a lot of questions following him around. Although he’s part owner of the heavyweight title, the primary stockholder is Wladimir Klitschko. What’s more, Wilder’s only true test so far has come against a dehydrated Bermane Stiverne. Still, the powers that be like what they see in Wilder, so he’s also being presented as possibly boxing’s next big thing.

Will any of these men manage to take the top spot some had suggested awaits Thurman upon Floyd’s exit? The question itself may not even be valid. Because all four fighters – Thurman, Alvarez, Golovkin and Wilder – may fall from on high in the near future, just as surely as an unheralded opponent can throw a hard left hook to the body.

The bottom line is no one knows who boxing’s next big star is going to be. In boxing, genuine stars can’t be manufactured. When that happens, you end up with Adrien Broner, a man who until recently was on some highly regarded pound-for-pound lists. The boxing game itself will organically produce its next star. The rise of Mike Tyson, for instance, coincided with the end of the Leonard/Hearns/Hagler era. And De La Hoya was there to pick up the baton in the late 90s from Tyson. After De La Hoya came Mayweather, and after Mayweather someone else will step in to fill the void.

Is Thurman the "next big thing"? Only time will tell.
Is Thurman the “next big thing”? Only time will tell.

People don’t need to line up their favorites for that coveted position. They just have to wait and see and stop turning on the “next big thing” when he takes a solid shot in the middle of a fight he eventually goes on to win. The punch from Collazo in Flordia didn’t do anything other than alter opinions. And opinions are as fragile as Amir Khan’s chin and as consistent as New England weather. What will become of Thurman depends on Thurman, his future opponents, Al Haymon, and other matchmakers. Popular opinion is just no substitute for talent in anyone’s case.

And besides, spoilers are always lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. Perhaps they’re fighters no one suspects can do real career damage, or perhaps, like Collazo, they’re simply talented men who have been overlooked and held in lower regard than they deserved.

Marlon Starling
Marlon Starling

That was certainly the case with Marlon Starling, the talented welterweight titlist of the 1980s, who put some detours in the otherwise impressive career paths of Mark Breland and Lloyd Honeyghan, and almost that of Donald Curry. Starling wasn’t so much a spoiler as he was simply a far better boxer than many realized and just off the radar of “serious opinion” when his own career finally began to peak.

The lesson here is the court of public opinion shouldn’t be too quick to raise up or take down any fighter’s reputation. The sport of boxing, not twitter or facebook, has proven itself a solid enough judge when all is said and done. Is Keith Thurman going to be a star? It’s too soon to tell. Step back and let boxing decide.             — Sean Crose

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