- Darnell Ellerbe/Mayweather Promotions
- Keith Thurman has pushed back against Deontay Wilder’s controversial comments last week, saying that boxing is “not about killing people.”
- Thurman defends his World Boxing Association (super) welterweight title against Manny Pacquiao in the summer.
- It is a fight that is amplifying the unbeaten Thurman to the wider sporting consciousness.
- And Thurman wants to use his ever increasing platform for good, inspiring others in his local community.
- Thurman, though respectful of Pacquiao, still plans on dismantling him on fight night and ending the Filipino’s career for good.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Keith Thurman is on a mission to give Manny Pacquiao “a proper farewell from the sport of boxing” by beating him so bad he never returns to the ring again.
But the 30-year-old from Florida also has another mission.
Thurman, already one of the fight game’s big names, could transcend boxing should he beat Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on July 20.
Thurman would become known across all sport, not just boxing, should he conclusively defeat Pacquiao, who is a 70-fight veteran, the welterweight division’s greatest name, and a former champion in an unprecedented eight weight classes.
With victory, Thurman would be followed by more people on social media, receive lucrative pay-per-view fight dates, and be able to command even bigger paychecks.
Thurman told Business Insider that he’d use an ever-increasing platform to introduce more people into the game, one that changed his life forever, by showing everyone that while boxing is certainly a “blood, sweat, and tears” sport, it is “not about killing people” like Deontay Wilder controversially said last week.
- Getty Images
‘You can kill a man and get paid’
Wilder said that he wanted to “get me a body” on his record by killing another man. He said his opponent Dominic Breazeale’s life was “on the line” on May 18, adding that boxing is “the only sport where you can kill a man and get paid for it.”
Wilder beat Breazeale in a single round on Saturday and was later asked by Luke Thomas on Sirius XM radio whether he regretted his comment. “I don’t regret none of what I said. I meant what I said. I’m the realest champion in the business,” he said.
Thurman pushes back against this sentiment. “There’s many words in the dictionary that one can use without making it sound the way Deontay Wilder made it sound,” Thurman told Business Insider.
Thurman has been fighting professionally since 2007 and has built a flawless record of 29 wins and 22 knockouts. He has big wins over some of the division’s best names like Robert Guerrero, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia, and he is used to the big stage – but stages do not come bigger than sharing a ring with a three-time Fighter of the Year in Pacquiao.
Thurman told Business Insider that he has been patiently waiting his whole life to be one of the main faces in boxing, but is “not sure” he’s been in a situation before where he’ll compete in a once-in-a-career fight that could prove to be life changing.
He told us he’s ready. “I believe that the time is now,” he said.
And rather than spend frivolously on material things with the money that comes with success, he would rather do good because of the lifelong impact his former trainer Ben Getty had on him, instilling lessons that Thurman still remembers today, even though Getty died unexpectedly in 2009, aged 63.
Thurman met Getty, the school janitor at Belleair Elementary School in Clearwater, Florida, when he was 7 years old.
Getty was a former military man and a dedicated power lifter who could lift more than 500 pounds, according to Premier Boxing Champions.
It’s not brutal … it’s a beautiful sport and it’s admirable for every fighter, no matter their record, to get into the ring and challenge themselves.
Getty was the one who sparked Thurman’s love of boxing as he nurtured his talents in an after-school YMCA boxing program that he led himself, and taught Thurman to always seek knockout victories.
Though Getty died 10 years ago, Thurman still dedicates his fights to him, talks about him regularly in interviews, and once cried when reflecting on his death and what he meant to him.
Thurman wants to have a similar impact on others by inspiring them through boxing. “I want to give back to my local community, maybe to speak to some of the kids from the elementary school from where I originally met Ben Getty and where everything began,” he told Business Insider.
“I have a beautiful story with my original trainer from the age of 7 to the age of 20 when he passed away. Ben Getty believed in me before anybody believed in me. That I’d be champion of the world, that I’d be a pay per view fighter, an exciting fighter.
“I’ve proved multiple times that I’m exciting. Fans from all over the world tell me all the time they loved Thurman versus Garcia, Thurman versus Porter, they just love to watch me box.
“People tell me I got them back into the sport of boxing, and that is my ultimate goal … to reach out to more people and get them involved in the sport of boxing.”
He went on: “It’s not a brutal sport, it’s not about killing people. It’s about showcasing your skills and talent from one man to another. It is about blood, sweat, and tears. But by no means is it a deadly, brutal sport. I believe it’s a beautiful sport and it’s admirable for every fighter, no matter their record, to get into the ring and challenge themselves.”
Thurman is one of boxing’s hardest hitters but he complements his power with textbook combinations, throwing fast fists to a variety of bodily targets, and constantly thinks about the best ways to break down an opponent who is either stationary, or on the move.
His cerebral fighting style is perhaps a reflection of what he’s like away from the sport. He practises yoga, meditates, plays peaceful instruments like the flute and the piano, and loves reading books.
So how does he switch from the yin away from the ring to the yang when it’s time to bang? “There’s a time and a place for everything,” Thurman said. “There’s a time to sleep, wake up, there’s a time to be graceful, and there’s a time to be aggressive.
“And in the ring it’s fight time. I know it very well and I’m very comfortable in that ring. I know how to protect myself, I know how to move, and I throw devastating punches.
“With or without knockouts, every single one of my opponents has always felt my power. I am confident with my power, I know that as soon as I hit them they know that they’re not fighting against the likes of some other opponents they have fought in their past … Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman is a dangerous man,” he said.
Thurman wants to end Pacquiao’s career
At a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Thurman said Pacquiao is going to end up “crucified,” according to the ESPN journalist Steve Kim.
An amped-up version of words like “dismantled” or “destroyed,” crucified becomes problematic when it is used as a threat against a practising Christian like Pacquiao. Some of those who attended the conference even booed, but it is unclear if those who jeered were reporters or members of Pacquiao’s entourage.
To Business Insider, Thurman was more respectful, but still said he was preparing to end Pacquiao’s career, one he said has given the Filipino “a beautiful legacy.”
He said sharing the ring with Pacquiao would be “exciting,” a “great opportunity,” and an “honor,” but he believes the 40-year-old will call time on his fighting days after his 71st bout in two months’ time.
“It’s a great fight, great opportunity. It’s an honor to share the ring with Manny Pacquiao. I’ve watched him throughout his career. I was at the Floyd [Mayweather] – Pacquiao fight [in 2015] and I’ve wanted the fight for many years.
“Manny Pacquiao really is a true warrior and fighting the likes of me, 29-0 and 22 knockouts at the age of 30, proves that Pacquiao is willing to step in the ring with anybody and give the fans a great fight. I’m really honored … but I do plan on separating myself from him with my skills and talent, and showing why I am the World Boxing Association (super) welterweight champion of the world.”
- Darnell Ellerbe/Mayweather Promotions
Regardless of the respect Thurman has for Pacquiao’s career, he is not fazed by the prospect of being the one who ends it by beating Pacquiao so bad it forces him to retire from the sport. “This is a dangerous fight for Manny and he’ll experience it on July 20,” he said.
Pacquiao has long been an exciting, TV-friendly fighter. But he turned into a pay-per-view superstar after forcing the 1992 Olympic gold medalist Oscar de la Hoya to quit on his stool in the middle of a 2008 fight, announcing his retirement after.
For Thurman, it is now Pacquiao’s time to walk away from the game. “I’m going to do to Manny Pacquiao what Manny Pacquiao did to Oscar de la Hoya. Manny Pacquiao was Oscar de la Hoya’s last fight and Keith Thurman may be Manny Pacquiao’s last fight come July 20.”
He added: “Props to him and his beautiful legacy, but he will fall short. I always look forward to dismantling my opponents, destroying them, and showcasing my skills and talent each and every time I am in the ring. And I want to give Manny a proper farewell from the sport of boxing.”