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Keith Thurman made a bet on himself a long time ago.
At 16 years old he decided to drop out of high school in Clearwater, Florida. His intuition told him that boxing was where his success lies. However, in a sport with odds that are akin to horse racing, Thurman’s long shot was just that.
“It takes a long time to make a champion,” said Thurman on his PBC Fight Camp Special. “When I dropped out of school at 16 years old, a lot of people weren’t sure if I was making the right decision. But I knew that I wasn’t going to be uneducated; I was just taking a different path to education.”
The man who guided him on that bet was the late trainer, Ben Getty, who also worked with Sugar Ray Leonard. Thurman had his first amateur fight in 1997 at just 9 years old and finished with 101 victories and 76 KOs.
He won 6 national championships and lost twice to current WBO Middleweight champion, Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade at the Olympic trials in 2007. When most leave high school at 18, Thurman’s graduation day was turning pro and he compiled a record of 20-0-1 over the next 6 years.
Then he took on Diego Chaves for his interim WBA welterweight title. It took him 10 rounds to KO the Argentinian at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas to become a world champion.
It was then he sought his master’s degree.
King Call Out
Since 2014, Thurman has been calling out all the legends of the last generation.
At the lead up to his fight against Italian fighter, Leonard Bundu, Thurman seethed with his inability to score a fight with a then active Floyd Mayweather.
“I feel like I’ve made boxing history. When I beat Danny Garcia, we were two undefeated welterweight champions. In boxing history, there haven’t been many times when WBA and the WBC was unified with two undefeated welterweights. But, I don’t think it’s enough to really solidify a legacy. So, I do need the victory to further my own personal legacy come Saturday night.
”Money May” and his generational rival, Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao were just out of reach for the fighter and he wore that frustration on his sleeve.
In 2015 he was elevated to a full WBA champion, eliminating the interim status and then just a short two years later, he won a split decision and the WBC belt, over previously undefeated Danny “Swift” Garcia, to become a unified welterweight champion.
Then life happened. Thurman’s right elbow needed surgery and it kept him inactive for two years. It was his Kevin Durant Achilles moment.
However, now after a successful yet tough return against Josesito Lopez in January, Thurman’s greatest wish has been answered. This Saturday, he is facing former 8 division world champion, Manny Pacquiao.
Even at 40 years old, Pacquiao schooled Adrien Broner, ironically, a week before Thurman’s fight against Lopez in January 2019.
The Pacquiao Pact
Thurman swears he will retire Pacquiao but is this truly his fight to win? Pacquiao is the guy Thurman has always wanted to be and for that reason, he needs to beat him for his own peace of mind.
He will probably never get a crack at Mayweather so this is the closest he will ever get to being the fighter. Still, Pacquiao is the guy that retired 6 division world champion, Oscar de la Hoya.
He is the fighting pride of the Philippines and the closest thing next to Terence “Bud” Crawford that kids today can look to as a throwback fighter. If getting a world title was his master’s degree, then fighting Manny Pacquiao is Thurman’s attempt at a Ph. D.
After all the talk and clamor for recognition but the greats is he ready to become boxing’s latest legend killer. Class is over and this weekend the world will see if Thurman’s thesis is higher degree worthy.