Former unified welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman discussed his return to the ring and much more ahead of his showdown against former super lightweight champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios taking place Saturday, February 5 in the FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View main event from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
The pay-per-view telecast will begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and also features four-division champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz dueling Keenan “Bedo” Carbajal in the co-main event of the four-fight lineup.
The former WBA and WBC champion at 147-pounds, Thurman reached the pinnacle of the sport with memorable victories over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia during his extended run atop the division. Thurman’s first loss came against legendary eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao in one of 2019’s best fights, and now the 33-year-old will look to begin another run at the welterweight crown against Barrios.
Here is what Thurman had to say from his training camp in Clearwater, Florida:
What is different in this training camp?
“This training camp we started strength training earlier. Fighters have to focus on cardio at the end of their camps and lay off the weights. But we wanted to establish power early in the camp, and we were able to do just that.
“The diet is always a focus. Our Pacquiao camp was really strict from the beginning as I had a big demand on my body to pull off 35 pounds before the fight. For this camp, we started at a 25-pound marker, and while the diet was important, the pull and taxation on my body has been gentler. My dedication to my diet has been tremendous, and I’ve been seeing the benefit for weeks.”
What delayed your return to the ring post-2019 surgery?
“I wanted to get back into the ring in 2020, but I was in a pickle. I was offered a get-back fight in-studio with no fans.
“Coming off the Pacquiao fight, it just didn’t excite me to come back without fans. I love my fans. I love the sport of boxing. I could have done it for the activity, and perhaps, in retrospect, it would have been good to be in the ring. But while the activity would have been good, the excitement wasn’t appealing. I was financially stable, didn’t need the money, and desired to make meaningful performances and meaningful fights in the welterweight division. 2022 has presented more opportunities to me and my career; at 33, I’m young, willing, and able, and it’s time to get back.”
Why did you say yes to Mario Barrios?
“Mario Barrios had the best record out of the small handful of fighters presented to me. He had an exciting performance against ‘Tank’ Davis, and it just seemed like it’d be a great challenge for both of us. We’re two fighters who are exciting in the world of boxing, talented and coming off their first career losses. It might not sound exciting at first, but if you understand what it is to have a competitive mindset, you know both of us will demand greatness out of ourselves.
“Some fighters, after their losses, rise up and demand more – focus harder, train harder, fix some technical skills that were lacking – offense or defense, strength issues. We saw it with Canelo Alvarez after he lost to Floyd Money Mayweather. Not because he was Canelo, but that loss made him rise and show that he was more than a puncher, because he has more than he showed prior to his loss.
“I’m not less-than after my loss; I’ll show greater skills to the fans in fighting Mario Barrios than I did against Manny Pacquaio.”
What can fans look forward to in the fight?
“Fans are going to see a world-class performance from two world-class fighters who want to make a statement in the welterweight division. Mario wants to come in and solidify himself as a name to be recognized in the 147 division and he can take on all challengers should he surpass Keith Thurman.
“I’m here to perform. With all the fights I have had, I think this will match all the performances I’ve given and test me. It will provide the doubters wrong who are asking, who is Keith Thurman? What does he have to offer? I’m going to show all that I have to offer on February 5.”
What do you have in your sights for 2022?
“I want my world titles back. This is the first step to putting myself back in championship contention. I see the welterweight division like a horse race. Everybody is running full-speed trying to get to the finish line – and the finish line is where you are crowned king of the division.
“We have great fighters, great champions, but there hasn’t been a king since the disappearance of Floyd Mayweather. Keith Thurman is still in the mix. I’m running behind those current champions, but I’m the type of horse that once it hits the curve, they’ll know I’m right on their tail. With the right speed, determination and momentum, I have the skills to once again rise to the top and reclaim my number one spot in the welterweight division. It’s my time to rise. One time, it’s go time.”
Photo: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions