Thurman Talks Return After Injury Layoff

Jan. 26 marks the end of a long journey for WBA (Super) welterweight champion Keith Thurman, when he defends his title at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, against Josesito Lopez.

Thurman has not stepped foot in a ring in nearly two years. His last bout came back at the beginning of March 2017, when he edged out then-WBC champion Danny Garcia by split decision in a title unification bout.

“I don’t think ring rust will be an issue,” Thurman said at a media day for the card. “The only thing that even if this may not be the best Keith Thurman that people have ever seen, we’re focused on getting better and much stronger with each fight. But make no mistake, people will see one of the best welterweights in the world on January 26 at Barclays Center.”

Thurman’s long absence has been attached to a string of injuries that began a couple of months after the Garcia fight. Thurman needed surgery on his right elbow, which expected to put him out of action for about six months. Thurman then further became one of several figures in boxing’s welterweight title situation after Lamont Peterson vacated the WBA (Regular) welterweight title. Thurman was set to come back by Spring 2018, but for a tune-up bout and not a fight against anyone like Garcia, current IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., or former welterweight champion Jessie Vargas.

Ultimately, he was scheduled to return back on May 19 against an opponent who was never identified, but that match ultimately never came to fruition after Thurman suffered a deep bruise on his right hand. And on April 24, 2018, Thurman vacated the WBC title to allow himself a full rehab of his injuries.

“You always have to be a little worried about new injuries,” Thurman said. “There’s nothing wrong with your car until the day it decides to break down. So at the end of the day, it’s always in the back of my mind.

I run a lot of miles, so I wonder about my knees. I wonder about my shoulders also. Athletes and their bodies go through a lot of things. But here I go getting right back into things and I’m totally ready to showcase my talents on January 26.

Thurman now hopes this bout with Lopez results in him getting back into tip-top form, that way he can have a busy 2019 and is right back into the welterweight picture.

“Training camp has been going well,” Thurman said. “It was a little bit of a slow start after so many months out of the ring, but I’m feeling great as we get closer to the fight. I’m starting to feel more and more like a world-class athlete again. It’s a good feeling working this hard and it reminds me what it’ll take to continue being the champion.”

This isn’t Lopez’s first crack at a major boxing title. Lopez was the former WBC silver welterweight champion, defeating Victor Oritz back in 2012, but he lost the title in his first defense three months later to a then-undefeated Canelo Alvarez. In addition, Ortiz has had cracks at the WBA Intercontinental and World Welterweight Titles, losing by TKO to Marcos Maidana and Andre Berto, respectively. Lopez last competed in April, defeating a then-unbeaten Miguel Cruz by decision.

Some may write this fight off as a tune-up bout for Thurman, but he claims he’s not taking Lopez lightly.

“He’s a busy fighter with good reach,” Thurman said of his opponent. “He likes to mix it up and force his opponents to fight. He also has a new coach in Robert Garcia now, and I know he has a lot of confidence in his abilities. Josesito has been through ups and downs in his career, but he’s back on an upswing at the moment. Then he pinpointed me and called me out. So I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I’m going to show my versatility in the ring. I’m going to show Josesito what it’s like to be in the ring with me. He might think it’s just all about my power, but I’ll show him what none of his sparring partners could. I’m going to show everyone the full package of skills I bring and enjoy every second of it.

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