Part of Keith Thurman’s charm is that you’re never quite sure what is going to come out of his mouth. All you know is it’s going to be interesting and intelligent.
So when the 26-year-old World Boxing Association welterweight champion from Clearwater, Fla., was asked about tonight’s title defense against Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden in the debut of the Premier Boxing Champions series on NBC, Thurman started talking about effective punching areas and maximizing blows and making sure the percentages worked in his favor.
“There’s only so much physical punishment the human body can take,” Thurman said. “There’s both temples, the chin and three separate regions of the body that are very sensitive to power punches. When I fight, I’m looking to land in those areas because the judges are trained to look for that.
“But I also know my knockout ratio is 88, 89 percent, and I know that there’s a good chance the other guy is not going to see the final bell.”
It was a lesson in boxing analytics.
“We watch a lot of film and break everything down so we know what works and gives us the best chance to win,” Thurman said. “The art of boxing is done in a circular motion. A fighter can move straight forward, and he can trap you if you move backward. But if you’re moving laterally, then he has to make an adjustment, and he will always have to make that adjustment. So when someone is coming straight at you, you have to make a choice. Either you’re going to go toe-to-toe and likely get hit, or you’re going to work your way around him, score your points, move and readjust.”
Thurman (24-0, 21 knockouts) headlines the inaugural PBC card, which goes on the air at 5:30 p.m. on NBC (Cox Channel 3). He knows adviser/manager Al Haymon and his investors have sunk millions into this venture buying time on network TV to help showcase Haymon’s stable of 150 fighters, and Thurman knows it’s a great opportunity for the sport to regain some traction with the public.
“It’s huge for boxing,” Thurman said. “We need to put on a good show and give people a great fight. I think me and Guerrero will do that.
“I’m looking forward to sitting down and trading with him. I’m the bigger, younger, stronger and faster man. I’m the harder puncher. It’s going to be in my favor to sit down on my punches and connect.”
He also will do whatever is necessary within the rules to keep his belt.
“I know I’m a big puncher, and I see myself as a puncher-boxer,” Thurman said. “But at the same time, I can also box, and I can be a boxer-puncher when I have to. I’ll sit down and try to stop you. But if you show me you’re durable, I’ll adjust and move around. I know I still have to win on the scorecard, and I’ll do whatever is in my power to get the judges to see it my way and have my hand raised at the end of the fight.”
That’s pretty much what happened in Thurman’s last fight. He knocked down Leonard Bundu in the first round Dec. 13 at the Grand Garden and figured it would be a short night. But when Bundu refused to go down again, Thurman changed his strategy and simply outboxed him the rest of the way and won the 12-round fight by unanimous decision.
“I thought to myself, ‘That was easy. He hopped into that one. He’ll probably hop into another one, and we’ll finish him off by the fourth or fifth (round),’ ” Thurman said. “But by the fifth, I realized he had made an adjustment and wasn’t going to go in with that intensity. He was trying to pick his moments. So I said, ‘You want to pick your shots? I’ll pick my shots.’ Either I would’ve had to force myself to get a knockout, or I could just outbox him the rest of the way, which is what I did.”
Guerrero’s father and trainer, Ruben Guerrero, said he expects his son to be chasing Thurman from the opening bell in the 12-round fight. Thurman laughed at the notion he’s afraid of Guerrero, a three-division world champion who is 32-2-1 with 18 knockouts.
“You know, I might run,” Thurman said. “I might run right through him.”
■ NOTES — Both fighters weighed in Friday at 147 pounds. … Thurman is a minus-700 favorite, and Guerrero is plus-500. … Thurman will make $1.5 million, and Guerrero will get $1.23 million.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.
PREMIER BOXING CHAMPIONS
WHO: Robert Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 KOs) vs. Keith Thurman (24-0, 21 KOs)
WHAT: 12 rounds for Thurman’s WBA welterweight title
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. today
WHERE: MGM Grand Garden
WEIGHTS: Thurman 147; Guerrero 147
PURSES: Thurman $1.5 million; Guerrero $1.23 million
OFFICIALS: Referee — Kenny Bayless. Judges — Dave Moretti, Jerry Roth, Adalaide Byrd
TV: NBC (3)
LINE: Thurman minus-700; Guerrero plus-500
TICKETS: $50, $100, $300, $400