The boxing world had been patiently waiting for the return of Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs).
He was absent from the ring for 22 long months due to injuries and surgeries to his elbow and hand. His opponent on Saturday, January 26, 2019 was Josesito Lopez (36-8, 19 KOs), a fighter who was supposed to be nothing more than a tune up bout for him.
Lopez was not someone who would be considered a major threat. Thurman needed the rounds in order to shake the rust off and Lopez seemed like the perfect opponent.
Thurman was supposed to come in tonight and roll all over his opponent. Lopez however did not receive the memo as he gave Thurman hell for 12 full rounds tonight.
Things started off great for the champion as he was boxing well and landing the cleaner and bigger shots. Round 2 saw Thurman put his man down. The champion was in complete cruise control and seemed to be on his way to a stoppage win. Lopez however showed true heart and continued to press forward. Thurman was controlling every round up until the seventh.
Lopez had the best round of the night as he was able to have the champion in serious trouble. Lopez landed shot after shot and had Thurman on the brink of hitting the canvas. After the contest Thurman admitted to being buzzed in that very round.
“He had me buzzed and shaken up in the seventh round, but I tried to stay on the outside away,” said Thurman during the post-fight interview. “I was a little off in my prediction of how long his arms were. He lunged in and was really willing to commit to the knockout.”
Thurman showed a ton of heart and grit as he was able to make it through the round. Thurman seemed to find his composure throughout the rest of the contest as he was able to box relatively well. Although Lopez was not able to duplicate the success he found in the seventh round at any other point in the contest, he still was able to find a home for his big shots.
It was a tough fight for Thurman. Lopez landed many more shots than we are accustomed to seeing Thurman get hit with. There is no doubt that the ring rust affected Thurman, which is understandable. He was, after all, out of the ring for close to two years.
Don’t critique Thurman too much for his performance tonight. He had a few tough moments, but still managed to get through them and keep his title.
Was this the best version of Keith Thurman? No. Thurman, to his credit, was not expecting to be at his best tonight.
“He came right for me,” said Thurman. “I said you wouldn’t see the best Keith Thurman tonight, but you’d still see a world class performance, and I gave you that tonight.”
Plenty of Welterweights were probably licking their chops watching Thurman struggle with Lopez. However, they should be careful with their assumptions. Thurman will only continue to get better from here. Whether or not anyone wants to hear it, Keith Thurman is still a force in the division.
Is he a little more vulnerable now? Sure. Is he still the man to beat at the Welterweight division? Absolutely.