The long-awaited return of undefeated Welterweight Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) is a little less than a month away.
On January 26, 2019 he will be returning to the ring to take on tough veteran contender Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) in his de facto home in Brooklyn, New York at Barclays Center where he has had a ton success.
Most notably, his fight-of-the-year candidate against Shawn Porter in 2016 and his 2017 unification win over Danny Garcia.
Since that win against Garcia, Thurman has been sitting out with multiple injuries to both his elbow and hand. It’s been a tough road to recovery for the WBA Welterweight champion.
During a recent press conference to announce his return, Thurman detailed just how difficult that journey has been for him and some of the questions he had for himself.
“It’s been hard for me not being in the ring. Not being in the gym,” said Thurman to a group of reporters. “Waiting for the elbow to recover then we hop in the gym and get a hand injury. Did I hit my pinnacle beating Danny Garcia or what? So I’m just truly happy to be back.”
The frustrations are understandable for Thurman. Almost two years ago he was both the WBA and WBC Welterweight champion and coming off the biggest win of his career.
The division has always been stacked, but it was clear that Thurman was at the top of the food chain. Fast forward almost two years later and he has had to relinquish his WBC title due to inactivity and must now work his way back up to the top of the mountain.
The landscape of the division has changed quite a bit as well. Terence Crawford has moved up from 140 to 147 and has not only looked dominant in his two bouts, but also has the WBO title.
IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. seems to be improving with every fight and is viewed as the man to beat and Shawn Porter has claimed the WBC belt that Thurman dropped. In short, things are a bit different.
For Thurman he believes he is still the best in the division and needs this fight with Lopez in order to push him.
“I need a match like this,” said Thurman. “Somebody who is going to be there and give a good fight for the fans and really just try to take me out.”
Josesito Lopez understands how big this opportunity that is currently in front of him is and plans on taking full advantage.
“I’m thankful to get another title shot against a world class elite fighter,” said Lopez. “An undefeated fighter, a good fighter in Keith Thurman. I’m excited for this opportunity and I’ll make the most of it. I’ve been here in this position before. I don’t shy away from big battles, and this is definitely one. This is one that I’m definitely prepared for. On January 26 there is going to be a new world champ.”
With Thurman being out of the ring for so long this can be viewed as a great chance for Lopez to take advantage of him. Josesito on the other hand does not agree with that notion. He believes that we may actually see a Keith Thurman that is better than ever.
“You can say we have a fresh Keith Thurman. One that’s got rehabilitated,” said Lopez. “He got some surgeries that were probably giving him some problems that were lingering from before. So if anything we might see a better Keith Thurman than we’ve seen in recent years. I’m expecting the best Keith Thurman there is.”
Don’t tell Keith Thurman that he is no longer the best Welterweight in the world. He will adamantly disagree with you.
“Next month the 26 you will see the return of the No. 1 Welterweight in the division today,” said Thurman
The Welterweight division has always been one of the very best in boxing. With Keith Thurman returning to action it will only get that much better. The journey for Thurman to return to his lofty perch will begin January 26 at Barclays Center.