Keith ‘The One’ Thurman makes his long awaited return following a string of injuries in 2018 this Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The WBA welterweight champ will be defending his title against "Riverside Rocky" Josesito Lopez.
Television coverage for the event begins at 8:00 pm Eastern Time, 5:00 pm Pacific Time. The co-feature sees unbeaten Polish heavyweight contender Adam Kownacki taking on former world title challenger Gerald Washington in a 10-round heavyweight bout.
Below is what Thurman and Lopez had to say about this Saturday’s showdown in Brooklyn
Yes. Thank you for having me. I’m exciting to be showcasing my talents and skills here in Brooklyn, and I thank TGB Promotions, FOX and FOX Deportes for having me. And you won’t be disappointed Saturday night.
Do you feel like coming into this fight that you’re kind of getting him at the opportune time?
You know what? I’m not expecting that or counting on that. I prepared for the best Keith Thurman that I’ve seen. I think it’s not easy coming back from a layoff.
I know that myself, because I was myself in a two-year layoff about two and a half years ago. So I know the feeling. I know the obstacles that you have to go through physically and mentally. So I can’t assume it will be easy.
But either way -- no matter what -- he chose the wrong opponent to come back to. And I’m going to prove that.
Does that sort of discussion about being a comeback fight irritate you, offend you or just make you more motivated to go do what you have to do? What’s your point of view on that?
Yes, I wouldn’t say it offends me. There’s a lot of casuals that don’t understand the ins and outs and then don’t realize what I bring to the table. So no. It’s not bothersome, but to a lot of people -- to those people that are thinking that way -- it’s going to come as a surprise.
But for the people that really know boxing and really know the inside of my camp and my training, it won’t be a surprise when I pull off the victory.
What is it that you have to do and excel at on Saturday to be able to turn back Keith Thurman, who you expect to be the best Keith Thurman that you’ve been seeing over the years?
You know what? Like I’ve mentioned before, I think overall in the fight, my skill, my power and my will will outshine all these obstacles that I have to get through to get a victory against a champion like Keith Thurman. So I’m just going to plain simply win.
Can you tell us about your mental preparation for the fight?
I’ve had a great preparation. I’ve been training in the training camp, actually the same training camp that Mikey Garcia trains in for his fights. Everything has gone great, went perfect, so I can’t complain about training camp.
The road here hasn’t been just this training camp. It’s really been a three-fight training camp where I’ve been casually just working my way up into a championship level with the help of Robert Garcia. He’s helped me get into the best shape and best skills possible for a fight at this level.
So I’m definitely championship-level. And I’m going to prove that I’m championship material.
Does the top competition you’ve faced give you confidence going into this Thurman fight?
Well I wouldn’t say necessarily it gives me confidence. I would say this is not a place where I haven’t been before. My back’s against the wall, per se. I’m going in against a champion and I’m going against a tough opponent, a world champion.
So it’s all somewhere where I’ve been before and doesn’t - I’m not new to the game. I’m not -, this is not a new feeling. I’m going in. I know exactly what I have to do. And I’ve just got to go out there and execute.
What are some of your favorite two fights that you’ve had that people would know about? What two fights do you like to talk about or remember in particular?
You know what? I’ve had several great battles against some warriors, some very good champions. You know, I would say most recently would probably be versus Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana. Those were great battles.
I had a big disadvantage against Canelo weight-wise. But I showed my true grit and my will.
And Maidana was a very tough opponent, caught me with a good punch, and I was stopped early. But I think what I bring to the table now is adding a little more intelligence and skill to that will that I’ve showed in previous past fights.
And you’re training now with Robert Garcia in Riverside. Who are some of the guys that you’re sparring with up there?
Oh, I’ve sparred absolutely everybody in the camp. I’m sparring guys as heavy as fighting at middleweight. I really can’t name them all, absolutely everyone from 140 to 160 that Robert Garcia has in Riverside Training Camp. I sparred them all. They’ve all helped me.
For this training camp -- I’ve pretty much sparred every undefeated fighter that we have. I’m definitely prepared. I put in the work and now it’s time to execute.
What’s it like where everybody’s going to be fighting almost at the same time?
Well I think when it comes down to the work in training camp, , we’re all focused and mentally prepared for this moment. I know we all have different obstacles and are going to different places in the world to fight. But we all want the same outcome for each one of us.
So we’re all prepared. It’s great being amongst other champions and other great undefeated fighters training for the same goal that we all have. So it’s definitely motivating. And we’ve all prepared well. And we’re all ready to get a W.
When a fighter has those sorts of injuries Keith had and has to come back from that, you know, does that put a little seed of doubt in his mind?
Yes. Like I mentioned before, I’m not counting on that. I know that I’ve gone through the same thing and it’s not quite the same the first fight back or maybe even the second fight back. But he’s a champion, and he’s obviously ready to come back, he feels like. So he must feel well with recovery.
I’m definitely counting on seeing a good Keith Thurman, a refreshed Keith Thurman from a two-year layoff. And just like it can be a bad thing, it can also be a good thing. So that’s something we can’t know, really, until we’re up in the ring.
In those first initial rounds, do you believe that those are the best time to take advantage of Keith Thurman, while he’s still trying to shake off the ring rust?
No. I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I’m going in there with a smart game plan to win round by round. But we’ve worked on every aspect of our game. So we’re prepared mentally and physically to just going in there and then doing our thing.
It’s not necessarily going in there to try to jump on him early. But I’m prepared to go as many rounds as it might take.
Do you feel like people are kind of overlooking you for this fight? And if so, do you believe that has that added any motivation into the training camp?
I don’t feel like people are overlooking me. People are overlooking me. It’s shown. I don’t mind it. Does it bother me? Not at all, really. It motivates me. It has motivated me. I’m definitely ready. And to whoever it may be a surprise to -- I’m taking the championship belt this Saturday.
Have you kind of taken anything from those past big fights?
Yes. For those that haven’t seen since some of those big fights that I had in previous years, you’re definitely going to see an improved fighter, overall, in my aspect of boxing.
I had some good tough battles against some good champions. But if you look back and look at my fights, you could say I was one step behind them, in whatever it might have been.
When other opponents face those same fighters those champions that I’ve fought really displayed a lot more and were able to look a lot better against other opponents. But I’m definitely prepared. I’m ready to go. I’m anxious and I can’t wait to get this done.
What most concerns you about Thurman going into the fight this weekend?
You know what? I’m aware of everything. I wouldn’t say I’m just concerned of one thing. But, I know he’s obviously an undefeated champion for a reason. So he brings a lot to the table.
He’s skilled. He’s strong. He has good movement. So I’ve just prepared for that. So I’m aware of everything that he brings to the table. I’ve just got to go out there and execute my own plan.
What would you like boxing fans to know about you coming out of this fight on Saturday?
That you can’t really judge a fighter by his wins and losses. I’ve had some tough defeats and some close defeats. But wins and losses aren’t everything.
I’m a better fighter than I’ve ever been. And I’m at my best. So it doesn’t matter how many bumps on the road I might have had throughout my career. I’m still going to be a world champion.
I’d like to let everyone know that come Saturday night, you’re going to see a great, great fight, a fight that you won’t forget. And make sure you don’t miss it and be there if you can.
Hi, guys. How are you guys doing today? It’s just great to be back. I’m looking forward to this fight back in Brooklyn, 22 months in the making. It’s real exciting for me, for my team. I know a lot of fans miss me. And it’s going to be a great show. I’m happy. I’m happy to be here.
Could you just sort of explain if there were injury frustrations and what they were like for you?
Definitely. The elbow surgery, I kept like pressing my doctor to give me like a turnaround date. Like, "How long, Doc? How long, Doc?" And I wasn’t under - I didn’t understand why he kept really beating around the bush. He was very clever with his wording.
He pretty much never answered the question, no matter how many words he used. And I didn’t understand. So probably about six months after the surgery when I realized like this is a long recovery because it’s not healed yet, and I know I still need more time.
So it was more of a 10-month to a full 12-month recovery, which would have been okay. It’s not the longest layoff. That was frustrating in itself.
But luckily for me, I spent a lot of time with my wife. And I was surrounded by her family and just a lot of new life experiences. And I was able to cope with that.
When I was trying to get back in the ring and I had another injury due to my left hand, that’s when I just was like, "Man, this is not - this is not fun at all. I just want to get back into the sport. I wish somebody could tell me what day I’m going to be back in the ring."
It just was very frustrating for me. I really just wanted to have a fight date. I wanted to be able to get back into the ring. The doctors were telling me "You’re not going to be out forever" -- this and that -- and I’m like, "It just feels like forever."
It just felt like a long time. So I’m just truly happy to be back with this fight date against a truly game fighter. I think this is a great comeback fight for myself.
Josesito Lopez has been moving up. He’s been catching some momentum. He’s got a new trainer, new set of confidence. He wants to showcase his skills and talent. I want to remind the world who Keith Thurman truly is.
How are they now? Are you as healthy as you’ve been going into a fight coming off his layoff? Or are you still having any issues with anything?
Well the doctor told me the hand may need monitoring throughout my whole career, which fighters have gone through that many times. Some have to get surgeries and things like that. I’m hoping to avoid such things. But we’ll see what happens in the future.
Did it never get to that point where you thought you wouldn’t be able to box again? And if it did, how did you deal with that?
No. The worst part is, I’ve been out of the ring for two years. I was 28 years old the last time I fought. I’m 30 now. It’s just a little disappointing, missing some of those years of my youth.
But luckily I still am in my prime. And just being in shape now motivates me for my future. Watching Manny Pacquiao win a fight at 40 years old also motivates me.
So there were moments where I had some morbid thinking and negative thoughts. But at the end of the day, we’re back in action. And we’re really excited. And we’re looking forward to the future.
Does that Pacquiao fight interest you for down the road?
It does interest me. I just know he’s interested in fighting Mayweather again. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how much money they’re going to generate, even if they were to generate half the income that they did last time.
Some people believe that people don’t want to see it. But I tend to find out people watch what’s on TV. So it’s interesting. I would love an opportunity to fight a legend such as Manny Pacquiao.
I’ve never had the opportunity to negotiate any fights against Floyd Mayweather. So if I was ever given such an opportunity, it would be an honor. And I would definitely take it.
Are you looking at this fight as not just a simple title defense but an opportunity to reestablish yourself as the best fighter 147 pounds and kind of show people why you were the unified champion two years ago?
Well definitely. We’re back on the stage. So we’re going to perform. We’re going to give you guys a great performance. You guys are the critics.
You get to say what Keith Thurman looks like and who looks like they’re about to be the top guy and x, y, and z and all that stuff. But like I stated when we first were on FOX -- I’ve always been the original problem. I am the truth and I’m swift.
It’s showtime at FOX. I belong here. I belong here. I’ve been telling people that Keith Thurman was ranked number one. Two years out, do I hold my position? Some people say yes. Some people say no.
Let’s say I don’t hold my position. Where do you put Keith Thurman? "Oh, he’s not number one. Maybe he’s number two. Oh, wait, but you also have that Crawford guy there. Well then he’s number three."
Look, man. I worked my whole life to be at the top of the game, and if you’re ranked number one, two or three, you’re at the top. So I don’t stress that stuff. I don’t look at anything negative. I constantly focus on the positive.
And I’m stepping back in the ring against Josesito Lopez to remind the world who Keith Thurman is, what it looks like when he’s fighting, how entertaining I can be and that I’m an elite fighter at 147.
Could you sort of put dates or at least time frames to your first surgery on your elbow, when you thought it was going to be good, and then when you injured your left hand so we have a pretty good time reference on that?
Well the doctor wouldn’t give me a turnaround date, which sucked, which frustrated me a little bit. I just had to go based off of feel, and it felt - it really did feel good after a year. We started to get into a camp, and then we reinjured ourselves, and it just really - it just prolonged the whole process. I kind of started that camp where I got re-injured about a year ago from now, actually.
Is this the perfect time for you to reestablish yourself?
It’s a beautiful moment in the sport of boxing. And I’m truly blessed to be at the top. That’s how I feel. I’ve always known that we were going to be here one day but -- luckily for me -- the day is today.
For it to be my first appearance on FOX - FOX is highly dedicated to what they’re doing in the sport.
For the sport of boxing and for a lot of the top fighters and top contenders -- this is just a great moment to be a part of a beautiful sport which is boxing.
I’m happy to be here. I’m looking forward to my return -- this performance Saturday night -- and I’m going to give you guys a good show.
Do you think that Floyd is going to come back and fight Manny? Or what is your gut feeling on that?
90%. Floyd said everything when he said absolutely nothing. A lot of people don’t know how to read body language the way I do.
When the question was asked and Floyd said absolutely nothing, he actually almost looked in the other direction. He actually started to like look away from the camera instead of towards the camera.
And really, it’s not like he flinched. He didn’t do a lot of movement. It was very subtle. But by sometimes not saying something, that does mean that you’re saying a lot.
And pretty much what he said is, "Why are you asking me a question? I don’t answer questions. You need to give me a statement. You need to tell me that you’re going to give me 150 million up front and that you’re going to give me my kickback on the pay-per-view, and then we can start to actually negotiate. And you’ll get some answers but not from asking questions."
You see what I’m saying? That’s the way Floyd Mayweather thinks. He’s a very smart and brilliant businessman, tremendous fighter. They’re both past their prime. Floyd beat him once.
Floyd’s silent talk is really him saying, "Show me - give me a statement, not a question, of $150 million up front, whatever the numbers may be. It just needs to be pleasing to the ears" before Floyd will consider it.
But it’s really hard for any human being to not take $100 million or greater for a 36-minute performance. I believe if Floyd was to make half of what he did against Pacquiao the first time, it’s still worth it. It’s still worth it, man.
They’re both past their prime. Floyd is just a very slick boxer even though he does throw one punch at a time, similar to what Adrien Broner did. He just does it way more effectively. He has better defense, better movement throughout the ring with the ring awareness.
And he beat him once. I think he would beat him twice and I think Manny Pacquiao would be able to retire happily after such a paycheck. So that’s why I say the likelihood in my opinion is 90%.
Of course I would love to be wrong. I would love to be wrong because that would open up doors for me. Hopefully, hopefully it would open up doors for me to negotiate against the legend Manny Pacquiao, but we’ll see. There’s tons of opportunities at 147, so regardless, I still have a beautiful job.
Do you think he would beat Pacquiao in similar fashion to last time or worse?
I think probably similar. It could end up being worse. All it takes is the right connection at the right time. But it should be similar. Floyd is just very cautious. He potshots and he’s just very accurate when he does so.
Throughout his whole career, he was snapping heads back, hitting them with that jab to the body, doing little curve ball change-ups -- slow, fast -- doing his best to be very unpredictable. And yes, I think he would just craftily coast his way to victory once again.
So what has it been like to deal with that backlash of being out of the ring for you?
I can care less what people say and what they think about Keith Thurman and, "Oh, he’s ducking guys. He’s getting injured to avoid people." I’m a seven-figure fighter, there’s a lot of money out there to be made.
And I’ve worked really hard my whole life since the age of seven. I’m 30 now. There’s just a lot of people that really don’t understand what it means to be a world-class fighter.
So a lot of opinions just really don’t get to me. If anything, some of them were humorous and my favorite, you know - I’m Keith "One-Time" Thurman. I’m Keith "Run-Time" Thurman, Keith "Sometime" Thurman, Keith "Once-Upon-a-Time" Thurman. That was pretty amusing.
How painful was it when you incurred this hand injury? And how much concern do you have that this could be a chronic type thing that you have to deal with over and over again?
Well, when it occurred, it was painful enough to where it hurt to land a jab on my sparring partner with 16-ounce gloves. So that’s when I knew, if I can’t punch my sparring partner with a jab, I’m not going to have a fight date.
In the back of my head, yes, we’re a little worried about things going into the future, but we’re also doing our best to stay positive because we feel great. We’re ready for this fight. And I just want my health to hold up because I just want to be an active fighter at the top of the welterweight division once again.
And no matter what happens, I believe that I will be able to do that, even if I do have to monitor things. Maybe I do have to make adjustments in my fight style or things of that nature. I’ll do whatever it takes to continuously showcase the skills and talents that I have.
I’ve always been versatile. And there’s many ways to get to the finish line when it comes to a 12-round championship bout. I didn’t knock out Shawn. I didn’t knock out Danny. I’m hard to beat even if I’m not trying to knock you out. So at the end of the day, I have confidence.
What did you learn about yourself in this 22-month layoff?
The longest layoff prior to this was a 14-month layoff. So I’ve had layoffs in my career. I didn’t learn anything new from that aspect.
But what I did learn is a little bit about getting back in shape, because some people would think, "Was he still training? Was he doing this and that?" And not being able to punch - first, my elbow was hurt. I couldn’t punch with my right hand. So I don’t want to be hitting the bag with only my left.
And then I hurt my left and now my right’s good. I don’t want to just really hit the bag with just my right. So it was a little depressing. So I ended up not doing a lot.
And once when I felt good and I knew we were going to create a fight date, I had to tell myself, "Hey, man. You’ve got to wake up. You’ve got to get moving. And you’ve got to be a champion again." And I knew I could do it. But I learned a lot in the process of doing it.
I also believe that I learned that even though I can do it, I should not. There’s many things in life that you could do that are things that you should not do. So yes, I can get back in shape in ten weeks’ time and I can be ready to perform a 12-round fight.
I did start moving around before - a little bit before prior just ten weeks, but real camp was about a ten-week camp. So at the end of the day I would love to stay healthy and stay active. And even if I’m not healthy, I think I’m ready to stay active.
Take a Tom Brady approach to the sport of boxing. Take a Bernard Hopkins approach to the sport of boxing. What I learned is actually I’m still learning it. And I want to carry this into the coming years, especially this year and the further years down the line. So that’s pretty much what I’ve gotten from this experience.
Are you saying that you want to fight over 40 years old?
No. It’s always been my lifelong dream to retire young and successful. I just keep debating what young age that is, especially with some career setbacks. But I would like to have an option to retire, but maybe not necessarily need to retire.
In reference to Manny Pacquiao, Bernard Hopkins, and Tom Brady, even Floyd Mayweather -- really when I look at these individuals, it’s really just inspiring for a man in my situation. It’s very inspiring.
It really keeps me in a positive light, even witnessing Pacquiao win the other weekend. After he won, I pulled a Floyd Mayweather and I ended up running three miles in the rain at 2:30 in the morning.
It’s just something about seeing a 40-year-old man being victorious just said, "You’ve got this. It doesn’t matter what God throws at you, what obstacles. You’re here for a reason and you’ve got this."
Not every individual is an individual. Some people have greater success than others. I’m not here to go tit for tat with any champion of the world. I’m here for my own story. I’m here for my own legacy.
What concerns you most about Lopez this weekend, going into the fight this weekend?
His confidence. He shouldn’t have any. What’s up with that?
But in all seriousness, I’m interested in seeing where this confidence comes from. There’s got to be a logical reason. Where’s it coming from.
I know he knows he’s a little smarter. He’s maybe he’s a little stronger. Maybe he just feels faster. I don’t know. He’s going to have to show me where this confidence comes from.
He’s fully aware of my boxing style and that I do bring a lot into the ring, speed, power, movement. Yet he’s still confident. So I want to see what that’s all about Saturday night.
He’s had tough fights. He’s a real dog. He doesn’t mind mixing it up. And I’m prepared for that. But I just feel like maybe he is a new Josesito Lopez. But what is new? I’ll find out in a few days.
Can you promise an explosive performance on Saturday night? Or is this fight more about making sure your body is 100%? What can fans look forward to?
Really, I just want to have fun. I want to have fun. I want to move around the ring. I want to see how much I can mix it up. It’s been so long since I’ve been punched by eight-ounce gloves. So there’s just a lot to look forward to for myself, for the fans.
I’ve been very accurate in camp. I do feel sharp. And I just want to know how this sharpness is going to play out against another man that’s prepared for this 12-round performance.
Am I going to be able to land my counters the moment that I want to land them? Is everything really going to go my way? Is it going to be smooth? Is it going to be rough? Is it going to be tough? But the fans should expect to see a world-class performance from world-class fighters, especially from myself.
I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to be looking to land some big punches and I’m going to be looking to win the rounds. Because if you’re not getting the knockout, you still want to win the fight.
So we’ll see what happens. And like I said, at the end of the day, it’s going to be fun. 22 months and Keith One-Time Thurman is back.
What are the toughest aspects of returning after the layoff? Is it physical or mental or timing or stamina or what exactly for you?
Well, for me, probably the biggest one -- which I still feel confident about -- is the timing. Like I said, my timings were sharp against the sparring partners, but I’m not fighting my sparring partners. And neither is he fighting his sparring partners.
So at the end of the day, I just hope that I can do what Ben Getty used to always say. "If you do your homework, you pass the test." I just hope that in the gym, when two plus two equals four Saturday night, two plus two equals four, that really there shouldn’t be a new equation.
This is boxing. I know how to handle myself in the ring. I know how to scope out my opponent, look for the openings, and piece my punches together at the right moments. And that’s what I’m looking forward to Saturday night.
Do you have to do anything differently than you did earlier in your career aside from coming back from the layoff?
The only thing differently that I really made sure that I did because of the layoff is I just guarantee myself ten weeks of a real training camp over the allotted eight weeks that I normally do. And I might need to continue that at this stage and at this age just to guarantee that I stay sharp and that I can’t say to myself, "You didn’t give yourself enough time to prepare for the fight."