By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Keith Thurman knows just how close he came Saturday night to having the career he worked his whole life to build come crashing down around him.
The thoughtful Thurman admitted after his majority-decision victory over Josesito Lopez that he was one punishing punch away from getting knocked down during the seventh round or, worse yet, knocked out. A resourceful, tough Thurman withstood Lopez’s onslaught once Lopez drilled him with a straight right hand when there was plenty of time to go in that stunning seventh round.
Thurman noticed referee Steve Willis closely monitoring him while Lopez applied pressure and followed his hurt, retreating opponent around the ring. The WBA “super” world welterweight champion was confident that Willis wouldn’t stop their scheduled 12-round bout because his constant movement made it clear he could continue.
“There was a little bit of nervousness because they’re right,” Thurman said, referring to something Lopez and his trainer, Robert Garcia, discussed moments earlier about Willis’ willingness to stop their fight. “At certain times, you don’t know what a referee is going to do. And I was moving, and I felt like my movement was evidence that I was A-OK, because there was a tremendous amount of movement. And a lot of fighters that are not A-OK are gonna end up sitting on the ropes and are gonna end up taking those punches. And then, in that moment, even if the fighter doesn’t go down, the ref really has to stay in there and think about it, and most likely stop the fight.”
The 30-year-old Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) used his minute between the seventh and eighth rounds to get himself together. He started the eighth round strong, boxed well for the remainder of their fight and won on two of the three scorecards (117-109, 115-111, 113-113).
There was a part of Thurman, too, that was worried Willis would step in during that seventh round and stop their bout because he wasn’t throwing enough punches back at Lopez.
“I think, you know, I possibly could’ve moved my hands a little bit more,” Thurman explained, “to show that I was OK, I was still game, I wanted to fight. But like I said, my movement was tremendous in that moment. I constantly was moving around the ring, taking punches. But you have to be a consciously aware fighter to move like that, in that situation. When you’re in a dangerous situation and you start getting hit, and you start getting wobbled, and then you get re-rocked, and then move, and then get re-rocked, it’s very hard to stay consciously aware of your feet and where you wanna go into the ring.
“So, my ring awareness, I think is what allowed the referee to look at me, but say, ‘You know, this guy’s moving. He’s doing his best. He’s taking punches, but he’s really – he is in the fight.’ And obviously, there is a moment when it could’ve been one punch away maybe at least into a knockdown. If it was devastating enough, landed clean enough, it could’ve been a knockout. I tell you guys over and over again, the name ‘One Time’ isn’t something that I can do to them, it’s something that they can do to me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.