By Gilbert Manzano
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.— Keith Thurman doesn’t believe Manny Pacquiao belongs in the conversation for best welterweight, but the former unified champion didn’t accept the bout with Pacquiao to prove he’s the best in the division.
Thurman did it to gain stature. A win against one of the most recognized boxers of the past decade could put Thurman in position for bigger paydays and give him A-side status in future bouts against other top welterweights.
“I do not believe that (Pacquiao) belongs at the top of 147 today,” Thurman told reporters after a news conference to promote his July 20 fight against Pacquiao. “Not against me. Not against Errol Spence. Not against (Terence) Crawford. Not against Shawn (Porter). Not against Danny Garcia.”
Many fight fans are clamoring for a megabout between Spence and Crawford, but Thurman doesn’t believe that fight would decide the true king of the 147-pound decision.
The real fight, according to Thurman, is him against Spence. He said that matchup would be as big as Floyd Mayweather fighting Pacquiao in 2015 or Oscar De La Hoya against Felix “Tito” Trinidad in 1999. Both of those memorable fights featured the best welterweights of their era and generated plenty of money.
Thurman has already tested himself against top welterweights. He owns signature wins against Porter and Garcia, but neither of those fights gave him eye-popping paychecks.
Thurman wants to marinate the bout with Spence, and said late 2020 would be an ideal time to serve it to the boxing public.
“Everybody wants to rush things,” Thurman said. “I still think there’s just a little bit more time, even at the later leg of 2020. That’s not too soon. That’s not too late. It’s a great time.
“Keith Thurman versus Errol Spence is the next Floyd-Pacquiao. It’s the next Oscar-Tito Trinidad, and we need to make sure that the world knows. Once I handle this (against Pacquiao), and I elevate myself and (Spence) elevates himself, then we fight on another elevated platform. We could have fought two years ago for what; $1.6 million, $1.8 million? What does that do? And what does that do for the winner?”
Thurman said Spence needs more time to gain popularity, and credited Mikey Garcia for the success of Spence’s first pay-per-view event when he defeated Garcia in March. Garcia, who has a big Latino following, and Spence, the IBF champion, generated more than 350,000 PPV buys and had an announced attendance of 47,000 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“I also believe that Errol Spence has a little more popularity to grow in the sport of boxing,” Thurman said. “Let’s make sure (Thurman-Spence) is bigger (than Spence-Garcia), and he’s going to elevate himself if he unifies the title that I unified if he gets the WBC.”
There are reports that Spence is headed for a late summer unification bout with Porter, who owns the WBC belt that Thurman vacated because of injury. Thurman will defend his WBA belt against Pacquiao, who holds the WBA secondary title.
Thurman said he doesn’t understand the backlash he has received for wanting to wait to make the Spence fight. He said he’s not ducking Spence because he hasn’t been presented a contract to fight him.
“People talk about ducking this, ducking that,” Thurman said. “To duck it, you gotta be presented with something and then decline it. That’s an official this guy is not trying to fight that guy. So that’s never happened to me in my career. I accept all the challengers, especially if it’s a great challenge.”