By Brian Webber: Inactive 34-year-old Keith “One Time” Thurman is expected to fight Eimantas Stanionis for the WBA “regular” welterweight title on December 9th instead of Jaron “Boots” Ennis.
While Thurman may be old, balding, inactive, and has skills that have eroded badly, he’s well-known to older boxing fans who remember his heyday from 2015 to 2017 when he was one of the best fighters in the 147-lb division before he succumbed to the easy life after getting a few big paydays.
Thurman has fought just once in the last four years since enjoying a massive payday against Manny Pacquiao in 2019, and he’s been inactive since February 2022 when he beat 140-pounder Mario Barrios after coming off a 2.5-year layoff.
Tim Bradley says the reason former WBA/WBC 147-lb champion Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs) is getting the title shot against secondary WBA champion Stanionis instead of ‘Boots’ Ennis (31-0, 28 KOs) is because of “name recognition” and being a “brand.”
Thurman would likely be massacred by a talent like ‘Boots’ Ennis and destroyed in every sense of the word inside the ring, but he’s better known than the young 26-year-old Philadelphia native.
Also, Thurman, who goes by the moniker ‘One Time,’ has a gift for gab and is excellent at selling his fights by promoting them to the hilt by giving lots of interviews, joking with the media, and trash-talking. You can argue that Thurman is easily the best at 147 in creating interest in his fights.
As long as Thurman is matched selectively, he’s capable of winning. The reality is, you can’t put ‘One Time’ in with any of the young killers of this generation because he’s too old and would get beat up.
In a way, Keith is like an old car with 300,000 miles on it. The car will be fine as long as you baby it, don’t drive it fast, and avoid long trips or going up steep hills. If you put that car in conditions that are taxing, it’ll fall apart.
That’s the situation with Thurman. He and his handlers are smart, and they’re not going to tangle with anyone too young & dangerous like Boots Ennis and get put in his place.
Boxing has changed in recent years, and its world titles no longer mean anything, nor does being a great talent with amazing skills. Now, what’s important to the promoters & networks is how many followers you have on social media and how many tickets you sell.
Is it unfair for Thurman to get title shot?
“I love the Thurman vs. Stanionis fight. I don’t understand why Boots [Ennis] keeps getting overlooked,” said Tim Bradley to Probox TV about Keith Thurman getting a title shot against WBA ‘regular’ welterweight champion Eimantas Stanionis on December 9th.
“Everybody is probably wondering how Keith Thurman is able to get himself in position like that,” Bradley continued. “He’s a brand. He’s paid his dues. Boxing is different now. It’s all about name recognition. That’s what it’s about now. It’s about name recognition, and it’s about dollars.”
Obviously, it’s about “brand”, and how many social media followers a fighter has nowadays; hence, you have Ryan Garcia as one of the most popular fighters in the sport, getting big-money fights despite being less talented and deserving than other fighters like Gary Antuanne Russell, Shakur Stevenson, William Zepeda, and Richardson Hitchins.
“The belts are being depleted now,” said Bradley. “They’re meaningless now. If you have a name. If you can bring in and back the seats, you can fight. It doesn’t matter. Promoters now are not looking at fighters about how talented they are. They’re saying, ‘How many followers does he have? Is he active on social media?’
“That’s what they’re looking for. ‘Can he fight a little bit? Can we protect him? Does he have a little bit of skills?’ That’s what promoters are looking for. In the past, they were looking for guys that were skillful, guys that were dominant, guys that could take over the sport,” said Bradley.
The part about how promoters are concerned with finding someone who can fight a “little bit” that they can “protect” so they can make an artificial star out of them is 100% correct.
In this era, promoters manufacture stars by putting them in easy fights, making them look like the real thing, and then making a lot of money in a cash-out fight.
Once that fighter is exposed to losing to a better quality guy in a match they make a bunch of dough, it’s rinse & repeat. They refurbish the fighters by putting them in with more soft jobs to create the illusion of greatness, market them to the naive public, and set them up with another quality guy they have no chance on earth of beating.
Boots Ennis in the equation would be better
“I do like the match-up between Stanionis and Thurman,” Tim said. “Both of these guys have been inactive. I think this is a 50-50 fight. I think Stanionis can win this fight, and I think Keith Thurman can win this fight. If Keith Thurman is going to win this fight, it’s going to be with his legs.”
Like always, Thurman will hit & run all night, and the only way the slow-footed Stanionis wins is if he cuts off the ring and attacks his midsection. That’s Keith’s Achilles Heel. He can’t take it to the body and never has.
Thurman can probably still beat a fighter like Stanionis, but that’s not saying much. That guy is a secondary champion and not the main champ with the WBA. There’s no chance at all that Thurman can beat Terence Crawford, who holds the main belt with the World Boxing Association, and that’s the one that counts.
“Stanionis is going to have to put pressure on him and bang him down to the body. We know that’s where Keith Thurman is weak. I think it’s a good match-up. Both guys need each other, but again, if Boots was in the equation, it would be even better,” said Bradley.
“You ask how does Keith Thurman get himself in position for this fight,” said Chris Algieri. “I was in fight week with Errol Spence and Terence Crawford. Thurman was doing the media rounds. He was talking to everybody. He was doing all the podcasts.
“He was talking a lot about both guys, and he was putting himself into the light. He’s been out of the scene for so long, but he’s a brand, he’s a name, he’s known, he’s done it, he’s been in the ring with the belt, multi-belt world champion and one of the biggest names of our generation.
Thurman stepping back into the spotlight
“A guy like that can step back into the spotlight and get himself into a big fight. That’s exactly what happened,” said Algieri.
Shockingly, Thurman can get a title shot with just one fight in the last four years since 2019. In all that’s good, why is something like that allowed in boxing? It’s so utterly pathetic.
“I like the Stanionis-Thurman fight. It’s one of those fights where it makes sense where they’re at in their careers,” said Algieri. “Thurman has been so inactive in the last couple of years, especially since he fought Pacquiao [in 2019].
“He’s still a dangerous guy and has a good record, and he’s still Keith Thurman. You’ve got these young guns coming up. You’ve got the Stanionis-Vergil Ortiz debacle, which took a year off of both of their careers and maybe even more on Vergil Ortiz because of his health issues. I feel bad for Stanionis. He had a lot of fights that fell through by no fault of his own, and now he’s here.
“You’ve got a guy like Jaron Ennis, Vergil Ortiz, who is out of the weight class, and we have Stanionis. I think that these guys need those big fights. They need their names on their record. They need to be tested against a guy like Keith Thurman.
“I’m not calling him a gatekeeper. He’s one of those guys now where you’re going to have to get past him if you’re going to go to the upper echelon. If Stanionis can do that, it’s a huge win for him.
“He’s beating someone with a name that everyone around here knows, and I’m pretty high on Stanionis. I do like this fight, and I want to see what he can do with the likes of Keith Thurman. So that fight, I’m not that mad about.
“When Lara & Garcia are in there, it’s two big names, and there’s a curiosity about it,” said Paulie Malignaggi about the Erislandy Lara vs. Danny Garcia fight, which is supposed to be on the same card as Thurman vs. Stanionis and Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia.