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February 12, 2018

By G. Leon

Thurman shares war stories of sparring with Winky

Greg Leon: What's the latest and greatest champ? I assume training camp isn't going to start for another few weeks, but what have you been doing to keep yourself sharp during this time beforehand?

Keith Thurman: I'm just moving around, shadow boxing, running doing my roadwork, just the basics. I'm getting the cobwebs off and we're going to be doing that whole camp to be honest with you because it's been a minute. Right now it's kick starting the engine, but it's great to be back in the gym. I've got a good game plan on how to attack May 19th and I can't wait.

GL: How is your elbow doing? Do you have confidence in it?

Keith Thurman: "Yeah I have confidence in it man, but it's not just that. I'm worried about my whole body because when one thing ends up not being ok then another thing winds up not being ok. 22 years of being in the sport of boxing, 22 years of putting my body under a lot of physical abuse and pressure, but this is the life of a champion and we always grind through it. I love it, but we should be good. We've given it a lot of rest, we're still getting plenty of massages and different things on the elbow and other things too, it's high maintenance nowadays, but you've got to do what you've got to do to stay injury free and that's what we're looking to do this year. We're going to fight on May 19th and then five or six months out from that that, I want to fight again. I want to be more active this year than I was in previous years."

GL: You scored your two biggest career wins prior to this long layoff. How disappointing was it to have this layoff following all of the momentum that came with those wins?

KT: "I'm the kind of person where I like to count my blessings. You can look at it in a negative way or just look at the positive things. I'm 29 years old, I've been boxing since the age of 7 and my last two fights were the biggest fights of my career and great accomplishments. I hold the WBA and WBC championships of the world so for me even though the momentum did die off with the surgery, but at the end of the day while I'm sitting here waiting to get back into the ring I get to reflect that I've made my dreams come true. Everything that I've worked for has happened. We've had this setback, but setback is only a small setback and we're still going to be able to get back. Being setback isn't a big deal when you know deep down inside you're going to get back. You could be in the casino and lose one hand of blackjack, but it doesn't mean you're not going to get it back...well a lot of times you don't get it back. (laughs)

GL: I hope you're playing at the $10 tables (laughs).

KT: "That's right, so this way you ain't losing much (laughs), but we talked to our doctors and they said that with this surgery there's going to be a long recovery and there's no timeline when it comes to how people heal. It could be sooner than later or it could be a little bit longer. Therapy was a big thing I came to find out in the months after the surgery, therapy was a big thing to turn everything to get back right. We feel good and we're back to living the dream in 2018."

GL: I saw you on TV a couple of times looking like a middleweight. What's the biggest you got in all this time off?

KT: "Aw man, I don't know I saw a picture of myself and I said oh man, look at your cheeks boy, you look round. I got up there. It was too much sitting and too much eating, I would say I was definitely a light heavyweight. We've already jump started the diet, I'm getting back on lean foods and my motto is greens and protein if you're trying to lose weight. It's all about working, and most people don't have to lose weight as part of their jobs, I do. I've got several weeks to do it and it's going to get done. I know within eight weeks I could easily lose twenty pounds, that's not stressing the body or anything it's just something that's going to happen through the progression of my diet and exercise. When I'm eight weeks out, I'll be somewhere close to 20 pounds out eight weeks from the fight and I'll be fine."

GL: Any update on who you could be dancing with on May 19th?

KT: "We don't have any yet, but the thing about the May 19th date is we announced the date like 100 days out. Normally we wouldn't do such a thing, but it was a part of such a big announcement from Showtime on what to expect for the first half of the year. I still don't have an opponent or a list of names, but I'm not going to worry about that. I'm going to let Al Haymon and my team focus on that. I'm going to be back in the gym taking care of myself looking to be Keith 'One-Time' Thurman."

GL: Let's say May 19th is a short night. Would the next one be right back to A+ comp, or do you take another gradual step back instead?

KT: "After this fight we should be able to do something a lot better. One thing about boxing, at the end of the day, you cannot say I'm going to fight this guy next. The way fighters are fighting with the scheduling, one guy fights in this month, the other guy in that month, when the time comes is one going to want to wait longer than the other to get in there? We'll see what happens. I know some fans think that there might be the Shawn Porter rematch and I know he holds a good position, but it's yet to be mandated so as long as I have options I'm pretty sure we're going to look at our options. When I was injured a lot of people were out there saying Thurman needs to see me next, I'm like, I don't have to see you next, how am I going to see five people next? Only one of y'all can be next. There's a lot of talk out there man, but I'm just going to get back. After I get back, there was an even a rumor that I was going to rematch Danny this year, but there's always talk and there's a lot of things we could do. Whatever is done after May 19th, it will be bigger and it will be better than the May 19th event. I'm looking forward to coming back and then doing something more meaningful later this year and I'm sure the fans are too."

GL: I assume Winky Wright is somebody you looked up to coming up [both are from Florida]. How do you feel about his recent hall of fame induction?

KT: "I'm happy for Wink, but my man, I grew up with Wink, that's my guy. His trainer is my trainer [Dan Birmingham]. Winky Wright is probably the only person in the world who hit me with a triple jab and all three jabs landed. That was the first time I sparred Winky. I remember Ben Getty, my original coach, God bless his soul, I remember him telling me 'you're going to spar Winky today.' I was like no problem coach, it was only going to be for like four rounds because I was still an amateur, but he tells me to pay attention to his jab. He's sparring another pro in the ring for five rounds before I hop in the ring because that's just what pro's do. My job was to get three or four rounds of work, my job was to be there to get the work and I'm watching his jab from the outside and I'm like ok, the hand goes out and then it comes back into his chin, the hand goes out and it comes right back into his chin, he's landing it and he's hitting that guy with it and I'm like whatever. I'm like it's a jab. So I get into the ring and we're moving a little bit then bop, I get hit with the jab. I said what the f**k was that, that thing came out of nowhere. We're moving around a little bit, bop-bop, double jab and I'm like, no this motherf**ker didn't. 

"I'm sixteen years old and I've got 20/20 vision, but was really bothering me was not that I was getting with hit the jab, I couldn't see the jab. I promised myself I'm going to see this next jab, my eyes are going to be wide open and I'm going to see it, so with myself deeply focused I see the next jab coming, but by the time I see it it's like six inches from my face. It's almost fully extended and I go to move away and it still hits me on the other side of my cheek as I'm trying to evade the jab. That was the day I learned what the world class jab was all about. Winky taught me a lot without him ever having to open his mouth. Winky had a certain calmness in the ring that was different than anything I've seen. It was a confidence of I know you cannot f**k me up. 

"A lot of that had to do with Winky's defense. Everybody knows Winky's defense in the prime of his career was Fort Knox, that's what we called it in the gym. His defense was unique to him and everybody knew that and recognized that, but the way he would be calmly focused in the ring, and not as a big puncher, he was able to stand right in front of Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad. He used to stand in front of me and I was would get tired of hitting his arms because you couldn't get through his defense, but all that work with him definitely made it easier for me to deal with southpaws and people who have a good jab. "

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