THREE PUNCH COMBO — In July of 2012, a young newcomer in the sport named Keith Thurman was seeking out his first big professional fight. His advisor, Al Haymon, had negotiated a spot for him on HBO to presumably face Marcos Maidana on the undercard of the Adrien Broner-Vicente Escobedo fight. Maidana ended up rejecting the fight after much negotiation. But what if the Argentine fighter had gone forward to face the young green Thurman that summer night in Cincinnati?
First, some background on the proposed Thurman-Maidana fight in 2012. Maidana had just come off a near shutout decision loss to Devon Alexander in what was Maidana’s debut at welterweight. Based on that performance, some felt that Maidana may be slipping and on the downside of his career. Thurman had a glossy record (17-0-1, 16 knockouts) but was totally unknown and had fought very suspect competition. A lot in the sport actually questioned why HBO would consider putting such a green unproven fighter on the air.
Maidana was looking for a tune-up fight and ultimately his team rejected Thurman because they saw him being too much of a risk coming off the Alexander loss. Maidana and his team saw little upside if he defeated such a raw prospect and too much downside if he lost.
However, if Maidana had gone through with the bout we may never have seen Thurman rise to where he has. The 2012 version of Thurman was a pure brawler who loaded up on everything he threw and had little boxing skill. A seasoned Maidana would have certainly found openings against that version of Thurman and found a home for his power shots. Moreover, Maidana has proven to have a solid beard and probably would have been able to withstand anything coming back from Thurman. If the fight was pushed into the later rounds, Thurman would have been in deep waters for the first time in his career against a guy who had shown stamina and ability to carry his power late in fights. This was a recipe for disaster for Thurman and almost certainly would have resulted in a career altering knockout loss.
Thurman did end up fighting on the card and making his HBO debut. Thurman defeated a more suitable opponent for where he was in his career in journeyman Orlando Lora. It was a fight that was exciting and where Thurman got hit with some flush punches. If that had been Maidana landing the leather and not Lara, Thurman’s career would be in a much different place today.
What’s Next For Thurman and Garcia?
In the wake of Keith Thurman’s split decision win against Danny Garcia, the question becomes what will be next for each man? Given the tactical nature of the fight, a rematch seems very unlikely. So who will each man be targeting when they next set foot inside the ring?
There will be a lot of discussion in the coming weeks about Thurman facing the winner of the Kell Brook-Errol Spence fight. While such a fight may occur down the line, don’t expect it in the immediate future. Instead, look for Thurman to target a name that he would be a solid favorite against. There is one fighter that meets those criteria and that is Timothy Bradley.
With Bob Arum and Al Haymon now doing business, a fight between Thurman and Bradley becomes very likely. Bradley has already faced most of the names he could outside of the fighters aligned with Haymon. And is there really fan demand as well as room in the HBO budget for a Bradley rematch with Jessie Vargas? Bradley really does not have a lot of options which makes crossing into PBC territory all the more likely. As for Thurman, Bradley represents the name fighter he would be seeking. It would be a good payday for Thurman and a fight that could be sold to the public rather easily. Plus, if he were to stop Bradley that would not only add a big feather in his cap but enhance his marketability down the road.
Typically after big fights, Garcia looks to take a step back. After the Lucas Matthysse victory, Garcia fought Mauricio Herrera in what was supposed to be a stay busy fight. Garcia followed the Herrera fight with the dreadful mismatch against Rod Salka. While I don’t think we see a Salka type opponent again, I also don’t expect anyone next for Garcia who would be considered a threat. One name to watch for is Sam Eggington. Garcia’s team attempted to get Eggington this fall in a tune-up but negotiations fell apart over money. With Eggington’s win against Paulie Malignaggi, the money may increase and the fight is a little more sellable to the public. Eggington fits the pattern of an opponent Garcia would be willing to face following a big fight.
Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia will likely be headed in far different directions following their contest this past Saturday night. While Thurman will likely continue to hunt for name opponents, look for Garcia to step it back a bit as has been his history.
Under the Radar Fights
Showtime returns this Friday with its ShoBox series and HBO finally is back with a Boxing After Dark telecast on Saturday. While the headline bouts for these cards have gotten some attention, there are some under the radar fights that fans should not miss on these shows.
On ShoBox, undefeated bantamweight prospects Nikolai Potapov and Antonio Nieves meet in a high stakes matchup. This fight is an excellent example of good matchmaking and should play out in the ring as a competitive and entertaining fight. Potapov likes to work behind his jab and throw punches in bunches. He is definitely a high volume puncher and that exposes him to counters. Nieves is a boxer- puncher and can work effectively as a counterpuncher. He should find plenty of opportunities to counter given the activity of Potapov. This fight will certainly provide plenty of action and should be very enjoyable to watch.
After yet another lengthy layoff, former Cuban amateur star Yuriorkis Gamboa returns to the ring on HBO to face veteran Rene Alvarado. Gamboa is an immensely talented fighter with exceptionally fast hands. He does have deficiencies, particularly when it comes to defense, and gets hit enough to often make for compelling bouts. Alvarado is one of those type fighters who has suffered his share of losses but is never an easy out. He brings pressure and is more than willing to absorb punches to land a few of his own. His best punch is his left hook to the liver and he tries to break his opponents down during the course of a bout with that punch. It will be interesting to see how Gamboa deals with the relentless pressure and body assault from Alvarado. Expect there to be some good exchanges and maybe even some drama late in the fight.
Though the bouts above are not getting a lot of press, each is compelling. For anyone who is a fan of this sport, these bouts should not be missed.
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Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / Showtime