Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Clearwater boxer Thurman takes next big step

You have to start somewhere, and for Keith Thurman, that's as the WBO's NABO light middleweight champion.

Never heard of it? It doesn't matter.

On his way to bigger and better things, Winky Wright's first title was the NABF light middleweight championship.

The first pro belt Jeff Lacy put around his waist was the WBC Continental Americas super middleweight title.

And Antonio Tarver won the NABF and USBA light heavyweight straps on the same night.

Those titles became mere footnotes as the trio of Tampa Bay fighters became well-recognized world champions.

For Clearwater's Thurman, his first professional belt could become much the same.

"It's not a world championship belt," the 24-year-old said of his North American Boxing Organization title at 154 pounds, "and it was for a 10-round fight. But it shows that you're one step closer to being that world champion."

Thurman, undefeated at 19-0 with 18 knockouts, takes another big step tonight when he takes on tough Slovenian Jan Zaveck at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The fight will air live on HBO; the broadcast begins at 9:30.

The winner gets something better than a belt — status as the mandatory challenger for World Boxing Organization welterweight champion Tim Bradley.

Bradley is defending his title for the third time next week against Rulsan Provodnikov.

In the aftermath of his two most recent fights, Thurman has called out just about every fighter in the game — after beating Carlos Quintana in November he called out "the whole world of boxing" — but he and his management team appear to be focusing on Bradley, who is coming off a victory over Manny Pacquiao.

Thurman, whose only ranking is No. 4 by the World Boxing Association, would be willing to come back to Brooklyn should he win to fight WBA champ and hometown boy Paulie Maglinaggi as well.

"I will be surprised, as long as all goes as planned and we keep racking up these KO victories, if I do not get my title shot by the end of the year," Thurman said. "It should happen. In the world of boxing, you really never know what's going to happen. But they're going to have to deal with me sooner or later."

Dealing with Zaveck should be Thurman's toughest test to date.

While he looked impressive in dropping Quintana in the first round with a left to the body, then finishing the former champion off in four rounds, Thurman has yet to be in a difficult struggle some feel Zaveck (32-2, 18 knockouts) will provide.

Thurman said he is prepared for anything.

"I do not see myself as a 100 percent complete fighter," he said. "In camp, we (he and St. Petersburg trainer Dan Birmingham) normally focus on what I believe will be necessary to win the fight. We're just trying to get the knife as sharp as we can."

Zaveck, the former International Boxing Federation champ, lost his title in a 2011 fight against Andre Berto when the bout, on its way to being a fight of the year contender, was stopped because Zaveck's right eye was punched shut. But Berto took a lot of damage from Zaveck.

"I watched him on tape, and I saw that, yes, he's a skillful fighter, but when he's in with anyone with any power, he will back up," Thurman said. "I plan on taking it straight to him to show everybody I'm confident in the ring."

Thurman is coming off of a defining performance. He showed power quickly in dropping Quintana with a body shot, but he also showed the patience and restraint of a veteran in getting his opponent out of the ring. Thurman stayed on top of him, did not allow him time to recover and did not throw any wild punches in eventually finishing him.

Quintana, who admitted beforehand he was looking past Thurman to bigger fights, retired after the loss.

That victory helped silence some critics, who still question Thurman over the quality of his opposition and the speedy route up the HBO ladder his manager, Al Haymon, has arranged for him.

Now he plans on trading his current belt for a shot at one that says world champion on it.

"I was real proud of that performance, because of the critics," Thurman said. "I got a name, and I got a belt."

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

Comments
For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG – Speaking of openers, the Rays will start RHP Sergio Romo (1-1, 4.66 ERA) for the fourth time this season, the second time in 48 hours vs. the Orioles. The 35-year-old Romo did not make it out of the first inning Friday, allowin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Published: 05/26/18
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Published: 05/26/18
RAYSREPORT

RAYSREPORT

Today: vs. Orioles1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $15-$275; available at Tropicana Field, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of gamePromotion: Raymond children’s book for kids 14 ...
Published: 05/26/18
Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

The reality of Friday's surprising trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle is, of course, between the extremes.One side is screaming this is the latest proof the Rays are driven more to pocket money than winning games (and, for the loudest, o...
Published: 05/26/18

For starters: Rays vs. Orioles; Ryne Stanek makes first start, Carlos Gomez returns

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' bullpenning experiment continues, with right-hander Ryne Stanek to open this afternoon's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10.It is the first career start for Stanek, who has ...
Published: 05/26/18

Captain’s Corner: Redfish bite strong on afternoon high tide

Early morning stops at jetty rock piles have produced excellent action for a variety of species. Snook, redfish and trout are the targets. Free-lining live pilchards against the rocks at the strong part of the tide is your best opportunity for snook,...
Published: 05/25/18
Updated: 05/26/18