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Clearwater's Thurman continues to move up boxing ranks

Clearwater's Keith Thurman poses with one of his title belts at the St. Petersburg Boxing Club in March.

LARA CERRI | Times

Clearwater's Keith Thurman poses with one of his title belts at the St. Petersburg Boxing Club in March.

Keith Thurman called out Floyd Mayweather after his first HBO televised bout.

He challenged Paulie Malignaggi at a news conference after another fight.

Will Adrien Broner be next?

Tonight at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, the undefeated Clearwater fighter steps into the ring with resurgent Jesus Soto Karass in a 147-pound fight.

On the line: Thurman's WBA interim welterweight title, which could lose the interim tag if Broner (the champion) wins the main event against Marcos Maidana and is moved to super champion.

The fight will be televised on Showtime; the broadcast begins at 8 p.m.

"This fight right here is what we call the icing on the cake," said Thurman, who is 21-0 with 19 knockouts. "This will get the job done, because after this year no one can say that Keith Thurman has not been tested, that they haven't put him in with anybody. As much as you want to say that, there's nobody (left) besides champions."

Thurman, 25, is unlikely to get a shot at Mayweather in 2014. But champions such as Broner, Shawn Porter (IBF) and Timothy Bradley (WBO) will need dance partners.

"If Soto Karass keeps on winning the way he's been winning, or if Keith Thurman keeps on ripping through the welterweight division then, yes, of course (a Mayweather fight is possible)," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said. "At one point there will only be one man standing, and that one man standing will be Floyd Mayweather and then you're going to get a fight like that done."

For the moment, however, Thurman's focus is on Soto Karass, a 31-year-old Mexican who won by 12th round TKO against Andre Berto in July.

Before his win over Berto, Soto Karass was straddling the role of journeyman, 3-4-1 in his previous eight fights.

"All you have to do is watch Soto Karass' fights. He gets hit," Thurman said. "He tends to have a little bit of boxing skills, and we will see if his team was working a little bit more on that with this fight. No matter what, I plan on being the sharper fighter, the stronger fighter and the smarter fighter."

Though Thurman knocked out previously undefeated Diego Gabriel Chaves on the same card in July, Soto Karass said he didn't watch much of the fight and prefers not to study much video. But he knows Thurman means business.

"Keith Thurman doesn't have a weakness," Soto Karass said. "He's a young fighter, and he's strong. He is going to give it his best, but he is going to see that I am hands-on."

The winner might not have to look far for his next fight. The victor in the Broner-Maidana bout is a likely target in 2014.

If Thurman wins, expect him to begin setting up that bout at the postfight news conference.

"Paulie was on my mind (when I called him out) due to that title, but when Adrien Broner took it, then that makes me look forward to stepping into that ring with 'AB' in 2014," Thurman said. "A lot of fans want that fight, and I want what the fans want."

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com.

Clearwater's Thurman continues to move up boxing ranks 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 8:00pm]
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