Gym photos by Chris Getty
“You’re the one I linked up with at Target — I remember that,” he says. “It’s been a while, though. It’s been a while.”
Prior to turning pro, Thurman, 28, had an amateur career record of 101 wins (76 KO’s) that included six National Championships and a loss to Demetrius Andrade at the 2008 US Olympic Trials that netted him the Silver Medal. Managed by powerbroker Al Haymon, he works out at St. Pete’s Boxing Club in St. Petersburg, Florida with longtime trainer Dan Birmingham, who owns the gym and replaced Ben Getty (who’d discovered him as a seven year-old) after Getty passed; his son, Chris Getty serves on Team Thurman.
Nicknamed, "One Time" for his mind-numbing one-shot power, he dealt ex-champion Shawn Porter the hardest punch he'd ever experienced, according to Porter, in Thurman's exciting close championship victory over him last June.
With the pressure and ardors of training and cutting weight for his biggest fight yet, the ponytailed warrior is affable, thoughtful and candid. However, he’s also intensely private; when asked if there’s anyone special in his life, the calm gives way to fire.
“Get off it. Don’t even talk to me about that (expletive),” he snaps. “I want boxing reporters to report boxing and boxing only.”
Point taken, and like an afternoon Florida thunderstorm, the moment passes, giving way to sun as he fields my questions via cellphone from his car.
“Ten weeks,” he says when asked how long he’s trained for Garcia. “You’ve got gym work — you’ve got sparring two or three times a week, heavy bag, double end bag, mitt work.
“I brought in some band work this training camp — work with the resistant band training. I tend to like it a lot. I’ll probably start using it more often in my camps. (There’s) a lot of core work with my aunt this training camp. She’s my strength coach. Very little weight lifting — more high rep, but I did do some weights for the legs. And we use a workout piece of equipment — she likes to use it a lot: the GRX. (We also do) the typical late night cardio — doing 45 minutes up to an hour, an hour (and) twenty (minutes) — depending on the night of cardio.
“I don’t really concern myself with over-training. I listen to my body. If I feel like I’m over-training, I just pull back, make sure I get a little extra bit of rest, and then we get back to work.”
On concerns and strengths he sees in Garcia and how he plans on dealing with that:
“First off, my concern is that I have none. No concern,” he says matter-of-factly.
“At the end of the day, this is boxing. This is the life that I live, this is what I’ve always loved, what I dreamed I’d do, and this is nothing new: I’m fighting somebody strong, I’m fighting somebody fast, I’m fighting somebody tall, I’m fighting somebody short. I had over a hundred fights in the amateurs. There’s nothing new to keep one concerned at night.
“But, Garcia’s a very solid fighter. He’s well composed and willing to trade. He throws big punches in the ring. I believe I have a more powerful punch than him, but he has his own power punch and he’s hurt many before, so we’re going to have to respect that. But, all in all, we believe we have what it takes to take care of the job Saturday night.”
On what’s next if all goes well against Garcia and if he’s interested in the winner of International Boxing Federation Welterweight Champion Kell Book versus undefeated knockout artist Errol Spence, Jr.:
“We’re definitely interested in putting all these belts together, creating an undisputed champion in the welterweight division. That’s always been my ultimate goal, and Garcia’s the first step towards that.
“There’s no talking about what’s next after this. It’s too big a fight. You never know what’s going to happen. There could be injuries, all sorts of stuff that occur. In matches, who says what’s going to happen when two power punchers get together? I was cut in my last fight, I suffered a hematoma in another fight. So, you know what I’m saying? It’s too big a fight back-to-back. So, I really don’t know what’s going to happen next.
“I’d like to stay busy. Maybe a stay-busy fight, because waiting for the Kell Brook, blah, blah, blah. There’s a lot of waiting. They’re going to have to recover from their match, get back in training camp, blah, blah, blah. It’s not going to be quick turnaround to make these fights happen for the fight fans.
“I do believe that we will face the winner of that, but in regards to time line, the question is when. It’s not right around the corner; I think there’s going to be more of a build-up to it. We’ll see, man. I just look forward to this fight.”
On whether he is still interested in fighting Manny Pacquiao:
Yes. I’m interested in fighting Pacquiao, I’m interesting in fighting everyone who’s champion. Outside of that, Pacquiao is a legend in the sport, you know, and I’d love to have somebody like him on my resume. I heard rumors that he’s going to fight Amir Khan, but who knows?
On investing for retirement:
“It’s funny that you mention that ‘cause…this year happens to be the first year where I’m sitting down with some financial advisors and I want to start putting together a retirement plan. The thing that is really important to acknowledge is that fighters need to be smart with their money, trying to put together retirement plans for themselves.”
“People in general — they come across this money and they start to elevate their style of living. They start treating their family really nice. Sometimes they treat their friends really nice and, at the end of the day, you never forget yourself, but the money’s not going to keep coming in. With that in mind, you’re going to have to setup for retirement, and we plan on doing that soon.”
“I like to travel, man. I like to travel and I like to eat. I like to wine and dine, go to the really nice restaurants.”
I can hear the smile in his voice.
“Last year after the Shawn Porter fight, I went to Alinea in Chicago with (Chef) Grant Achatz — that’s probably the most amazing meal I had in my whole life. I feel like I can die a happier man eating the food of Grant Achatz!
“Then, we went out to California to Napa Valley and I ate a French laundry! I’m just a little bit of a foodie, man. So by being a champion, there’s a whole lot of things I get to experience. When they come to my fights, they experience world class entertainment. I like world class chef-ism, man.”
On plans after boxing:
“No plans after boxing because I’m still boxing. Talk to me after I retire.”
On fellow gym mate Edner Cherry’s statement that Danny Garcia is there to be hit and it should be a short night.
“That’s a true statement. I mean, that’s how we feel. We’re very confident going into this fight, we believe Danny is there to be hit and he’s never been hit like Keith Thurman can hit him. We’re going to test him to the head, we’re going to test him to the body, we’re going to test him round by round, and we’re hoping to put him down.”
“Just tune in Saturday night, March fourth. It’s gonna be a fight to remember, a historical night of boxing — two undefeated champions going toe-to-toe! And, for all the supporters I have out there, thank you so much for all your love and support.”
I thank him for the interview and he says, “It’s all good, my man. Thanks very much.”
Promoted by Premier Boxing Champions, Thurman versus Garcia will be presented on CBS Saturday, March 4th at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time, 8 PM Central Standard Time and 6 PM Pacific Standard Time.