Keith Thurman isn't sulking after falling victim to boxing politics

Kevin Iole

In a lot of ways, boxing is a lot more like a political campaign than a sporting event. Name recognition and powerful alliances are a key ingredient to success.

When he debuted on HBO in 2012 with an impressive victory over Orlando Lora, Keith Thurman called out the sport's biggest names in his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman.

Not surprisingly, his phone did not ring.

Thurman had next-to-no name recognition and he was far too dangerous for big-time opposition to seriously consider him as an opponent. It was a case of far too much risk weighed against much too little reward.

"Boxing doesn't work the way it used to," said Thurman, an unbeaten 25-year-old welterweight with an engaging personality and a mule-kick of a punch. "After my HBO debut, I called out several names. I did it knowing people didn't know who I was, but I did so trying to make a statement about where I'm going to go.

"I'm going to the top and I was making the point that I'm willing to climb the ladder and take out these individuals to prove it."

On Saturday, Thurman will headline a Showtime-televised card against Julio Diaz at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Diaz is a tough, hard-nosed fighter, but he's past his prime and has struggled in recent years.

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Thurman insists he's taking Diaz as seriously as he would someone like Shawn Porter, but he admits it's disappointing he hasn't gotten the big-name opponent he desires.

This is a high-risk, low-reward type of bout for Thurman, but he's not a woe-is-me kind of a guy.

Diaz isn't a major name these days, but that doesn't concern Thurman. Diaz will have a pair of gloves on his hands and will be looking to do him harm.

"He has way more to gain and I have way more to lose, but that doesn't matter," Thurman said. "I'm here to win. I know that if I knock him out in the first round, second round, third round, [the critics will say], 'Oh, that's what Thurman is supposed to do.'

"Yeah, that might be what Thurman was supposed to do, but remember, Shawn Porter didn't do it. Remember, Amir Khan didn't do it. So I have a little bit to gain from this fight, especially if I put Julio Diaz down. Each right hand, each left hook that I take in the fight is an opportunity for them to discredit me. Stay tuned, because I have a lot to show."

Thurman, who is 22-0 with 20 knockouts, had hoped for a bigger name for this fight. He said he expressed that sentiment to promoter Richard Schaefer and manager Al Haymon after his exciting victory over Jesus Soto Karass in San Antonio in December.

There were talks, he said, but nothing came of them.

He had hoped to get Marcos Maidana after that Dec. 14 show in which Maidana defeated Adrien Broner, but Maidana landed a May 3 match against Floyd Mayweather.

He has a good relationship with Porter and his team, but Thurman said he was told Porter wasn't interested.

Porter, the IBF welterweight champion, made himself a hot commodity by beating Devon Alexander in December and then even moreso by stopping Paulie Malignaggi in the fourth round last week.

A Thurman-Porter fight is one of the most entertaining fights that could be made in the sport, and Thurman doesn't get why it didn't occur.

He knows the public would eat up a match between Porter and himself and he's disappointed that, at least for the time being, it's not happening.

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"Me and Team Porter have been in camps together and we know each other very well," Thurman said. "Shawn's a great fighter. He was a top amateur like myself. He had a great performance against Paulie. He looked fantastic. But the only thing I say about that is, for those who may have recorded it, re-watch the fight. Not to take away from Shawn's performance, but Paulie didn't have his hands up at any point in the fight. Paulie didn't block one punch.

"I think Paulie highly underestimated Shawn Porter and thought that because he was the faster guy, he would be able to see everything and his reflexes would do the job. He's 33, and 33 isn't old in this sport, but everybody has their due date and Shawn fought with the tenacity I knew he would."

Thurman is wise beyond his years and understands that it might be a while before he gets the big fight he yearns for.

But he insists he'll never get complacent and never look past anyone, even someone seemingly overmatched or on the down side.

"I have fights that I want and that I want very badly in this sport," he said. "But I get how the business works. I'm just 25 years old and there are a lot of these guys who are in their 30s. In three, four, maybe five years, a lot of them or maybe even all of them won't be around, but I still will be.

"Every guy who gets in front of me, whether he is a big name or not, is a threat because he can take me out and that could cost me. I can't afford to have a slip or a lapse and I'm going to do everything in my power, and then some, to make certain it never occurs."