New York (AFP) - Unbeaten Keith Thurman returns to the ring after a 22-month absence Saturday aiming to defend his World Boxing Association welterweight world title against fellow American Josesito Lopez.
It's been a tough time for "One Time" Thurman, who last fought in March of 2017 when he edged Danny Garcia by split decision to unify 147-pound titles.
In April of that year, he had surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right elbow. In March of 2018, a left hand injury forced him to take more time off.
"The real morbid thinking and the real frustration didn't hit until the second injury, when I hurt my hand and postponed me even further," said Thurman. "I didn't like the inactivity. I didn't like being stagnant."
He also didn't like being stripped of his World Boxing Council welterweight world title because he couldn't make a mandatory defense against Shawn Porter.
He still owns the WBA's "super" world welterweight title -- one rung above the "regular" belt held by Manny Pacquiao.
Thurman, who weighed in Friday for the bout at the Barclays Center at 146.6 pounds (66.5 kg), says it's "felt like a lifetime" since he fought but "Saturday night, the champ is back".
"There's always a little level of nerves for a fight, but it's mostly anticipation," added Thurman, who boasts a record of 28-0 with 22 knockouts. "The nerves are very natural, but they are not overpowering. I like to carry some nerves with me for each fight."
California's Lopez brings a record of 36-7 with 19 knockouts to the bout. He's won three in a row since losing to Andre Berto in 2015.
"Josesito has a lot of confidence. He has been training hard and I know that's where his confidence comes from because that's where I get it from," Thurman said, noting that Lopez's move to trainer Robert Garcia has given him new momentum.
"He wants to showcase his skills and talent. I want to remind the world who Keith Thurman is."