Exclusive: Keith Thurman On His Return, Facing Manny Pacquiao: “This Is My Passion”

At 10 years old, Keith Thurman decided he wasn't going to let anybody be the boss of him. At 15, he quit high school in order to fully dedicate all of his time into being a pro boxer.

After nearly 30 wins in the pro ranks and multiple world title wins, it's safe to say that he made the right choice. But the last two years of his life were spent in isolation, away from the spotlight and cameras and battling an array of injuries with a part of him doubting he will ever return to the ring. Even now, just days away from a superfight against future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao, there is still so much uncertainty regarding Thurman.

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"It's human nature that not every day is going to be our best day and for me my thought process started to get a little morbid," Thurman said. "I started having to ask myself the question are you ever going to fight again. Is your career over at the age of 28, 29 years old? Are you done?"

It was less than nine months when Thurman's latest comeback effort started, spending his days improving on his conditioning on a spin bike at an L.A. Fitness gym as he prepared for a fight against Josesito Lopez last January.

Yet even as Thurman held the WBA welterweight title, a myriad of new 147-pound stars emerged during his time away from the ring, mainly Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford. There were still doubts about Thurman's ability to return to his old self and when Lopez rocked him with a big left hand in the seventh round of their fight, more questions emerged. Is Thurman truly back? Is he more vulnerable than ever? Will he step up and face the division's toughest?

Well, he definitely answered the third question by taking on Pacquiao, who at 40 years old is still one of the best welterweights in the world.

Regardless of how Thurman's training has been or how well he looked in the fight against Lopez, Thurman is happy to simply back to get back in the groove of things instead of waiting around for his injuries to heal.

He returned to being the enigma that many remember him being before elbow surgery in 2017, giving impassioned promos during interviews and trying his best to electrify the build-up to a big fight. It's what Thurman loves doing and it can cleary be seen in his words and actions.

"I'm living out my dream. This is my passion. I didn't do a lot of interviews. I didn't do a lot of talk in my inactivity because I like to talk positive. I like to talk action. Being an inactive fighter, to me, there's not a lot to talk about. What am I going to talk about, my struggle or am I going to talk about my depression, my sadness? What am I going to talk about? At the end of the day, I'm really, really happy to be back in the sport. It's a beautiful opportunity. It's a dream come true. And I'm just back living my dream. I love the sport of boxing. I want to have fun. This is my job. When you go to work you should enjoy yourself. If you don't enjoy your job you should get a new job. I love my job and this is my entertainment," Thurman told Fightful in a recent media conference call.

Shifting his focus to his fight against Pacquiao, it's never easy for one to figure out how exactly to beat him. Even some of Pacquiao's losses, mainly to Jeff Horn and Timothy Bradley Jr., were controversial and many believed Pacquiao to be the true victor of those fights. So how exactly does Thurman plan to fight the Filipino senator? The answer to that, according to Thurman, lies in his footwork.

"Watching the tape and just knowing Pacquiao, he is a guy who will produce numbers as long as you let him," Thurman said. "Movement can always make it difficult for a fighter like Pacquiao to put out the output that they might want to put out or an output that they're used to putting out. But movement can also neglect the activity of an overall fight. I just know how boxing works. If I ever feel like he's getting off a little too much maybe I will increase some of my movement. At the same time, his conditioning is always great. But when I look back at films there's not a lot of people that go to Manny Pacquiao's body. I don't know if that's because of his small, short size. I don't know if it's difficult."

Thurman has never been about being the highest paid boxer or being the most popular boxer in the world. His ultimate goal was always to be mentioned among the greats long after he hangs up his gloves. A win over a future Hall of Famer like Pacquiao who, despite being 40 years old is still a top welterweight, would certainly put him one step closer towards being mentioned in that group of great boxers down the road. He doesn't care to comment on who's the best boxer today. Instead, he wants others to recognize his accomplishments.

"All I want to do is leave my mark so that when I walk out from here, I can hold my head up high. All I want is for one day 20 years from now, when people talk boxing, they'll argue this, they'll argue that, but there's going to be one dude who said you know who I really like, man I like that kid Keith 'One Time' Thurman. That is my ultimate goal. I want be amongst the great names. I want to be amongst the names so that there's some fan who will never forget what I've done," Thurman said.

Fightful will have live coverage of the entire Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman event, including the FOX prelim card which includes an IBF super middleweight title bout between Caleb Plant and Mike Lee.

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