Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s retirement and Manny Pacquiao’s anticipated exit after his next fight won’t decrease interest in the welterweight division.
In fact, the welterweights feature a select group of fighters who could make their case for best pound-for-pound consideration in the post-Mayweather-Pacquiao era. Talent and depth remain abundant.
Undefeated champion Keith Thurman is among a group that includes fellow titleholder Kell Brook, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan and Timothy Bradley, who will face Pacquiao on April 9.
Thurman, of Clearwater, strives for the ring accomplishments and recognition achieved by the division’s previous rulers. Seven years into his professional career, Thurman believes he is ready to take the steps that would make his bouts marquee events.
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“In the world of boxing, when you’re an undefeated fighter, you expect big things year by year,” Thurman said Friday during a visit to Miami’s Versailles Restaurant. “If all goes well, the bigger fights will happen soon.”
Thurman, 27, has won all 26 of his bouts with 22 knockouts since turning professional in November 2007. The reigning World Boxing Association champion, Thurman considers a unification title fight with any of the other welterweight titleholders an appropriate example of upholding the division’s profile and eventually landing him on the coveted pay-per-view medium.
“I’m 27 years old and in the prime of my career,” Thurman said. “It’s all about staying in top and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
For Thurman, prospects of attractive fights improve thanks to one vital link. Thurman, Porter, Khan and Garcia, who is also unbeaten and rose to the welterweights after an impressive run as 140-pound champion, all fight under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.
Premier Boxing, overseen by influential manager Al Haymon, represents about 200 fighters and has secured deals to televise bouts on three major TV networks as well as Showtime, ESPN, Fox Sports1 and Spike TV. As a result, Porter’s fights now benefit from wider exposure.
In 2014, Thurman expected a title fight against then-champion Porter before Porter lost his belt to Brook. Thurman also had his sights set on Khan.
“Kell Brook came to America and took the belt from Shawn Porter,” Thurman said of the undefeated British champion’s majority decision win. “I was there at ringside, considered a likely next opponent against Porter.”
Although he has not finalized his first fight date for 2016, Thurman expects a ring appearance within the first four months.
“The young guys are looking very promising,” Thurman said. “This is a division that will continue to make waves and keep fans interested.”
AROUND THE RING
▪ Former heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist Ray Mercer heads the 16-member class of the 2016 Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. The new selections were announced Saturday at the SJC Boxing Gym in Fort Myers.
A native of Jacksonville, Mercer won the 1988 Olympic medal and had a brief run as heavyweight titleholder in the early 1990s. The 2016 class also will include late champions Alexis Arguello, Hector “Macho” Camacho and Beau Jack. South Florida residents selected to the Hall of Fame class are former super-flyweight champion Sugar Baby Rojas, trainer Dave Marks, fight judge Ric Bays and retired boxing photographer Jimmy Gestwicki.
The 2016 induction ceremony will culminate a three-day event June 24-26 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa. For information, visit www.floridaboxinghalloffame.com.
▪ Retired promoter Lucien Chen, who helped bring the Joe Frazier-George Foreman heavyweight title fight to his native Jamaica in 1973, died in Miami on Dec. 16 after a lengthy illness. A Kendall resident for the past 20 years, Chen was 88.
Tuesday (11 p.m., Fox Sports1): Miguel Flores vs. Mario Briones, 10, junior lightweights; Ahmed Elbiali vs. Andrew Hernandez, 10, light heavyweights.
Saturday (10 p.m., Showtime): Deontay Wilder vs. Artur Szpilka, 12, for Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title; Charles Martin vs. Vyacheslav Glazkov, 12 for the vacant IBF heavyweight title.