Thurman looks to unify welterweight world titles

By Rishi Barran, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 5:59 PM EST

Keith "One Time" Thurman has built his reputation on wanting to face the best of the best and never ducking from a big-time bout.

The next time he steps into the ring will be for the biggest fight of his life.

Thurman's title match against Danny Garcia at the Barclays Center in Brookyln on March 4 can be classified in a number of ways.

Champion versus Champion.

Unbeaten versus Unbeaten.

Whatever you call it, "One Time" is feeling as good as ever heading into the big-time match that will be broadcast in prime time on CBS.

“I am a champion,” Thurman said.  “And this champion doesn’t lie down for nobody.  I will not give up.  I will always move forward and look towards victory.”

That championship pedigree was basically born inside the St. Pete Boxing Club.

Thurman got into boxing when he was seven years old, but the Clearwater native took a huge step forward in his boxing acumen when he began training at the legendary gym in St. Petersburg.

As a teenager,Thurman soaked up everything he could from world champions who trained at the St. Pete Boxing Club.

He studied how former super middleweight world champ Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy and former light middleweight world champ Winky Wright approached every workout.

He even jumped in the ring with them.

“He’d come in here and knock out some pros,” Wright said.  “So I knew he would go a long way, but he’s gone way beyond.  And now he’s going to show the world why they call him ‘One Time’.”

When the 27-0 Thurman trades blows with the 33-0 Garcia in March, Thurman can take the next big step in his ascent to stardom: holding multiple world titles within the same weight class, as Wright once did as an undisputed champion.

“By holding up one belt in my right arm and one belt in my left arm, there’s not another welterweight that’s doing that,” Thurman said.  “So I set myself apart from my competition.”

Thurman works with the same legendary trainer who helped Wright and Lacy achieve world championship status, Dan Birmingham.

“He’s going to follow right in Winky’s footsteps, and we’ll have another unified champion,” Birmingham said.  “Which is almost unheard of in the same gym.”

In spite of paydays eclipsing a million dollars in each of his last two title defenses, the Clearwater native Thurman has never strayed far from his roots.

“I made my dreams come true, man,” Thurman said.  “I came out from the streets.  There was a time where I was happy to have one pair of shoes.  Now I can go into the mall and buy any pair of shoes in the mall.”

If he beats Garcia, Thurman may need to go back to the mall.

He'll obviously need a new pair of kicks to match his new belt.