The talent of unbeaten Keith Thurman, with 21 knockouts in 24 victories, has cried for a greater stage.
He gets it Saturday night at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, fighting former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions' debut card on NBC.
“I’ve wanted to fight Robert Guerrero for a long time -- he just comes to fight -- so having it happen on this stage, I feel my career starts Saturday,” Thurman told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview.
The bout against Gilroy, Calif.’s, 31-year-old Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 knockouts) is for the World Boxing Assn. welterweight title.
With Al Michaels as host and Marv Albert calling the fights, the NBC telecast is scheduled for 5:30-8 p.m., with an undercard featuring Adrien Broner vs. Covina’s John Molina and Hawaiian Gardens’ former three-division champion Abner Mares fighting Arturo Santos Reyes in the opening bout.
Premier Boxing Champions is the creation of powerful boxing manager Al Haymon.
“It’s always a blessing to be fighting on a big stage,” said Guerrero, who lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a 2013 bout at MGM Grand. “More people get to see me fight and that’s great for my career as far as marketing.”
Guerrero’s personal story of stepping away from boxing years ago to help his wife, Casey, survive a cancer battle remains moving.
Thurman’s path from Clearwater, Fla., is inspiring too, and he said matching his well-known power against a sophisticated fighter is “a challenge. I’ve been telling the whole world I want to challenge my skills, test myself against the upper echelon of fighter, and Robert Guerrero is that.”
Thurman was taught boxing from the age of 7 by the late Benjamin Getty, who worked previously with PBC color commentator Sugar Ray Leonard. Getty died when Thurman was 20, with Getty’s former assistant Dan Birmingham taking over.
“All we’ve been doing is fine-tuning the skills from the earlier years,” Thurman said. “I’m dedicated to living out my dream. I’m a young kid living out the American dream, doing exactly what I set out to do.”
Guerrero said he’s equipped to fight wherever the bout takes him. He can box, but he chose in a defining 2012 victory over former welterweight champion Andre Berto in Ontario and last year’s decision over Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai in Carson to go toe-to-toe.
“One thing I know for sure is I’m going to dictate my game plan,” Guerrero said. “We can bang or we can box. It don’t matter. I can do either or.”
Nicknamed “One Time,” for his punching power, Thurman said, “I would love to be able to make the statement” that he has a bigger punch than Berto and Kamegai. Guerrero has never been stopped.
“If I’m not able to put on the Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman performance and be who I want to be, I’ll still do whatever it takes to hang onto that title.
“But I am looking for an early night.
“My win Saturday will prove I’m worthy of main events, and I do believe I’ll be in a main event throughout the rest of the year.”