Keith Thurman, one of the hottest prospects in boxing, is suddenly in line for a title shot. According to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, Thurman's fight with Jan Zaveck will be a WBO eliminator to determine the mandatory challenger to titleholder Tim Bradley. The bout will take place live on HBO on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins' fight with Tavoris Cloud for Cloud's IBF light heavyweight title.
Question: What has Keith Thurman accomplished to warrant being in a title eliminator at welterweight?
Answer: He is handled by Al Haymon.
I like Thurman a lot. He is a man that comes to fight and, perhaps most importantly for viewers at home, he comes to knock people out. However, his competition has been rough to say the least. His last two fights have been on HBO, each a blowout. His first was a demolition of Orlando Lora in six. That preceded his stoppage win over Carlos Quintana at junior middleweight. The Quintana victory was very nice, though one has to wonder how much the former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist really had left. It should be noted that Thurman did not get in the ring once in 2011.
Nevertheless, we shouldn't try to think too hard on this. Alphabet title shots rarely make complete sense. Thurman is managed by Haymon and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. He has been given two showcase fights on HBO (though the Quintana fight was largely viewed as a legit test going in). He is clearly being given the blue-chip treatment here.
Zaveck is a good pro that will also come to fight. He is probably most famous for his fight with Andre Berto in November of 2011. The bout had to be stopped in the fifth due to Zaveck's badly busted up right eye. Zaveck did give a good account of himself though, and the fight was heating up at the time of the stoppage. Zaveck has fought once since, winning a decision over Bethuel Ushona in March.
In other words, I don't think this is a terrible fight for Thurman. It's just silly as a title eliminator.
And, yes, Tim Bradley could just vacate the title and not fight the winner. Or pay them step-aside money. Or maybe the mandatory will never be enforced which is what sometimes happens with these things.