Trainer Dan Birmingham feels that Keith Thurman is ready to take on the best fighters in the welterweight division. Thurman will start tomorrow by facing former IBF titlist Jan Zaveck on HBO.
Nestor Gibbs, Tha Boxing Voice: "You've got on your hands sort of a hot commodity in Keith Thurman, a guy that jumps up and own in weight, a guy that's exciting, good-looking kid, and definitely good for boxing. What's your overall assessment of Keith Thurman?"
Dan Birmingham: "Well, Keith's been in my gym ten years. Ben Getty brought him in my gym 10 years ago, and I've been his assistant trainer for a long time until I took over about three and a half years ago, and he's a huge talent. He's one of a kind. He's got everything. Movement, boxing, punching power. Real smart kid."
TBV: "What do you see for this year for Keith Thurman? Assuming he gets past Mr. Zaveck, what do you think the future holds for Keith Thurman?"
Birmingham: "I think Keith's primed and ready for a title fight right now. You'll see March 9th, he's got all the tools. So we just let Al Haymon work his magic."
TBV: "I know that there were a few gym rumors that Keith Thurman may or may not have knocked out Andre Berto in a sparring session. It probably has been kept under wraps quite a long time now. You being the head trainer and working with both men, we need to know the truth. The fans want to know the truth. Keith kind of alluded to it, but he didn't want to give us a definite answer on our radio show."
Birmingham: "That's a rumor. They're great friends, they've probably hurt each other a few times back and forth. But no, he didn't knock out Berto."
TBV: "Did he at least knock him down? I heard it was a rib shot, and then Berto claimed that he had an older injury that surfaced during that sparring session. But Keith believes that he hurt him and that injury was something that happened that day."
Birmingham: "Ben Getty told me that he did drop Berto with a body shot, but he wasn't knocked out."
TBV: "At the 147 pound division, it's a bit slim but there are some big names. If this was a perfect world, and you had your pick of the litter, who would you want to see Keith in with?"
Birmingham: "According to Keith, he wants Malignaggi, Bradley, Mayweather, bring 'em all. It doesn't matter who it is at this stage."
TBV: "Any of those styles you see posing more of a threat or less of a threat for Keith?"
Birmingham: "Well, Mayweather's in a class by himself. But Malignaggi, he's quick-handed, quick-footed, you've gotta cut the ring off. Keith can do all that. Bradley, same thing -- quick hands, not a big puncher, which is doomsday for both them guys."
TBV: "Keith Thurman is a guy that has a lot of power, but he looks a little smaller than his opponent. Jan Zaveck's a guy with broad shoulders, a big back, the European guard, and these Europeans usually go to the body a lot. What does Keith Thurman have to do to negate some of Jan Zaveck's tactics?"
Birmingham: "We're gonna go out there and box him early. Use his rhythm, his timing, use his jab and create openings with his feint and his movement."
TBV: "You've been training him for 10 years. How would 2013's outlook be for you and for Keith, what would you want to see?"
Birmingham: "Everything's been so positive since he signed with Al Haymon, so I really let them work that out. Bring any champ on, it doesn't matter. He's ready with his amateur credentials. He won seven national titles. He's well-schooled, well-conditioned, got a great head on his shoulders. He's ready. He's ready for anybody right now."
TBV: "He's a feared fighter and it's tough for him to get fights. But the fans give him a little bit of slack for taking a catchweight with Quintana. What's your thoughts on that fight as far as the catchweight? Is it something Quintana or something Team Thurman asked for?"
Birmingham: "Actually, it was Team Thurman, because Keith is a welterweight. He makes welterweight easy, but the opportunity presented itself, so Al Haymon negotiated the weight deal."
TBV: "His last opponent in (Orlando) Lora, before Quintana, many feel that wasn't an HBO caliber fighter, and Keith got the opportunity to showcase his talents. While he put on a great performance and definitely gained some fans, he made a bold statement in calling out Mayweather. Those two things didn't mix well for fans, because Lora is not on the caliber of a Mayweather, so knocking out a contender or a veteran doesn't necessarily mean you're knocking on the doors of the pound-for-pound king. Your thoughts?"
Birmingham: "Well, first of all, Lora was 32-1 (Editor's note: No, he wasn't. Lora was 29-2-2.) and never been down, and Keith put him down and stopped him. It doesn't matter about the name, he's a tough, tough Mexican fighter. As far as Quintana goes, Quintana has a win over Paul Williams, and Paul Williams was a feared fighter. That was a huge win for Quintana. As far as it being an HBO fight, I think Keith just made it look easy, that's all. He dropped him with a body shot early on and put him away."