Thurman returns from injuries to beat Lopez, retain title

Keith Thurman, right, punches Josesito Lopez during the fifth round of a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in New York. Thurman won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Keith Thurman, right, punches Josesito Lopez during the ninth round of a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in New York. Thurman won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Keith Thurman, right, punches Josesito Lopez during the eighth round of a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in New York. Thurman won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Keith Thurman, left, punches Josesito Lopez during the eighth round of a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in New York. Thurman won the fight. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK — Keith Thurman's elbow and hand looked fine, and his chin held up against a determined attack by Josesito Lopez.

It was a good enough return that Thurman might be ready for Manny Pacquiao next.

Thurman came back from a 22-month layoff to beat Lopez via majority decision Saturday night to retain his welterweight title.

Thurman got off to a fast start with a second-round knockdown, withstood a big seventh round from Lopez, and regained control to improve to 29-0. It was the WBA champion's first fight since March 4, 2017, before he was sidelined first by right elbow surgery and then an injured left hand.

Both looked back to normal inside Barclays Center and so did Thurman's legs, as he moved well to mostly stay out of trouble against Lopez, who kept coming forward throughout the fight but often got caught with uppercuts and combinations for his efforts.

"He came right for me," Thurman said. "I said you wouldn't see the best Keith Thurman tonight, but you'd still see a world-class performance, and I gave you that tonight."

He'd likely need a better one against the 40-year-old Pacquiao, who showed he has plenty left with an easy victory over Adrien Broner last week.

"I would most likely definitely take the Manny Pacquiao fight this year," Thurman said. "I feel good. That was a beautiful fight. I'm ready to fight wherever Pacquiao wants it."

Judge Tom Schreck had it 117-109 for Thurman and Steve Weisfeld had it 115-111, while Don Ackerman had it even at 113-113. The Associated Press had it 117-110 for Thurman.

Lopez (36-8) stalked all night and had Thurman hurt in the seventh round, but otherwise Thurman's speed wouldn't let Lopez get in good enough position to have enough power on his punches.

"I was disappointed I couldn't finish him and get him out of there," Lopez said. "If he thinks he's the best welterweight out there, then I want two through five lined up for me."

Thurman was back in the ring for the first time since he edged Danny Garcia in a split decision, also in Brooklyn, to unify 147-pound titles. He had surgery two months later to remove bone spurs from his right elbow and when he resumed training after a lengthy recovery, he hurt his left hand.

That kept him out of the ring for nearly two years and he had to vacate the WBC's version of the title that he had won from Garcia.

Thurman showed no worries about his health, swinging hard with both hands in the opening round. And for sure there was nothing wrong with his legs, as he moved far too quickly for Lopez, getting into position to throw uppercuts and hooks and getting right out of the way for whatever Lopez threw back.

He then knocked Lopez down with a left hook to the chin in the second and appeared to hurt him again later in the round en route to huge advantages in power punches (168-100) and jabs (79-17) in the fight.

Things changed suddenly in the seventh, when Lopez hurt Thurman with a right hand and spent most of the round chasing him around and connecting with shots that appeared to have Thurman in trouble. Thurman recovered toward the end of the round and landed some good combinations in the eighth to regain momentum.

"He had me buzzed and shaken up in the seventh round, but I tried to stay on the outside away," Thurman said.

In the co-main event, Polish power puncher Adam Kownacki, who is based in Brooklyn, stopped Gerald Washington in the second round of their heavyweight bout.

Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs), with entire sections of the stands behind his corner filled with Polish fans wearing red, had Washington caught against the ropes late in the first round and dropped him after a right hand early in the second. Washington struggled to get up, first falling backward into the bottom rope, before rising. Referee Harvey Dock let Washington continue but not for long, stepping in to stop it at 1:09 of the round after Kownacki — not bothered by a cut near his left eye — quickly pounced and hurt Washington again.

"I trained hard for this fight," Kownacki said. "I prepared for 10 hard rounds, but I'm glad I got it done and ended it as fast as I did."

Washington fell to 19-3-1, but 0-3 against the three undefeated fighters he has faced. He was also stopped by heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and Jarrell Miller.

Also, Tugstsogt Nyambayar, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist for Mongolia, improved to 11-0 with a unanimous decision against Claudio Marrero (23-3), becoming the mandatory challenger for WBC 126-pound champion Gary Russell.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/briancmahoney

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