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Keith Thurman out for remainder of 2019 after surgery on his left hand, eyes return in early 2020

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Keith Thurman (L), landing a left hand to Manny Pacquiao on July 20, had surgery on his left hand on Sept. 4 and is out until 2020. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Former unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman told Yahoo Sports on Friday that he underwent surgery on his left hand on Sept. 4 that will keep him out of action for the rest of the year. He is optimistic he will finally be fully healthy when he returns to the ring in early 2020.

Thurman had pain in his left hand that developed from hitting a heavy bag several years ago, but he suffered through it. After he was advised that it wouldn’t heal simply by resting it, he elected to have the surgery. Dr. Jonathan Oheb, an orthopaedic surgeon from Encino, California, performed the procedure.

Thurman, who spoke to Yahoo Sports from Los Angeles where he is taping “Inside PBC Boxing” for Fox, is now in a cast.

“The surgery was a bone fusion, so they fused some of my metacarpals,” Thurman said. “There is not an issue with my fingers or the knuckles that I make a fist with. It feels so much better now. Right after surgery, it was quite painful with a lot of initial swelling. Right now, it feels good and it’s not swollen as it was. I’m not on any pain meds or anything.”

Thurman was off 22 months after elbow surgery following a welterweight title unification victory over Danny Garcia on March 4, 2017, that made him the WBA-WBC champion. But because of bone spurs in his elbow, he didn’t fight again until he defeated Josesito Lopez on Jan. 26, 2019.

He fought Manny Pacquiao in the biggest fight of his career on July 20 in Las Vegas. He was knocked down in the first round but finished strong. He lost a split decision to suffer his first defeat.

He said the hand bothered him throughout 2019 in camp and in both of his fights. He is expected to fully recover and be pain free when he heals.

“[The pain] was there all year,” Thurman said. “It was there in the Josesito Lopez fight and it was there in the Pacquiao fight. But as a world champion, I had to fight and that’s what I did. At the end of the day, there are no excuses, but I wasn’t at my best physically in either of them. I had to fight through it.

“It bothered me in camp and disrupted my preparations more than anything, which is another reason I decided to get the surgery now instead of waiting and doing it later. I can’t promise I would be the same Keith Thurman and I couldn’t promise a great comeback if I were to keep fighting in the condition I was in.”

He said he wants to fight three to five more years and wants to be the best he can be, so the surgery made sense. The surgeon told him he could see a lot of damage to the bones when he was looking at it.

Having taken care of it, he wants to get back into a significant fight next year if his hand continues to improve.

“I have lived my dream to the fullest, and I’ve accomplished a lot in this sport already,” Thurman said. “The last thing I want is to stop here and now. I have a bright future and I’m in one of the best and most exciting divisions. That helps me keep my head up high and helps keep me motivated.

“Losing to Pacquiao is evidence you can’t be a one-handed champion. If you really want to be the best in the world, you have to be the best you can be to fight any type of world-class fighter. Even with one hand, I fought a hell of a fight. I needed to throw more right hands and the fight was there. The opportunity was there. I felt him wearing down and I could feel him struggling a little bit. At the end of the day, I didn’t win, but I felt I had what it took to win.”

Keith Thurman is 29-1 with 22 knockouts. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

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