Keith Thurman has made it a habit of making exciting fights in which he has proven able to give just as well as receive.
But just as Saturday's interim welterweight title defense against veteran Julio Diaz appeared to be follow script, a rib injury to Diaz brought an abrupt end to the fight after Round 3 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
A body shot by Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs) led to the bout being called off at the suggestion of Diaz's corner between rounds.
"I felt the body shot and I thought he was going to go down," Thurman said. "He was a tough dog and he turned on the heat. He was here to fight."
Thurman got the better of the early exchanges and scored a knockdown in Round 2 when Diaz (40-10-1, 29 KOs) voluntarily took a knee after absorbing a left hand to the top of the head. But the ending of the bout came just as the action began to truly heat up.
After Thurman, 25, opened a cut above Diaz's right eye early on in the next round, the former two-time lightweight titlist answered right back. Diaz, who was outlanded 46 to 26 over three rounds according to CompuBox, hurt Thurman with a big right hand, leading to a spirited exchange between the two fighters to close the round.
Moments later, the fight was stopped.
"I can hear you all booing, but he's in pain," Thurman said to the crowd. "He's a true warrior. You saw what he was doing in the fight. He wanted to win."
Diaz, 34, who entered the bout 0-2-1 in his last three fights, agreed with Thurman's assessment.
"I ain't ashamed of my work," Diaz said. "I've been a two-time world champion. I've never given up in a fight. I'm human. [Thurman] has some power. That's how boxing is."
The victory places the brash, heavy-hitting Thurman, a native of Clearwater, Fla., in an enviable spot among the power players at 147 pounds, which includes pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and fellow unbeaten titlist Shawn Porter.
"Everybody in the welterweight division is shooting for that Mayweather sweepstakes," Thurman said. "I'm here to entertain the world of boxing. I'm here to dominate the welterweight division."
"Shawn Porter is a terrific fighter and he's a great friend of mine," Thurman said. "He's a devastating boxer-puncher like myself. It's a great fight. We are with Al [Haymon.]. Whenever his team is ready, I'm ready. It's going to be a tremendous fight."