Keith Thurman owns an interim welterweight belt and is one of boxing's potential future stars -- he has charisma, punching power and a fan-friendly fighting style. And Thurman is a wanted man.
Roc Nation Sports, the company owned by music mogul Jay Z that opened a boxing division in August, is looking to sign fighters who have the goods in the ring as well as the potential to be marketed to the mainstream public outside the ring.
Thurman fits the profile of what the company is looking for, and Roc Nation went after him in mid-October, offering him a three-fight contract worth $6 million.
Thurman would have gotten a $2 million advance against the total package -- so he could have a nice chunk of the money up front -- followed by fight-night payouts of $1 million, $1 million and $2 million. Thurman was interested in the deal and even had Roc Nation Sports tweak the offer to give him payouts of $1.5 million, $1.5 million and $1 million.
Ultimately, however, Thurman told ESPN.com that he passed on the offer before even bringing it to adviser Al Haymon to discuss.
"For the most part, it's a move that I'm not willing to make right now," Thurman told ESPN.com on Monday. "It's nice to throw dollar signs in front of a young guy like me and I appreciate it. But I am a man of faith and I believe all that's coming to me in the future. As long as you have a '0' (on your record) it's like holding on to a golden goose egg."
When the offer from Roc Nation Sports came, Thurman, who has been limited to one fight this year because of a shoulder injury, was getting ready for a Dec. 13 fight against Italy's 39-year-old Leonard Bundu (31-0-2, 11 KOs) on the Devon Alexander-Amir Khan Showtime-televised undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. After weeks of speculation on the fight it was formally announced Friday. Thurman said he would make a seven-figure purse, but did not specify the exact total.
"Jay Z's company is a young company. I haven't seen them make guys money yet in boxing," said Thurman, who turns 26 on Nov. 23. "I'm young. The offer came quick. I already knew I was getting ready for this fight and I'm satisfied with my purse for this fight and with another knockout victory next year my purses will multiply.
"I want to see (Jay Z) do something with another fighter before I follow. I don't want to fly on the first airplane."
Like most of Haymon's fighters, Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs), of Clearwater, Florida, is not under contract to a promoter, even though Golden Boy has promoted most of his fights. Haymon has rarely signed his fighters with promoters, preferring to maintain an element of leverage.
Roc Nation Sports - which had no comment on the Thurman offer -- has been aggressive going after fighters. It also offered heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder, another Haymon client not under contract to a promoter, $2 million for his upcoming mandatory title shot against Bermane Stiverne. That would have kicked off the five-year contract Roc Nation Sports offered Wilder.
Wilder, who I was told was very interested, did not take the deal because he couldn't unless Haymon approved, which he didn't.
While Roc Nation Sports has made no secret of the fact that it is willing to do fights on HBO or Showtime -- or any other network interested -- an HBO representative told Roc Nation that it was interested in buying a Thurman fight for Dec. 20 if it signed him, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion. But Haymon would have had to sign off on Thurman's deal and he obviously is not interested in signing the boxers in his stable with a promoter. He also is no friend of Jay Z's. There is bad blood there (and with Beyonce, Jay Z's wife) going back to their paths crossing in the music business.
Thurman said was "more than flattered" by the offer and wished Roc Nation Sports success in boxing, but said the timing of the offer was not right for him.
"I listened. How could you not listen when they throw those kind of numbers around," Thurman said. "The way I felt at the end is I don't see how I'm not making $6 million next year anyway. It all came fast. I'm just a patient cat. I'm patient. If you keep a door open you can always walk through it eventually. Right now I'm comfortable with what I'm doing with Team Haymon.
"I was more than flattered by the offer. It was a dream come true actually. I laugh at the fact that I didn't jump on board. I find it funny. I find it ironic because I was waiting my entire life to be offered a certain deal worth millions. And here I am saying no to a $6 million deal because I believe it's in my future, if not more, going into 2015.
"I'm not sure if I want to tie down with any entity no matter what they plan to do. I want to learn about this sport - the business aspect of the sport. Maybe I should have jumped. Maybe some other fighter will. What if I lose to Bundu? But I'm a man of faith and I can be patient. I'm looking forward to 2015. Time will tell if I made the right decision."