IN the first boxing to be televised during prime time by NBC for over 30 years, Keith Thurman impressed with a clear victory over Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The welterweight battle went the full 12 rounds, and Thurman – who overcame a hefty swelling on the left side of his forehead – scored a knockdown in the ninth session before claiming a unanimous win via scores of 120-107, 118-109, and 118-108.

Interestingly there was no mention of the WBA ‘world’ title at stake by the ring announcer – a nod towards all-conquering adviser Al Haymon’s decision to downplay the governing bodies – and the arena was kitted out with bells and whistles. It was all exceptionally encouraging stuff for the hardcore boxing fan as the sport made it’s return to free-to-air television in the USA.

The combatants complimented the sense of razzmatazz in the air yet it was Thurman who fulfilled pre-fight promises to excite by taking control from the beginning. The action was intense, albeit predominantly one-sided, as Thurman launched weighty blasts to Guerrero’s head and body.

An accidental head clash in the third prompted Thurman’s head to swell but could not deter him. His potent fists staggered Guerrero in the fourth and sixth and looked to have ended matters in the ninth. He connected with a sweeping uppercut, and a right and left as Guerrero fell, before raising his arms again in victory. But Guerrero, brave as ever, regained his footing and stung Thurman in the 10th. It was a stirring display from both.

“Robert Guerrero was a tremendous warrior,” Thurman said. “He’s known as ‘The Ghost’ and is a veteran, a [former] world champion. He showed it today and was a little more calm.

“I thought he was going to press more in the beginning rounds. But he’s a veteran, and he knew how to pace himself and stay a little bit out of range. This was a tremendous fight and an incredible learning experience for me, Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman.”

And hopefully this fine advertisement for boxing was a learning experience for the audience at home, too.