Injuries force Keith Thurman to vacate WBC welterweight belt

Beleaguered by injuries, Keith Thurman on Tuesday vacated his WBC welterweight world title.

Thurman has been idle since unifying belts by split decision against Danny Garcia 13 months ago at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in one of the most anticipated fights of 2017. Soon after the fight, Thurman had right elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and calcium deposits. He was preparing to return to action this spring, but then suffered a deep bruise on his left hand during a sparring session that forced a planned May 19 return to be canceled.

While Thurman still holds the WBA version of the 147-pound title, he was unavailable to make a WBC mandatory defense against former titlist Shawn Porter in a timely fashion.

Thurman said he spoke to WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman recently and decided that rather than hold up the division, he would relinquish the title, paving the way for two men he has beaten -- Garcia and Porter -- to fight for the vacant belt.

Upon Thurman's vacating the title, the WBC ordered Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) and Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) to fight for the belt.

"Due to my rehabilitation from my injuries, I agreed to relinquish my WBC title at this time," Thurman said. "I continue to rehab my hand and elbow and I look forward to getting back in the ring this summer. This is a temporary setback and I will be the unified champion once again and look forward to winning back my WBC title as soon as possible."

The WBC said that when the 29-year-old Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs), of Clearwater, Florida, is healthy enough to return he can challenge immediately for the belt.

"Keith Thurman unfortunately has suffered two consecutive injuries that have kept him out of the ring after his sensational victory over Danny Garcia and he has graciously relinquished his title, and the WBC has mandated that Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter will fight for the title,'' Sulaiman said. "Keith will have a direct path to fight for the title once he has healed just as (former heavyweight titlist) Vitali Klitschko and other WBC champions have done in the past. Keith is a tremendous athlete, champion and role model. The WBC will support him completely during this difficult time."

Since being elevated from an interim world titleholder to a full titlist in 2015, Thurman made four title defenses. He defeated Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Porter and Garcia -- all either former or reigning titleholders.

Porter, 30, of Las Vegas, lost a close decision to Thurman in 2016 -- a fight delayed by three months because Thurman injured his neck in a car accident in February 2016 -- but became his mandatory challenger by knocking out former titlist Andre Berto in the ninth round of a title eliminator last April.

Garcia, 30, of Philadelphia, bounced back from his loss to Thurman to knock out Brandon Rios in the ninth round of a title elimination fight on Feb. 17.