It was the old black-and-white pictures of boxers taped to the walls of head custodian Ben Getty’s cramped office at Belleair (Fla.) Elementary School that first intrigued seven-year-old Keith Thurman.
So when Getty, a short, stocky Italian man the kids called “Ben Spaghetti,” started an afterschool YMCA boxing program by putting on a boxing exhibition, young Thurman was all in.
“Ben, being an older guy, a Vietnam veteran, you could always tell there was a lot of history there,” Thurman, now 27, said by phone recently. “It was amazing to know he worked side-by-side with Sugar Ray Leonard. He was a strength and conditioning coach.
“One thing Ben was really good at was strength and conditioning. He helped me develop my strength and my power, and taught me how to utilize it.”
So, beginning at age seven it was a team — Getty the mentor, Thurman the eager student, blazing through the amateur boxing program together.
“Ben had 1988 USA bronze medalist Kenny Gould and he used to tell me all about him growing up, and what it means to compete in the Olympics,” Thurman says. “That was our main goal growing up in the amateurs together. He had our eyes set on the…