Manny Pacquiao can once again change how we view his legendary career with a win over Keith Thurman

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With his 2010 victory over Antonio Margarito to claim a vacant junior middleweight world title, Manny Pacquiao likely authored the first line of his boxing legacy by becoming the only fighter in history to win world titles in eight different divisions. Five years later, the Filipino icon almost certainly added the second line when he finally faced off against Floyd Mayweather and came up short in the biggest and richest fight of the modern era. 

Yet here we are, an astonishing 24 years and 70 fights into his pro career and Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), at 40, somehow isn't done figuring out exactly how we'll remember him as a fighter entering Saturday's pay-per-view showdown with WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET). 

As impressive as it would be to defeat a dangerous and unbeaten fighter in his prime, a victory over the 30-year-old Thurman wouldn't necessarily boost Pacquiao, already an all-time great, in any kind of dramatic way to a higher rank historically. It certainly could, however, add a competing narrative to a legacy that's most known for Pacquiao's dramatic rise in weight throughout his career and his ability to carry his power along with him. 

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Should he prove able to compete on even terms with the top welterweights of today in this historically deep era and continue to win, it's a wonder whether the ideas of longevity and reinvention will become the first thing historians think about when Pacquiao's name is mentioned in the decades to follow him. 

Boxers who begin their careers at such a small weight simply don't last as long as Pacquiao has, mostly because of their reliance on speed to remain relevant the more they climb in weight. Somehow, even at 40, Pacquiao has remained the quicker opponent in terms of both hand and foot speed against seemingly everyone he has faced not named Mayweather. 

For a fighter who turned pro at the age of 16 in the 108-pound division, it's almost inconceivable that he'd still be competing nine divisions higher nearly a quarter century later. Yet Saturday's fight isn't about an aging Pacquiao selling his name for one last payday so he can sacrifice himself to a younger name primed to take over a new era. Ultimately, that's the part that makes this so incredible, the fact that Pacquiao will enter the ring against Thurman as the betting favorite. 

"We know that a lot of our fans and people in boxing were doubting my capability at the age of 40," Pacquiao said during last week's media teleconference. "So I have to prove something this time because at the age of 40 I'm not thinking about my age. I'm thinking about what I can do for the fans."

Pacquiao's biggest victories


Timothy Bradley Jr.

2014, 2016

Juan Manuel Marquez

2008, 2011

Miguel Cotto


Ricky Hatton


Oscar De La Hoya


Marco Antonio Barrera

2003, 2007

Erik Morales

2006 (twice)

What can't be lost in Pacquiao's story is how often he has had to reinvent himself by persevering through the kind of setbacks that would've killed off the mojo and invincibility of a lesser fighter. Forgetting even for a second how many all-action fights Pacquiao has competed in yet never appears worse for the wear is remarkable. The fact that he has evolved his style and come back from devastating knockouts and outright robbery defeats on the scorecards only speaks to his legend. 

Pacquiao said he owes his longevity to his addiction to exercise and his commitment inside the gym, which remains strong despite his age and the distraction of currently serving as a full-time senator in his native Philippines. 

"His work ethic is unbelievable," Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach said. "He wants to work every minute of every day. He wants to do 40 rounds a day in the ring and so forth. We do have to hold him back a little bit. We're on a five-day running schedule right now instead of six and we're giving him a couple extra days off during the week trying to get him not to over train because he does have a tendency of wanting to do that."

If there was a turning point in Pacquiao realizing the need to work smarter and more efficient in order to preserve himself at this age, it came in Australia following his disputed decision loss to Jeff Horn in 2017. The all-action fight saw Pacquiao roughed up and outworked at times by the aggressive Horn despite the fact that many observers felt Pacquiao should have won. 

Because of the image of seeing him physically compromised by a younger fighter, most experts believed this was the moment that Pacquiao got old and almost universally wrote him off as a fighter who was no longer elite. True to form in his career-long theme of reinvention, Pacquiao flipped that notion upside down by returning to score his first knockout in eight years when he stopped Lucas Matthysse before nearly shutting out Adrien Broner in January

Pacquiao and Roach are getting back to their roots ahead of Saturday's main event. Getty Images

"Actually, on the Jeff Horn fight I think I over trained," Pacquiao said. "That's why I have to admit that. But this time around, my coaching staff -- Freddie [Roach], Buboy Fernandez, Justin Fortune -- they're watching closely to not let me get over trained so that in the fight I'm going to be throwing a lot of punches.

"After the Horn fight, we learned a lot. I learned a lot. And we changed really the training, not the whole thing, but I give my body rest because it's hard to make my body recovery when you hit the age of 40."

It would be hard to find someone, even four years ago when a shoulder injury contributed to his decisive loss to Mayweather, that Pacquiao would still be competing at this level with a shot to prove, once again, that he's still the best welterweight in the world. Should he defeat Thurman, the PacMan would likely get that chance against the winner of the September unification bout between Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter. 

From Pacquiao's perspective, however, Saturday's fight has nothing to do with his resume or adding to his surefire Hall of Fame legacy.

"I just want to maintain my name in the top of boxing and continue my career," Pacquiao said. "I already accomplished what I want to accomplish in boxing. I'm continuing my career because boxing is my passion. I have lots to do in this, especially because God gave me these blessings and favor that they gave me good health and this is speed and power."

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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