It's 2019 and Manny Pacquiao is back in the A-side role of a pay-per-view fight in Las Vegas.
In a true testament to the greatness and longevity of the 24-year professional, Pacquiao will enter Saturday's title bout against unbeaten WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman as the betting favorite when the two touch gloves inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena (Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET).
For the 40-year-old Pacquiao, the only fighter in boxing history to win titles in eight divisions, the fight moves him one step closer to proving he's the best 147-pound fighter in a crowded and dangerous division. It would also help cement even further his Hall of Fame resume with a victory over a prime and powerful opponent who lacks nothing in terms of speed and technique.
It may come as no surprise that the 30-year-old Thurman isn't expecting to roll over for the Filipino icon. The brash champion, known as "One Time," has predicted a knockout of Pacquiao and has willingly stated his intention to retire him.
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"I say I'm going to put him to sleep because I've got power," Thurman said during Wednesday's final press conference. "I want to remind the world of something, something very simple: I'm Keith 'One Time' Thurman. I have the name for a reason, not a short season.
"Manny isn't going to do anything. With the little 'T-Rex' arms. He's about to get beat up. I get to punch a Senator in the face and he's going to feel it. If he's upset about it, he can do something about it Saturday night. It's called swing, swing, swing baby."
True to form, Pacquiao has been anything but offended and has brushed off the trash talk in favor of focusing on his hopes for a toe-to-toe clash that excites the fans.
"For me, nothing is personal," Pacquiao said. "I have to do my job and there is nothing personal with him. Our job is to fight and he has to prove something, and I have to prove something. That's why I'm so motivated for this fight and this training camp."
More Pacquiao-Thurman:| |
The fight will take place in the gambling capital of the world, however, and Thurman hasn't hidden from the fact that he has placed a substantial bet on himself to score an early knockout.
"I'm a winner in life, and to bet on myself to win in the opening rounds," Thurman said. "It makes me do what I said earlier, which is swing, swing, swing. You've got to swing to hit a home run. You can't just sit there and pump fake all day."
In addition to the monumental showdown between Pacquiao and Thurman on Saturday night is an important battle at 168 pounds when Caleb Plant defends his IBF crown against Mike Lee in the final bout before the card moves to PPV. The two have engaged in a bitter war of words in the lead up to this one and are expecting fireworks when they reach the ring inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Plus, it's the return of some other big names in boxing with Yordenis Ugas, Omar Figueroa, Luis Nery and Sergey Lipinets all making their way back to the ring. And the super prospect at heavyweight Efe Ajagba is back with his next test ahead of him. Ajagba famously had an opponent exit the ring and head immediately back to the locker room as the first bell rang to start a fight.
Tale of the Tape
|Fighter||Manny Pacquiao||Keith Thurman|
61-7-2 (39 KOs)
29-0 (22 KOs)
Secondary WBA welterweight
General Santos City, Philippines
Timothy Bradley Jr. (2014, 2016), Juan Manuel Marquez (2008, 2011), Miguel Cotto (2009), Ricky Hatton (2009), Oscar De La Hoya (2008), Marco Antonio Barrera (2003, 2007), Erik Morales (2006 twice)
Danny Garcia (2017), Shawn Porter (2016), Robert Guerrero (2015)
Floyd Mayweather (2015), Juan Manuel Marquez (2012), Timothy Bradley Jr. (2012), Erik Morales (2005).
What's at stake
The two fighters will unify the WBA welterweight title thanks to said sanctioning body's decision to promote multiple titles in the same division. Pacquiao, who holds the WBA's secondary version, has never held the WBA's full title and lost his shot at winning it in his 2015 unification bout with Mayweather.
Along with Thurman's world title, the winner will get the opportunity to likely face whoever comes out of the September unification fight between Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter. Because of the questions facing each fighter coming in (from Pacquiao's age to Thurman's recent layoff and his shaky performance against Josesito Lopez in January), the idea that both are competing for their fighting future on the elite level also isn't out of the question.
Even though Thurman is an established champion who owns career-defining wins over Porter and Garcia, this fight also offers him a shot at potential crossover stardom should he be able to win in defiant fashion in front of a large PPV audience.
Who has the edge?
1 Power: Thurman is clearly the bigger man and a better pure power puncher, thus his "One Time" moniker. The problem, however, has been his inability to sit down on his punches and finish opponents the more he has evolved as a boxer. Not counting fights that were stopped due to cuts or injury, Thurman hasn't recorded a true knockout since 2013. The gap between them isn't all that wide, however. Pacquiao gets his power at welterweight from a combination of speed and awkward angles. He certainly still had enough of it to retire Lucas Matthysse in 2018 before giving Adrien Broner enough reason not to fight back in January. Edge: Thurman
2. Speed: It's nothing short of incredible that Pacquiao has been able to maintain this level of hand and foot speed at the age of 40. Thurman isn't necessarily slow and resides within his physical prime as an athletic fighter. But Thurman proving he can handle Pacquio's speed remains a prevailing question mark entering this fight. Edge: Pacquiao
3. Technique: Pacquiao's evolution as a fighter over nearly 20 years with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has been remarkable. The PacMan evolved from a no-jabbing, left-cross throwing attacker to a unique boxer who sets up his attacks in ways that is hard to prepare for. Pacquiao may not be orthodox in much of what he does, but he is technically very sound and rarely leaves himself open to big counter shots despite his aggressive style. Thurman is also an excellent boxer who has relied much more on his craft than his power to win his biggest fights. Edge: Even
4. Defense: Let's face it, Pacquiao's best defense is his offense and always has been. That doesn't mean he is irresponsible from a defensive standpoint, it just means it has never been a large focus. Even in his advanced age, Pacquiao looks to outwork opponents and wear them down with steady pressure. Thurman's defense is much more sound and technical behind his high guard. Edge: Thurman
5. Intangibles: While concerns about how Pacquiao will deal with a prime power puncher at this point in his career are legit, it has been incredible that Thurman is actually the one who enters with more questions that need answering. Does he still have an elite chin and the willingness to fight through being hurt? It's one thing to survive against a Luis Collazo or Lopez, but will he fight back against someone as talented as Pacquiao? This, along with his extensive advantage in terms of experience, certainly gives Pacquiao an edge. Had Thurman never left the sport for two years due to injuries, he would easily be favored in this fight. Yet even at his advanced age, Pacquiao is the more reliable commodity at the moment. Edge: Pacquiao
Despite the legitimate 50/50 nature of this fight, breaking down the key components to how it might play out aren't all that difficult.
If Thurman is willing to bite down on his mouthpiece like he did against Porter and use his youth and power to discipline Pacquiao early, this is a fight he should win thanks to his versatility as a boxer-puncher. Should he attempt to outbox Pacquiao, however, he's going to lose a 12-round decision. It's really that simple.
Pacquiao can certainly play a big part in helping Thurman make that decision should he prove able to land something big early that might dissuade his opponent and bring back memories of the scare he endured against Lopez. But this fight and Thurman's ability to win it will be largely dictated by whether he plans on acting like the bigger man in ways that will take crossing the line of potential vulnerability in order to accomplish.
One thing Thurman has echoed throughout the promotion of the fight was that Pacquaio has looked so good in recent bouts against Matthysse and Broner mostly because he wasn't getting punched back in return. Thurman referenced the issues Pacquiao had in Australia against an aggressive and bigger opponent in Jeff Horn in 2017, and routinely asked when was the last time we saw Pacquiao so willing to take on a challenge this difficult against someone in their prime?
Yes, the questions about Thurman's chin and whether he's still the same finisher from a mental standpoint are duly noted. But Thurman didn't get to this point by being soft or lackluster, and his wins over Porter and Garcia are among the most impressive the division has seen in recent years.
This will be a close fight that has 12 rounds written all over it. But if Thurman is willing to be all he says he is, this is also a fight where his combination of power, speed and size should be enough to deter Pacquiao from walking all over him.
Pick: Thurman via UD12
So who wins Pacquiao vs. Thurman? And which prop bet should you back for a 20-1 payout? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn's best bets for the July 20 megafight, all from the boxing insider who's nailed three straight Pacquiao and Thurman fights.