Can Manny Pacquiao make Keith Thurman Pay?

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Although the betting odds have swayed in Manny Pacquiao’s favor in his fight this weekend versus Keith “One Time” Thurman, most scribes and experts are still split on who they pick to win in this bout for the American’s World Boxing Association (WBA) Super World Welterweight belt. There are good reasons why opinion has generally been divided.

Reports coming from the Pacquiaos have been glowing, with trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning coach Justine Fortune telling the media that Pacquiao has been working doubly hard and that the only eight-division champion in history is moving like he is not less than half a year away from turning 41 years old this December. These are the usual proclamations people read about before every Pacquiao fight.

Pacquiao has shown remarkable conditioning despite his advancing age and is still widely considered an elite welterweight. But he also will be dealing with the reality that father time is not something one can easily defy. This is why boxing legends like Sugar Ray Leonard and Ronald “Winky” Wright are going with Thurman who is ten years younger than the Pacman.

That, plus the wear and tear of over 24 years as a professional fighter which has seen Pacquiao accumulate hundreds of rounds of ring mileage as he faced 25 world champions in 32 fights have effectively slowed him down. There are still traces of his speed and punching power. But Pacquiao’s experience has taught him to work within his limitations. His recent fights have revealed that he is fully aware that he does not need to over-extend himself by going all-out every second of every round. Rather, the older Pacquiao has shown to be an astute student of the game who picks his spots, fights in pockets and bursts, and does not take too many risks that will expose him to the same perfectly-timed counterpunch that Juan Manuel Marquez unloaded in their last fight.

Pacquiao will need to be at his absolute best against the undefeated Thurman who is arguably the fighting Senator’s biggest challenge in recent years. Pacquiao was barely tested in his last two fights. Lucas Matthysse was a washed-up former champion while Adrien Broner was too scared to let his hands go. Thurman has spewed venomous diatribes in the build-up to the fight. The question on everybody’s mind is whether Thurman will back up his trash talk by engaging Pacquiao in a slugfest.

Thurman is a skilled fighter who can either go toe-to-toe or counterpunch. He has scored impressive wins over former world champions Carlos Quintana (4th round TKO), Julio Diaz (3rd round TKO), and Robert Guerrero (UD). His biggest wins came against two of the top welterweights in the world, Shawn Porter (UD) and Danny Garcia (SD).

Thurman has been known to be a strong starter, and this could spell trouble for Pacquiao who has not been the buzzsaw from the opening bell that he was in the early part of his career. It is not unlikely that Thurman will jump the gun and try to impose his will on his smaller and older opponent.

One key strength of Thurman has been his ability to go to his opponent’s body and inflict severe punishment. Quintana was floored by a left hook to the body in the 3rd round before capitulating in the next round. Diaz suffered a rib injury from Thurman’s body attack before the fight was stopped.

To fend off opponents, Thurman often leads off with the double jab that sets up his right hook, or a weapon he used to knockdown Guerrero, the uppercut. Thurman boasted that he knows what to expect from Pacquiao who he says does the same thing in every fight which is to put on flurries to impress the judges. This is the same thing Antonio Margarito said before he fought Pacquiao.

What Margarito eventually learned, as will Thurman, is that knowing what to expect from Pacquiao and being in the ring when the flurries from Pacquiao do come are two totally different propositions.

Pacquiao still holds a significant advantage in speed against Thurman or against any active welterweight in the world not named Terence Crawford. Thurman’s power punches often come from wide angles and this just might be the opening that Pacquiao will exploit to stop Thurman on his tracks and make him rethink about his pre-fight pronouncement that he will overwhelm the Pacman.

Thurman had moments in his fights against Garcia and journeyman Joselito Lopez when he looked vulnerable when his open stance made him susceptible to his opponent’s power shots. Garcia and Lopez are not Pacquiao. Pacquiao is better, and he is bound to connect more than Garcia and Lopez ever did. Pacquiao is bound to hurt Thurman more than Garcia and Lopez ever did.

Thurman has been hounded the past two years by injuries that caused him to be inactive for extended periods of time. His fight against Lopez last January revealed his ring rust. How much he has gotten back his old form, particularly his best years from 2016-17, will be revealed when he faces an all-time great for the first time in his career.

Thurman has been loud and outspoken from the time his match against Pacquiao was announced. He is now a day away from letting his fists validate his bravado. If Pacquiao is able to weather the early storm from Thurman and establish control by showing his superior hand speed and veteran ring generalship, then he has the opportunity to really inflict some serious hurt on Thurman and show the world that even on his 3rd decade as a professional fighter, he still is at the top of his game.

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