By: Kirk Jackson
Fight time is here. The moment has arrived for the (Regular) WBA welterweight champion Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao (61-2-7, 39 KO’s) to take on (Super) WBA welterweight champion Keith “One-Time” Thurman (29-0, 22 KO’s) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to destroy a legend,” Thurman told reporters ahead of Saturday’s fight. “It is my time. This is one time. Manny Pacquiao ain’t doing nothing to me, baby.”
Pacquiao has far grown accustomed to extravagant events of this magnitude. “For me nothing is personal,” Pacquiao said.
“Our job is to fight. He has to prove something, and I have to prove something. It’s easy to say things. But it’s not so easy to do it in the ring.”
“I am so prepared for this fight. This was one of the best training camps that we’ve had and the best conditioning, so it’s all set for tomorrow,” said Pacquiao.
One of the high-profile fights of the year, highly anticipated bout between Thurman and Pacquiao is predicted to produce fireworks.
This is the likely predicted result, in spite of who wins – as each fighter possesses fistic dynamite in their respective hands. Both Thurman and Pacquiao have the power, speed and explosiveness to produce what fans came to see; the dramatic ending, the knock-out.
Spectators beware however, what we see on paper does not always translate into reality. In spite of the false narratives projected by many media outlets, Pacquiao is not the same fighter he was 10 years ago. He is not the same fighter he was five years ago.
Same statements, albeit different context, apply to Thurman. Based on his last performance against rugged journeyman Josesito Lopez, it’s obvious “One-Time” isn’t the same fighter we’re accustomed to seeing after his 22-month long lay-off.
Prior to the lengthy exile, Thurman went through an impressive run from March of 2015 through March of 2017, defeating fellow world champions Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.
This particular fight features a combination of speed, power and precision. This particular match-up also poses a series of questions – most of which will be answered this Saturday.
What makes this fight so intriguing, is this perception Manny Pacquiao seemingly drank from the fountain of youth, is rejuvenated and in position for recognition as one of the premier welterweights in 2019.
Which would be a remarkable feat, not only considering his age, but the accumulation of wear and tear on his body as a professional fighter for more than 20 years.
The question is with Pacquiao still possessing these great physical attributes – sharp, quickness with his hands, swiftness with his feet and heightened ring intellect and experience.
Is the senator still considered elite? Because not too long ago, the narrative upon losing to Mayweather, was Pacquiao is past his prime and no longer a top fighter. The same sentiments were echoed when Pacquiao suffered defeat against Jeff Horn, dating back almost two years to the date.
If he is washed or significantly passed his prime as a fighter, that may be solid reasoning of former Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum and current trainer Freddie Roach, to keep Pacquiao away from Terence Crawford, when they were stablemates. But that’s another story for another day.
As Thurman briefly mentioned in the build-up to this fight, his goal is to show the world Pacquiao is no longer elite and he intends to retire the senator. Thurman also questions if he is able to defeat Pacquiao, will he get credit, or will critics and fans suggest Pacquiao is old and washed up?
We have inconsistency ladies and gentlemen. But at the same token, Thurman is not without his contradictory statements leading up to the fight.
Thurman, who was once considered the hungry lion, in hunt of the huge score, the salivating prize of preyed upon fighters and earned rewards, is now the hunted.
As time passes, positions change, the evolution as a fighter and as a man or figure inside/outside the profession transpires and the energy and motives also shift. What was said then, what was regarded as in the past, is not the same sentiment echoed in the present.
Now Thurman has an understanding like Sugar Ray Leonard, like Floyd Mayweather and grasps understanding of building certain fights and reaching plateaus.
The issue with Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) testing and the lack thereof.
As first reported by BoxingScene.com, audiences were informed Thurman and Pacquiao e will be subject to testing standards limited to that provided by Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Original plans to secure the services of VADA were called off for reasons that have yet to be explained and unfortunately, a proper adjustment could not be applied for rectifying the matter and this dates back to four weeks prior to Saturday night.
VADA representatives declined further comment beyond confirming that they are not involved in any aspect of the July 20 series of bouts.
Pacquiao found himself at the forefront of a fiery, controversial, debate regarding drug testing as the issue was first raised by Floyd Mayweather Jr. when the demand grew for a super fight featuring the two biggest stars in boxing.
Eventually, the opposing sides came together to score one of the most lucrative sporting events in history. But not without drug testing in place. Their fight came with random testing, provided by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA); whose services Mayweather used for each of his fights beginning in 2010 against Shane Mosley and continued throughout the rest of his career.
While Pacquiao never tested positive for a banned substance, a cloud of suspicion may linger for some observers of boxing regarding some of his exploits.
VADA provided its services for Pacquiao’s last ring appearance, a 12-round win over Adrien Broner earlier this year in January, also at MGM Grand. An interesting note, Broner alleged that he had yet to be tested by late December, less than a month out from the January 19 Showtime PPV event.
It’ll be interesting to see if this issue is swept under the rug upon conclusion of this event.
As we all know, fights are not fought or won on paper. Styles make fights, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth – insert any cliché applicable.
The variables for this fight, as with any fight, will shape the outcome of this match. For Pacquiao, it may be the years of valuable experience, awkward angles, uniqueness in style and quick combinations that hold serve in victory for the future Hall of Famer.
Or the variables may factor in favor of Thurman; explosive punching power, graceful lateral movement, youthfulness (in comparison), high level of ring intellect, desire to secure and legitimize his legacy as a tremendous champion.
Thurman eluded to weaknesses and deficiencies in Pacquiao’s style, during their initial press tour run in Los Angeles, a few months back.
“Manny Pacquiao is beatable. He’s been beaten before in his career. He’s a fan favorite and a legend. For me his boxing tactics are predictable. He fights in spurts and you have to take advantage of that. You have to be respectful of his power. But I believe my movement, athleticism and ring knowledge will be able to present him something he’s not seen in all his years of boxing.”
Keep in mind, Thurman stated on many occasions he wants to retire Pacquiao and end the senator’s boxing career in his first Pay-Per-View event similar to what Pacquiao did against a fellow legend in one of his more highly publicized PPV appearances.
However. I do not foresee demolition comparable to what Pacquiao dished out to Oscar De La Hoya back in 2008, as De La Hoya was a walking skeleton limping into that mismatch.
Main difference, is Pacquiao takes training more seriously in comparison to most fighters and entering this fight, Pacquiao looked relatively good against the younger fighter Broner.
De La Hoya on the other end, got beat up by a much smaller and slightly younger Stevie Forbes, leading into the Pacquiao bout.
Thurman has the speed, athleticism, coordination and arm reach to keep Pacquiao at the end of his punches.
He has the ability to contain Pacquiao into a proper range to appropriately measure distance. May not be the most exciting tactics, but the key for Thurman is to win by any means.
Range control and discipline will be key points for Thurman’s route to success. If he wants to win, he cannot engage unnecessarily and he must be able to intelligently pick his punches and pick his spots for attack. He must maintain defensive focus and be wary of punches coming from any angle.
Even former opponent Floyd Mayweather mentioned, Pacquiao likes to set traps. As Mayweather, Erik Morales to a degree and Juan Manuel Marquez also displayed, you can control Pacquiao with a stiff, active jab. This will be key for Thurman.
For the “Pac-Man,” he must get his shots off first consistently for maximum effect. He must be the one pressing forward, dictating the pace, and controlling the action. Controlled unpredictability is his ally – as odd as that sounds. Unpredictability as far as where the punches come from when he start cranking his engine and letting his hands fly.
By controlling the action and initiating the sequences of engagement, that helps establish a consistent internal rhythm for Pacquiao. As Luis Collazo, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and a few other former opponents of “One-Time” exploited, Pacquiao should target Thurman’s body.
Pacquiao landed many purposeful punches to Broner’s body in his last outing and he would be best served continuing the trend Saturday night.
As the naturally smaller, older fighter, it’s important to wear down the bigger guy, sapping his strength and stamina as rounds wear on. Because of his vast experience, Pacquiao possesses certain tools to utilize in dire situations.
Pacquiao is best served causing that tension, creating uncertainty for Thurman to help further his goal of obtaining victory. Pacquiao will still have to operate under a modicum of defensive responsibility so that he’s not severely countered or clipped coming in. As great as he is, defense and slickness isn’t a strong suit for Pacquiao.
As we know, anything can happen with boxing. One punch can determine the outcome and in spite of the betting lines changing leading up to the fight in favor of Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao, the smarter choice may be Keith “One-Time” Thurman via decision.