By: Rahat Haque
It was music to all of our ears when we heard Manny Pacquiao would fight Keith Thurman on July 20th, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Both fighters took a step down in competition in their last matches in facing Adrien Broner and Josesito Lopez respectively. Obviously, this irked many fans who do not want the stars of the game to partake in any fights that may remotely resemble a warm up or tune up. In their eyes, every star of the boxing game should keep taking leaps in the level of opposition fought. Even if Manny cleaned his division in the past, that did not excuse him from fighting the best out there at present. In Thurman’s case, even if he was on a steady progress to fight the best out there, such as getting the W versus Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in recent memory, it was high time for him to fight the main man at 147 or an active legend in Pacquiao. As he is doing the latter, all fans’ wants have been met!
The result of this fight definitely means more to Keith “One Time” Thurman than it does to Pacquaio. Pacquiao’s motivations remain the same as it had been during the Broner fight. He loves fighting, wants to stay sharp, and possibly entice Mayweather out of retirement for one more gratuitous payday. Nobody will bat an eyelid if the 40 year old senator loses. It is not the same for Thurman, who has taken a lot of heat already for being relatively inactive compared to his compatriots at 147. A loss here would further plummet his stock by taking away the undefeated chip from his table. We have seen many arrogant undefeated fighters get used to defeat very quickly after they have tasted their first loss. That is not a road Thurman would like to embark on. Especially with much tougher challenges in Errol Spence and Terrence Crawford on the horizon.
From initial study of the tape, Thurman has his work cut out for him. He is undefeated, but not invincible. He took a lot of punishment versus Porter, Garcia and Lopez. He does not have the best defense, and he himself will tell you that he is not a defense oriented fighter. But yet he can box on the outside, as he had shown against Jan Zavek. But that was only because the seasoned Slovenian was extremely one dimensional and clearly was not ready for Thurman’s athleticism and range. When Porter matched Thurman’s athleticism, or when Garcia posed an element of danger with equivalent power, Thurman’s real instincts as a boxer came out. He edged both of those fights, but not without losing multiple rounds, and moments of vulnerability in almost every round. Manny Pacquiao, despite being 40, is more like the two aforementioned fighters, and less like Jan Zaveck. He will switch angles on you, he will look to pounce when he can, and so Thurman’s lack of defense may be unveiled once more.
But what Keith has going for him is that if there is another fighter of his caliber who also does not care about defense, it’s Manny. Indeed if Thurman has taken punishment, Pacquiao has taken hellish torture throughout his career. This makes the fight next month all the more fan friendly. It will be action packed, and it could come down to a battle of attrition. In which case, it is unbelievable to predict the different outcomes of the match, as all of which are wild! Thurman has looked vulnerable plenty of times, and it is not hard to envision him suffer technical knock out (TKO). Pacquiao on the other hand has been knocked out clean, and it is not hard to envision him suffering the same fate against Thurman.
Pacquiao’s straight left could debilitate him, and if he freezes up like he has shown to do in occasions versus Porter or Garcia, he could be in for a long night. Alternatively, engaging with Pacquiao is not any better for the Florida pugilist. Taking that road could leave him badly exposed. If Lopez could hurt him, so can Pacquiao. Keith has talked about that not materializing, because of Pacquiao’s shorter reach. That invariably gives away his gameplan, though it was not difficult to guess to begin with. Keith “One Time” Thurman, will be very patient staying on the outside, cocking his head back as needed to evade all of Pacman’s power shots. He will commit on his own shots, but only when Manny is lunging in. He won’t commit at the same level when he is being the aggressor.
From Manny’s point of view, he cannot afford to be passive. The shorter man never outboxes the vastly lankier man, not just in height, but reach. But he can hurt him with power or speed. On July 20th, the Filipino slugger will try to do what he does best, i.e., turn the match into a slugfest. If he is successful in doing that than he has a shot. Otherwise, Keith is the favorite. It may be an unpopular opinion right now, given how easy Manny is to root for, and how everyone is cheering for the active legend. But at the same time, Keith has quietly taken too much flack for his inactivity. Arguably, the third best fighter at 147 is being talked about like he won’t even graze the top five. He will want to make a decisive statement. The world awaits. What a treat this fight is going to be!