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Keith Thurman sets sights on Manny Pacquiao: ‘I’d fight him in the Philippines if I had to’

Keith Thurman after vanquishing Josesito Lopez
27
Jan

NEW YORK — Shortly after hearing the scorecards for his majority decision victory over Josesito Lopez, the topic turned to what the future holds for Keith Thurman. He just had his first fight in 22 months, and the world of boxing had changed a lot since his previous fight.

Manny Pacquiao, the eight division champion who’d been with Top Rank since before Thurman turned pro, was now a Premier Boxing Champions fighter, opening up a number of matchups that hadn’t been possible before.

When the question came over the plate, Thurman took his swing.

“Bring it in the ring. Maybe Brooklyn, maybe Vegas, wherever Manny Pacquiao wants it. I’d fight him in the Philippines if I had to,” said the WBA welterweight titleholder Thurman (29-0, 22 knockouts).

Pacquiao, 40, made his return to the United States a week ago, outpointing Adrien Broner by unanimous decision in his first fight since aligning with Al Haymon. Afterwards, Pacquiao voiced his interest in a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., who had defeated him in 2015 by unanimous decision. Pacquiao has claimed an injury to his right rotator cuff had limited him in the fight, and wants an opportunity to run their record-setting financial blockbuster back.

Mayweather, who hasn’t fought a pro boxer since 2015, showed no indication either way about his willingness to take the fight, and Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe insists he’s retired and no longer interested in fighting.

(READ: Pacquiao too much for Broner, but Mayweather rematch remains elusive as ever)

Thurman knows a thing or two about injuries. After defeating Danny Garcia by split decision to annex the WBC title, Thurman went on the injured reserve, undergoing surgery on his right elbow in 2017, and then missing 2018 as well due to a left hand injury. Thurman admitted afterwards that his hands were swollen due to the impact on Lopez’s forehead, but says it’s nothing he isn’t used to.

Thurman has said that 2019 is a “get back year,” but asked whether he’d prefer to reclaim the WBC belt he vacated from his ex-foe Shawn Porter, or wanted the biggest name in the division, Thurman seemed to indicate he’d want a fight with Pacquiao first.

“Manny Pacquiao is not gonna be here for the years to come,” said Thurman. “Just fighting a legend, I just feel like the clock is ticking,” said Thurman. 

“Later this year if that fight presents itself, I would definitely be open for negotiations and I would love an opportunity to fight a legend.”

Sean Gibbons, who works as the matchmaker for Pacquiao’s MP Promotions, said Pacquiao is still relaxing after his most recent win and will begin looking at possible opponents next week.

“The Senator told me ‘I only want to fight the best at this point in my career,’ and Keith Thurman 1000% qualifies for that at 147 pounds,” said Gibbons in a direct message.

Thurman says that Pacquiao “easily outpunched” Broner and showed exceptional stamina, even if he’s “not the young Manny Pacquiao that he once was.”

It wasn’t just Thurman’s hands that were bruised. His face had swollen up, and Thurman was buzzed in round seven, in part because he underestimated the reach of Lopez and thought he was out of range when he wasn’t. Thurman admits he was a punch or two away from going down for the first time in his career in that round, but says he didn’t expect to be at his best form after being inactive.

Lopez’s trainer Robert Garcia says Thurman was expected to stop Lopez inside six rounds, and that nearly being stopped by a big underdog doesn’t bode well for his immediate chances against Pacquiao.

“It doesn’t make Thurman look too good,” said Garcia, the 2012 Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year.

“He had a two year layoff, so maybe one or two more fights before he can even say he can fight Pacquiao. I think he needs a couple more fights.”

Even as an undefeated fighter, Thurman embraces his vulnerability. Of the seventh round, Thurman says the sequence when he was hit by a left hook along the ropes and then had his head popped back by a right hand wasn’t the most he’d ever been hurt in a fight, but says it was the best an opponent had ever followed up once he was stunned.

He compares it to the body shot he took against Luis Collazo in their 2015 fight, and when he was wobbled by an overhand right from Jesus Soto Karass in 2013. He even brings up being knocked down on a body shot in sparring against his former training partner Winky Wright in Lake Tahoe years ago.

He didn’t go down this night, which he jokes is progress.

“The name ‘One Time’ isn’t something that I can do to them. It’s something that they can do to me,” said Thurman.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].

 

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