Fight Picks: Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman
On Saturday, Keith Thurman will put his WBA welterweight title on the line against the iconic Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
Thurman and Pacquiao, who are rated No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, by The Ring at 147-pounds, clash in an eagerly anticipated super bout that has the boxing world buzzing.
Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 Knockouts) is the only eight-weight world champion in boxing history having held titles at 112, 122, 130, 135, 147 and 154, but also held lineal titles at 126 and 140. “Pac-Man,” now 40, won his first world title when Thurman was a 9-year-old. The congressman has beaten a who’s who of his generation including Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley.
After an impressive amateur career, Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) turned professional in 2007. Early in his career, he lived up to his nickname, “One Time,” but in recent years has morphed into more of a boxer, using lateral movement to best the likes of Robert Guerrero, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. A spate of injuries has stagnated the 30-year-old’s momentum; he returned with a low key majority decision over Josesito Lopez in January, where he was rocked in the seventh round.
After 70 fights, 474 professional rounds over a 24-year career, will Pacquiao suddenly look old? While Thurman has fought big fights before nothing will have prepared him for a fight of this magnitude against a living legend. Although Thurman is 10-years Pacquiao’s junior will his often injured body hold up? After nearly two-years of inactivity, Thurman looked decidedly ordinary last time out, he’ll need to perform immeasurably better to stand a chance against Pacquiao. Will Pacquiao find Thurman’s movement too much at this stage of his career?
Online gambling group William Hill lists Pacquiao as a slight 4-5 (-125) favorite, while Thurman is priced at evens (+100); the draw is 20/1 (+2000).
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/RINGTV.COM
JOSEPH SANTOLIQUITO: THURMAN SD
I think that this is finally it. I’ve been wrong many times in the past when it’s come to Pacquiao. I thought Oscar De La Hoya was too big for him. Wrong. I thought Miguel Cotto was too young for him. Wrong. I thought Shane Mosley was too fast for him. Wrong, again. I did feel Floyd Mayweather was too much for him when it came to hand speed, boxing ability and defense. Right. “Pac-Man” is 40, ancient in the boxing world, with the wear-and-tear showing on paper-thin skin that can easily be cut at this stage of his career. He’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s an all-time great. But, finally, he gets shoved from his place on the pantheon of today’s elite fighters by Thurman, who is 10 years younger and, more importantly, doesn’t come with a shopworn tag.
TOM GRAY: THURMAN TKO 10
This is going to sound ludicrous, because I’ve actually liked Manny Pacquiao in this fight since it was first announced. I didn’t like the look of Thurman in his comeback fight against Josesito Lopez, and all that time off due to injury has been a serious detriment. This prediction is based more on a feeling than anything else. Pacquiao is a great fighter, but he’s due to run out of miracles. Victories over Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner may have flattered to deceive, and even a half-cocked Thurman is significantly better than both. I can’t see Manny being able to hurt “One Time,” but I can see One Time hurting Manny. I think the fight will be relatively close when Thurman breaks through with a fight-ending barrage in the championship rounds, ending the career of one of the best fighters of the modern era on a sour note.
MICHAEL WOODS: PACQUIAO UD
Manny Pacquiao is not anything like that animal who was slaying and filleting in the 2008-2009 sphere. But he is still a Grade-A pugilist, who combines savvy and hand speed, smart footwork and personal dedication to his craft. Keith Thurman needs to beat Manny Pacquiao to be seen on that tier. Not pulling this punch—though Keith is 29-0, his resume to this point doesn’t leap out at you like maybe you’d have assumed three years ago. The “One Time” nickname isn’t appropriate. He is a mover-boxer, and so I think that fact, and the undeniable that Manny works smarter not harder now, will furnish us a fight that is not be a thriller. We will see composed hitters in a chess match. And it will go 12 rounds, and Pac-Man will be a bit busier, and get a narrow UD.
LEE GROVES: THURMAN UD
Thurman is 10 years younger, boasts height and reach advantages of two inches in both categories, has logged 326 fewer rounds and invested 13 fewer years of time as a pro. Yes, Thurman isn’t the same fighter that he was a couple of years ago, but he’s much closer to his physical prime than Pacquiao, who, at 40, has been a professional fighter for 60 percent of his lifetime. Think about that for a moment—60 percent of his time on earth. Pacquiao no longer has the dynamic work rate that defined his best years; he can generate a little more than half that total during his best fights these days. Therefore, he can’t generate enough sustained volume to drive Thurman out of his comfort zone. While Pacquiao is a good puncher for the weight, he doesn’t have the thunder to finish the job that Josesito Lopez and Luis Collazo started by stunning Thurman. Pacquiao has enough skill left to hang tough and produce some good moments, but he won’t be able to make them last them long enough to get the win. I expect this fight to go the whole way—Thurman has averaged 11.2 rounds per fight in his last six and Pacquiao has averaged 11.4 rounds in his last nine—and I believe Thurman will walk away with the points win in the 116-112 to 117-111 range.
MARTY MULCAHEY: PACQUIAO UD
I am on the fence with this pick. I don’t know when Pacquiao will turn old overnight, and am not certain Thurman will ever reach his potential. Logic says to take the younger and bigger Thurman. But bigger men have not capitalized on a size advantage against Pac-Man. If Thurman tries to live up to his “one-time” nickname he will be left swinging at the air given Pacquiao’s awkward angles. I like Pacquiao given his experience, higher work rate, and accuracy. More importantly, Pacquiao’s speed and dynamism draws judge’s eyes to his actions instead of Thurman’s one-punch-at-a-time strategy of late. That, in a close fight, could be a decisive key. Give me Pacquiao by close unanimous decision.
NORM FRAUENHEIM: PACQUIAO SD
It’s been portrayed as youth-versus-age. But it’s not. It’s still power-versus-speed and the Old Man still has enough of the latter in his 40-year-old legs to score a narrow, perhaps controversial decision over 30-year-old Keith Thurman. Thurman’s power could end it. But his feet and hands don’t move together well enough to produce the kind of precision he’ll need to catch and finish Pacquiao. Thurman is strong and might attempt to use his bigger upper body to wear down Pacquiao, who at some point over the 12 rounds might begin to show his age. But the Senator has been at the top of the game for nearly two decades because he knows how to survive. He’s also back in Vegas, where he has always been popular. That name, the documented experience and those ageless legs are just enough for a victory on the scorecards.
GARETH A. DAVIES: THURMAN SD
I’m going with Keith Thurman to get the win here, which feels right instinctively. At first, I foresaw a mid-rounds knockout or stoppage for the Floridian, but then thinking of the silhouettes moving, and the physical shape Manny Pacquiao looked in, I revised my options. Thurman’s best victories have come against Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Robert Guerrero and Luis Collazo were faded when he faced them-in which he outboxed Garcia, and out-matadored the bullish Porter, dazzling the Las Vegas-based fighter by meeting him with superb timing. The other thing is that once engaged, Thurman is not difficult to hit, either. Look back on his career and he can get sloppy, even carefree at times. His best showings were Garcia and Porter, but even so, he eked out the unification victory by slender margins. It was no domination. The Porter win was far more accomplished. Thurman talks an aggressive game, but does tend to relax into his boxing, rather than focus on all-out attack. Pacquiao, at 40, is in his last throes, and we know that, approaching his swansong 71st fight and set for the next decade in the political ring. In spite of his willingness to work hard through every round, the legendary boxer is unlikely to draw Thurman into a toe-to-toe fight. I think the younger man by 10 years will use his footwork to evade the advancing assaults of southpaw Pac-Man and will time his counters. Thurman could get the stoppage, but will have to take risks to do so. I don’t think he will do that unless he manages to dominate in the way he did against Porter. Pacquiao, of course, is always willing to go out on his shield. I like Thurman, by split or majority-points decision.
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: THURMAN SD
The heart says Manny Pacquiao, the head says Keith Thurman. Thurman wasn’t impressive in his return from nearly two years on the sidelines against Josesito Lopez last time out but that will have allowed him to shed some ring rust. Conversely, Manny Pacquiao rolled back the years recently with dominant performances against Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner. However, while Thurman figures to be in his fistic prime, Pacquiao is fighting past his at 40. The Filipino congressman appears to be having something of an Indian summer to his already Hall of Fame career. You wonder just how much longer he can reach into the well and keep performing at the highest level. Thurman’s style will pose problems for Pacquiao who will be the aggressor. One Time can’t let Pacquiao get into an early lead, which would set the tone of the contest. I have a feeling it will be close throughout and Thurman will win a close and controversial split decision.
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (TRAINER): PACQUIAO KO
A must-win fight for Pacquiao or it’s the end. A win will set the rematch with Mayweather. That will happen if he does. Thurman is awkward and has the chance to put himself in line for big fights with a win. Pacquiao has got to hurt Thurman early and get a stoppage win that can happen. Thurman has to try and get through rounds and finish strong to win on points. I think Thurman night try too hard and Pacquiao will catch him and maybe get a stoppage around the middle rounds. If not, Thurman wins on points.
IKE ALTAMURA (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION): PACQUIAO UD
Full credit to Manny for taking on such a lively, dangerous opponent in Keith Thurman. I see Thurman trying to box, and find openings with the right hand down the center. Manny may need to overcome some shaky moments, but I see his punching accuracy, particularly the right hook, being the difference in most rounds.
DUKE McKENZIE (FORMER THREE-WEIGHT WORLD TITLEHOLDER/ TV ANALYST): THURMAN
Pacquiao vs. Thurman like many former boxers I’m wondering how does Pacquiao perform at the highest level time after time to be world champion in eight divisions is truly what legends are made of. Pac-Man take a bow surely he can’t do it again, can he? So now he faces yet another proven world champion in Thurman who I think is very much the fresher of the two and although the champion will fight like a challenger to secure a majority decision or even a late stoppage there may be too many miles on Pac-Man’s clock to keep going.
JOLENE MIZZONE (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): PACQUIAO UD
I know Manny is older, but he is just the better fighter and has fought the better opponents then Thurman. He actually has fought everyone he has had to, which says a lot about him as an all-around fighter. If Thurman pulls it out, kudos to him.
KATHY DUVA (CEO, MAIN EVENTS): PACQUIAO UD
Pacquiao is more active at 40 than Thurman is at 30, who has fought one time in two years. Manny’s speed is still there. His work ethic is still there. And he has so much more experience than Thurman.
ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER, GOLDEN BOY): PACQUIAO UD
Manny Pacquiao is an ageless wonder. It’s incredible after such a long career that we are still discussing these level type fights. I see a chess match for first five rounds and Thurman will respect Pacquiao as he will find Manny still has speed and power. Thurman is young, stronger and undefeated however Manny has seen it all and then some. I believe his experience, and not his age, will show in the fight. I believe that after the first five rounds he will attack Thurman’s body to wear him down. Manny still has enough in the tank to outwork Thurman and finish strong to win a 12-round unanimous decision.
RICKY HATTON (FORMER TWO-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER/TRAINER): PACQUIAO
I’m going for Manny. Thurman can whack, but he’s not looked great recently so if Manny is fast with his footwork which he has been in the past I think he can pull it off I’m going for a points win for Manny.
SERGIO MORA (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/TV ANALYST, DAZN): THURMAN KO 9
I think Pacquiao still is dangerous and is very motivated, but so is Thurman. I see Pacquiao having his moments, getting overly aggressive and caught. Thurman KO 9.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI (FORMER TWO-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST, SHOWTIME): THURMAN PTS
Thurman to win on points, but it’s close.
RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): PACQUIAO PTS
I’m buying the pay-per-view fight. How can I not? Manny Pacquiao does so much for so many others, I want to contribute. With that said, I think it will be a close fight as are the odds. Thurman’s younger with good foot work and a longer reach. Manny has the experience, but is just little slower at this point. Prime Pacquiao would’ve won by KO. Saturday, I think it will be a decision win for Manny Pacquiao in a close fight.
ALEX STEEDMAN (COMMENTATOR): THURMAN UD
We can’t be sure exactly what sort of level both men are operating at right now but for my money Thurman should be favorite. Pacquiao’s wins over Broner (always loses to A-listers), Matthysse (literally on his last legs) and controversial loss to Horn (exposed by Crawford subsequently) suggest he’s slipped by a margin. Thurman did make hard work of his return against Lopez but after two years out its fair to give him a pass. Add to that Pacquiao’s come forward style and this is set up for Thurman providing he does enough in each round and consistently. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thurman breaks out here, winning spectacularly but the likelihood is he takes it comfortably enough on points.
BARRY JONES (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/COMMENTATOR): THURMAN PTS
I think the biggest factors in this fight might be the inactivity of Thurman and the age and desire of Pacquiao. Thurman didn’t look great at all in his last fight against Lopez and that is probably a big factor why Pacquiao has taken this fight. That could be a mistake. That could have been the fight Thurman needed to rid the rust of inactivity. Also, Pacquiao hasn’t looked like the same fighter for a long time. He’s still very good, but lacks the spark and finishing instinct of a vintage Pac-Man. What is his motivation for continuing his career, which is already a HOF one? Is it money? Pacquiao looked good against Broner, but Broner for me is a talent with no substance. That’s a fighter Pacquiao will always beat, so it might have flattered Pacquiao slightly and gave the impression he had rolled back the years. Either way, I feel that the youth and desire to break into the big time and reach the heights that Pacquiao has seen will outweigh and overcome this version of the still-good, but once-brilliant Pac-Man. Thurman on points.
VICTOR SILVA (COMMENTATOR): PACQUIAO UD
Manny Pacquiao keeps surprising me. He adapted well to his age, speed and changed his boxing style. Keith Thurman was out of boxing for almost two years. What he showed against Josesito Lopez was not enough for me, not enough rhythm, not enough power, not enough boxing. It’s strange because of the age of both. But if my decision was made three years ago, I would go with Thurman. Today, I have to pick Manny by unanimous decision.
KALLE SAUERLAND (CHEIF BOXING OFFICER FOR WBSS/PROMOTER): THURMAN PTS
I think Pacquiao will be very strong in the early phases, but I do think Thurman will be victorious on points.
FINAL TALLY: 11-11 even
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright
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