Monday, March 20, 2023  |


Keith Thurman can’t offer anything Manny Pacquiao hasn’t seen before

(Harry How/Getty Images)

Manny Pacquiao plays it well. It’s taken years of practice to master, and a great deal of verve to keep his natural fighting instincts from boiling over when it comes to dealing with brash talkers like Keith “One Time” Thurman.

So, Pacquiao is 40.

So, the only opponent he’s stopped within the distance the last decade was Lucas Matthysse. Prior to that, he stopped Miguel Cotto—in 2009, when he was 30, the same age as Thurman is now.

So, Thurman is a decade younger.

So, Pacquiao is supposed to be “shopworn,” “too old,” “past his prime.”

So what.

When “Pac-Man” meets the unbeaten WBA welterweight champion Thurman (29-0, 22 knockouts) this Saturday on the PBC on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View (9PM ET/ 6PM PT) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the future Hall of Famer won’t be phased at all. He never is.

Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) will wear his usual smirk, punch at the air, and try and summon some magical remnants he obviously still believes he possesses.

For now, his pre-fight game is replete with stoic dispassion.

“For me nothing is personal,” Pacquiao said. “I have to do my job and there is nothing personal with him. Our job is to fight and he has to prove something, and I have to prove something. That’s why I’m so motivated for this fight and this training camp. It’s also my first time fighting on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View, so I’m excited to fight on Saturday.

“I’m just always smiling no matter what Keith says. It’s easy to say things, but it’s not easy to do it in the ring. I’ve been in this sport longer than Keith Thurman, so my experience will be the difference. This is going to be an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime fight. Like he has said, there is going to be a lot of action in the ring. I respect my opponent because we both believe we can give a good fight to the fans. That’s our first concern. The fans and the enjoyment of the fans. It would mean a lot to be 40-years-old and beat someone undefeated. It shows that I can still fight against the best.

“We did our best in training and I believe we are physically ready, as well as spiritually ready. I expect a good fight so tune-in Saturday. The way Thurman spoke today, I hope he will live up to it on Saturday. I consider this fight one of the most important of my career because I am 40 I want to prove something. My opponent is very good at talking but we’ll see what happens in the ring.”

Again, nothing untoward. Pac-Man didn’t promise to eat Thurman’s children or anything crazy.

But Thurman sometimes sounds as if he’s trying to convince himself of something—that maybe in the recesses of his fistic DNA is a small voice that warns him, “The old man may have a little something left.” That despite all of his bravado, Thurman will do nothing more than poke, prod and jab at Pacquiao for 12 rounds, and count on referee Kenny Bayless to break them up quickly each time Pacquiao gets too close.

“Manny isn’t going to do anything,” Thurman says. “With the little ‘T-Rex’ arms. He’s about to get beat up. I get to punch a Senator in the face and he’s going to feel it. If he’s upset about it, he can do something about it Saturday night. It’s called swing, swing, swing baby. I’m a winner in life, and to bet on myself to win in the opening rounds, it makes me do what I said earlier, which is swing, swing, swing. You’ve got to swing to hit a home run. You can’t just sit there and pump fake all day.

“I say I’m going to put him to sleep because I’ve got power. I want to remind the world of something. Something very simple: I’m Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman. I have the name for a reason. Not a short season.”

In July 2015, Thurman was hurt a little by Luis Collazo. Coming off what was nearly a two-year layoff, he was hurt a lot by Josesito Lopez in the seventh round of their fight in January of this year. How will One Time react then?

“That’s Thurman’s style to talk a lot,” Pacquiao said. “Like I said, it gives me more motivation to focus, and it has helped me a lot leading up to this fight. I’m not predicting a knockout for this fight, but we did our best in this training camp. I’m focused and motivated, so we’ll see. I’ll do my best to make the fans happy.”

It’s a familiar refrain from the Senator who is the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing.

And for over 60 times his words were followed by positive results.

Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/ since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.



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