A Battle of the Ages: Manny Pacquiao vs Keith Thurman

WBA (Super) Welterweight Champ Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-0, 22KOs) will meet future Hall of Famer and WBA (Regular) Welterweight Champ Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao (61-7, 39KOs) this Saturday, July 20th, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is one of the biggest fights of the year. It pits old versus young, legend versus champion, but it is lion versus lion. This is a 50-50 fight going in. It really depends on if Thurman can channel his old self and the true hunger and killer instinct he had before his injuries that kept him out of the ring for two years.

Highlights from Thurman’s last fight with Josesito Lopez.

Keith Thurman is coming off what some boxing pundits would say was an underwhelming performance against Josesito “The Riverside Rocky” Lopez (36-8, 19KOs). Lopez had Thurman hurt and out on his feet in Round 7 and nearly knocked him out. To Thurman’s credit he came back and was able to win on the scorecards via a majority decision. Was it because it was his first fight back and he was just shaking off the rust? Maybe. We can’t judge an undefeated champion fighter based on one shaky performance, especially after such a long layoff. However, it undoubtedly leaves unanswered questions ahead of this fight though. Does Thurman still have “it”? Can Thurman regain his previously unquestioned ability and killer instinct? Can he get the job done against an aging legend? One would think a prime 30 year old champion would get the job done with ease; however, Pacquiao is a special opponent.

Highlights from Pacquiao’s last fight vs Adrien Broner

Manny Pacquiao is a boxing legend, an all time great, and future Hall of Famer. When you think he’s going to retire, he just keeps fighting on. Thurman will be his biggest test since fighting Floyd “Money” Mayweather (50-0, 27KOs) in 2015 in which he lost via unanimous decision. At 40 years of age, it’s surprising that Pac Man still has his legs, his speed, and respectable power. He has not shown signs of a rapid decline yet. Father time always wins, but when will it strike Pacquiao? He is coming off a unanimous decision win against Adrien “The Problem” Broner (33-4-1, 24KOs) where he easily defeated the former champ. Make no mistake about it, Keith Thurman is no Broner and we all expect an exciting fight come Saturday.

However, one thing putting a little cloud of suspicion over the fight is that there is no VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) testing. For those of you who are unaware, VADA is the gold standard for drug testing in boxing. It is completely voluntary and paid for by the boxers/promoters. NSAC will instead do the drug testing, which is standard and mandatory. While NSAC’s testing should suffice, it is a bit surprising that for this caliber of fight, both fighters/promoters could not agree on VADA testing.

Keys to Victory for Keith Thurman:

  • Use footwork and angles. One key for Thurman will be landing power shots off of his back foot, creating angles to force Pacquiao to open up. Everyone knows Pacquiao loves to come forward throwing punches in bunches. Thurman can lure him in while backing up and get his power punches off at the same time. If he can catch Pacquiao early, maybe Thurman can surprise Pac Man and put him away early.
  • Use timing and counter-punching. Pacquiao comes in and out quickly and he gets into a specific rhythm. If Thurman can use his good timing, get to Pac Man in the early rounds, and let off powerful counters, it opens up a lot of possibilities. Thurman’s main goal is to mess up Pacquiao’s rhythm. That’s how Pac Man wins his fights. Excellent/consistent rhythm.
  • Don’t exchange, box and move around A LOT. Personally, I don’t think it is smart for Thurman to try and exchange toe-to-toe with Pacquiao. Too much volume punching from Pac and Thurman will get caught too much. Thurman could counter, but he could counter and test Manny’s legs by using a lot of lateral movement and forcing Manny to come find him. Going toe-to-toe could work, but Thurman will need some luck. Manny is 40 years old and most boxers legs are not what they used to be at that age. Thurman should test his legs rather than his chin. Thurman is very smart, he’s fast, has great footwork, and is a solid welterweight. I’m not saying don’t fire off those power shots, but do it intelligently. Thurman has too high of a boxing IQ to go in there and try to brawl with Manny Pacquiao.

Keys to Victory for Manny Pacquiao:

  • Go to the body early and often. We saw in Thurman’s past fights that Collazo hurt him to the body, Lopez had some success going to the body and Thurman had trouble blocking those shots. They set up the head shots that almost put away Thurman in the 7th round of his fight with Lopez. The difference is that Manny has the ring IQ, speed and killer instinct to finish the fight given the same scenario. Manny likes to throw that straight left to the body, then come right upstairs with either a hook or uppercut. That’s how you stun someone and that’s how you get a guy confused and guessing.
  • Come forward intelligently / use angles. This is something Manny does very well, has always done well. Once he gets into a rhythm, he cannot get complacent or careless. He needs to use his footwork, angles, speed and explosiveness all at once. Come in, come out, come in, come out. Thurman should be moving a lot and Manny can use his own movement to cut him off, box him in against the ropes and into the corner. Then he can let off his explosive/fast hands. If Manny has his legs for most of the fight, then we will see a lot of this.
  • High Velocity/Volume Combos. This will give Thurman the most trouble. The movement in and out, side to side alone presents obstacles for any fighter. But mix in ridiculous speed and high volume of punches! It presents a huge problem for Thurman, especially if the fight goes the distance. Thurman isn’t known to throw in high volume. He picks his spots more and he’s accurate so it hasn’t been a problem for him so fr, but he has never fought someone like Pacquiao.
Promo (long version)

Fight Prediction:

This fight is truly a 50/50 fight. You got the old legend in Pacquiao who still looks sharp, still has his legs, still has his speed and his explosiveness. Then you have Thurman who has a great boxing skill set with great footwork and great power. It will be fun to see how the styles mix.

It’s very difficult for anyone to prepare for someone like Pacquiao because there is really no other boxer who fights like him, at least not at welterweight or anywhere near the welterweight division. Pacquiao moves like he is at 126-130 pounds — his speed is phenomenal. Thurman also showed heavy rust in his comeback fight against a guy he should have beat handily. Did he fully shake the rust? There are so many unknowns here.

If you were to ask me 2-3 years ago who I think would win, I’d lean towards Thurman a lot more. Now I’m not so sure. The outcome of this fight depends heavily on Pacquiao continuing to hold off father time and Thurman fully shaking off the ring rust and returning to his prime time form, which we didn’t see versus Lopez. We saw a hurt Thurman struggle to recover for two rounds and survive a fight that he should have easily won. But we must respect that he was intelligent enough to survive.

We also must understand that Manny Pacquiao has a much higher boxing IQ than Josesito Lopez and that given the same scenario, Pacquiao probably would have finished that fight with a KO. Many boxers, analysts, writers, and fans are equally torn on predicting this fight. I give a slight edge to Pacquiao just because he’s so fast, the way he moves in and out, and the high volume of punches that he throws. I don’t think Keith will be able to match it, and I don’t think he clips Pacquiao either, not clean enough to knock him out anyways. Prediction: Pacquiao UD

This is a pretty good fight card. The main card will be shown on FOX PPV, starting at 9PM ET. For our UK fans, it will be shown on ITV Box Office. The ring walk for the main event is estimated to be around 11:30PM ET. Other fights on the main card:

  • Co-Feature: Omar Figueroa Jr. (28-0-1 19KOs) vs. Yordenis Ugas (23-4 11KOs) Welterweight/12 rounds
  • Mike Lee (21-0 11KOs) vs. IBF Super Middleweight Champ Caleb Plant (18-0 10KOs) Super Middleweight/12 rounds
  • John Molina Jr. (30-8 24KOs) vs. Sergey Lipinets (15-1 11KOs) Welterweight/12 rounds

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