If every great fighter has one last great fight left in them, then Manny Pacquiao should beat Keith Thurman on Saturday night. But that isn’t always the case.
Boxing has witnessed many a timeless performance, from an aging Azumah Nelson stopping Jeff Fenech in their rematch to a 36-year-old Bernard Hopkins looking better than ever when he TKO’ed Felix Trinidad in 2001.
Yet few have escaped Father Time’s grasp. It caught up to Muhammad Ali. Roy Jones Jr. Oscar De La Hoya and many more.
Perhaps a similar fate awaits the 40-year old Pacquiao (61-72-2, 39 KOs). Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) is an undefeated welterweight champion, a man 10 years his junior, who defeated Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia to unify titles before injury issues sidelined him for 22 months.
Thurman opened as the favorite but those odds have changed in recent weeks. Pacquiao, the eight-division world titlist and Senator from the Philippines, is now the betting favorite.
So, who wins, Pacquiao or Thurman?
Both fighters arrived at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for their grand arrivals on Tuesday afternoon. The PBC on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View begins at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday and is the biggest boxing event of 2019 thus far.
Boxing’s only eight-division World Champion @MannyPacquiao thanks his ?? fans and promises to put on a show Saturday night on @PBConFOX PPV. #TeamPacquaio#PacThurman ?: https://t.co/RZ2n3xjBEn pic.twitter.com/br5PoIekju
— PBC (@premierboxing) July 16, 2019
Undefeated Welterweight World Champ @keithfthurmanjr promises it’s “Game Over” for @MannyPacquiao Saturday night on #PBConFOXPPV. #TeamThurman #PacThurman ?ℹ️: https://t.co/RZ2n3xjBEn pic.twitter.com/zFGt5S6DLz
— PBC (@premierboxing) July 16, 2019
The brash Thurman has promised to make Pacquiao quit, possibly stop him in six rounds. Pacquiao says Thurman’s trash talk motivates him and he vows to teach his younger opponent a lesson. The fighters sound confident, but don’t make your prediction until you check out our breakdown of Pacquiao vs. Thurman:
Pacquiao is an athletic freak of nature. Even at 40, he still has some of the fastest hands in the sport. But Thurman is no slouch in this category. He is an unorthodox, active boxer-puncher who out-sped both Porter and Garcia—and every opponent he’s every faced.
However, Pacquiao throws his punches in bunches from his southpaw stance. It isn’t one shot at a time, it’s a flurry of hard shots thrown at rapid-fire speed. Give him the slight edge here.
Thurman was once considered one of the fiercest punchers at welterweight. He is still a formidable hitter but seemed to lack some pop during his January bout versus journeyman Josesito Lopez which ended the long layoff. Thurman managed a knockdown in the second with a beautiful left hook, but Lopez rose unhurt—and didn’t seem overly-bothered by any other punch Thurman landed.
Despite his “One Time” moniker and “KOs for Life” motto, Thurman has stopped only one opponent (Luis Collazo on cuts) since April 2014. But Pacquiao has registered only TKO since 2009. Both aren’t one-punch KO guys but they can hurt each other. We give the natural welterweight in Thurman the edge in this category.
Prior to his layoff, Thurman took plenty of hard shots to the jaw and took most of them well. However, it should be noted that Thurman was badly hurt to the body against Collazo in July 2015.
In his only fight since the time away, Thurman was rocked by a left hook to the jaw in the seventh round versus Lopez. Lopez would hurt him again later in the round. Although Thurman escaped without further damage, Pacquiao is a craftier, more dangerous puncher than Lopez and has the speed to land.
Pacquiao was barely touched in his domination of Adrien Broner last January. His chin has proven to be sturdy, but he was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 and hurt several other times. He won’t want to take too many of Thurman’s hard shots. No fighter has the advantage over the other in this category.
Thurman was an accomplished amateur with over 100 fights and has fought a slew of top welters as a professional. Pacquiao learned on the job, turning pro at 15. He is vastly more experienced, having competed in nearly 300 more rounds than Thurman professionally. Plus, he has faced a who’s who of boxing greats since he first burst onto the scene in 2002. Pacquiao has a significant advantage in experience.
Will Pacquiao bask in the victor’s glory for old time’s sake? Or will it be a coming-out party for Thurman?
Though Thurman has done much of the talking, Pacquiao appears relaxed and confident. If he can counter Thurman, or land well to the body, he could put him on his heels and use his boxing brain to catch the champion and score points. A Pacquiao knockout is another possibility, if he can catch Thurman coming in.
That can happen to Pacquiao too. Thurman is particularly aggressive early and promises to test Pacquiao’s chin from the get-go with bombs. If Pacquiao makes a mistake, which he can be prone to do, Thurman is fast enough and hits hard enough to get his attention quickly.
But is “One Time” the same fighter he was before injuries momentarily derailed his career? How will he handle the pressure of this big event, facing a man who has spent half his career fighting under the bright lights?
All those questions will be answered on Saturday night when we find out if Pacquiao has another great fight in him or if he will be passing the torch on to the new welterweight king.