LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 16, 2019 – Generating excitement for a title fight at age 40 with a legitimate chance to win is a feat accomplished by very few boxers. Wladimir Klitschko and Bernard Hopkins are among the rare examples.
Even fewer reach this milestone in the smaller weight divisions, where boxers seem to ‘age’ more quickly than their bigger brothers and sisters. Manny Pacquiao’s status as he heads for his WBA World Welterweight Championship title fight this Saturday, July 20 as the favorite against Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs), age 30, is a rarity, but Pacquiao has always occupied a unique place as an athlete.
If you don’t believe it, believe the massive throng of fans who showed up Tuesday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to witness Pacquio’s formal arrival for Fight Week ahead of Saturday’s PBC on Fox Sports PPV event. Yes, there were Thurman fans present, but the majority who waited hours for their moment wanted to see PacMan.
Believe the bookmakers, who aren’t in the habit of losing money.
Perhaps you can believe your eyes, as Pacquiao looks fit and genuinely happy to be approaching his battle with Thurman on Saturday.
Athletes in all sports benefit from improved exercise science, nutrition, and medical care, or we wouldn’t have a Tom Brady or Roger Federer. Before them, Satchel Paige and Gordie Howe. With the exception of Howe, they weren’t hitting people and getting hit for a living.
Boxing’s only eight-division champion has nothing left to prove on his way to the Boxing Hall of Fame. At this point in his career, fighting has other rewards. Pacquiao says it’s because he loves activity.
“I really love exercise. I’m addicted to exercise,” said Pacquiao speaking to boxing media. “And even if I don’t have a scheduled fight, I always, most every day, I exercise and I’m playing basketball four to five hours almost every day. So when this time comes and when I have a scheduled fight, then I’m so motivated myself to work hard, to train hard, and to focus to the fight.”
Pacquiao says he knows “a lot of our fans and people in boxing were doubting my capability at the age of 40. So I have to prove something this time, because at the age of 40 I’m not thinking about my age. I’m thinking about what I can do for the fans.”
Pacquiao can’t do it alone, though. Fans weren’t thrilled paying to see Pacquiao fight Adrien Broner as his first opponent in 2019. They’re far more enthusiastic thanks to talented Thurman agreeing to take the fight.
Mental fitness key to fight’s outcome
Age will be a factor in Saturday’s upcoming fight, but mental fitness will the greater factor. If you believe all fights are won or lost in the mind before anyone steps in the ring, the days leading to Saturday’s fight may be pivotal.
Thurman says he’s happy to be sharing a ring with Pacquiao, “a living legend.” A strong welterweight ten years younger than his opponent should be a solide favorite to win. Oddsmakers and plenty of boxing experts are picking Pacquiao. In an informal poll conducted by the promoters, the tally was 24 for Pacquiao, 19 for Thurman, and three calling a draw. Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones Jr., and trainer Joel Diaz are among those who pick Pacquiao; Deontay Wilder, Leo Santa Cruz, and trainer Robert Garcia see Thurman winning. Take note that Andy Ruiz Jr. picks Pacquiao.
Thurman returned to the ring after a two-year layoff due to injury and other pursuits, and didn’t impress in his bout against Josesito Lopez in April. Thurman admits now he didn’t train seriously, and is still shaking off the emotional ring rust from wondering whether his career was over before the age of 30 after his elbow injury and layoff.
“That’s been the talk of the town ever since they talked about the fight. At the end of the day, who cares? This still is the most exciting fight of the year,” declared Thurman. “If Manny Pacquiao is the man that beats me, he’s the man that beats me and I’m going to shake his hand after the fight and congratulate him.”
Thurman still in prime, prepared to challenge himself
“I started having to ask myself the question are you ever going to fight again. Is your career over at the age of 28, 29 years old? Are you done? Is that all that you will ever accomplish in your career? It was sad, but I could still be proud about being a two-time world champion.
“I’m still in my prime so it was quite depressing to start thinking like that, and obviously I got myself out of that chain of thought and getting into the gym also helps because as you’re not training, you’re not feeling good either,” explained Thurman.
“I know what kind of champion I am and it just takes certain fights and certain challenges for me to prove how I can fight out of rough situations,” said Thurman. “In the seventh round (against Lopez) I showed once again that Keith Thurman is not a punk. If you want to fight me, fight me. You want to hurt me, hurt me. If you drop me, you drop me, but you better stop me. As long as you don’t stop me, I’m coming out the champion like I always do because that’s what I do; I box hard, I box smart, and I’m always looking for the win. I’m always prepared to challenge myself.”
Any athlete can have an off night, but with Thurman gone from the ring so long, it’s a serious concern for his team. Pacquiao said he and Freddie Roach are completely focused and not taking Thurman for granted.
Pacquiao, Roach promise they’re well prepared for Thurman
“I’m not considering his performance and style on that fight because he just came back from a long layoff of almost two years. So I understand that. This time, this fight I’m sure he’ll be in 100 percent condition, and I’m sure he did a lot of things in training,” said Pacquiao.
“How I fight in the ring and my strategy, my footwork, that’s not changing but it’s still the same. But I’m more experienced and my timing in the ring is better than ever.”
Pacquiao says even Thurman’s trash-talking is helping motivate him although “he made even my mom get mad.”
Trainer Roach promises Pacquiao is more than ready. “His work ethic is unbelievable. He wants to work every minute of every day. He wants to do 40 rounds a day in the ring and so forth. We do have to hold him back a little bit …We got him right where we want him right now and he’s in great shape. He’s ready to go.”
“I just want to maintain my name in the top of boxing and continue my career. I already accomplished what I want to accomplish in boxing. I’m continuing my career because boxing is my passion. I have lots to do in this, especially because God gave me these blessings and favor that they gave me good health and this is speed and power,” said Pacquiao.
It’s still good to be Manny Pacquiao
Like it or loathe it, Father Time is chasing Manny Pacquiao down. He won’t be in the ring much longer. Fans don’t realize how much they will miss him. Out of respect for his accomplishments, consider carefully whether you really want to miss seeing Pacquiao on Saturday.
It’s still good to be Manny Pacquiao. It’s still fun and still reasonable to be a Manny Pacquiao fan in 2019. Who knew? Even against the man once considered to be at the top of the welterweight division, Pacquiao is favored to win by many knowledgeable boxing professionals from all aspects of the sport.
So why fight it? Get a few friends together, divide the $75 among three or four of you and it’s nothing more than you’d blow for an average meal. Or treat some people who have been good to you to a show. These days, Senator Manny Pacquiao is all about enjoying himself and giving back to the people at home. It’s a fine example to follow.
Pacquiao vs. Thurman airs on Premier Boxing Champions on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View Saturday, July 20, from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The pay-per-view begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and will also feature undefeated former world champion Omar “El Panterita” Figueroa Jr. taking on Yordenis Ugás in a WBC welterweight title eliminator, plus former world champion Sergey Lipinets against rugged veteran John “The Gladiator” Molina, Jr., and undefeated bantamweight Luis “Pantera” Nery versus Juan Carlos Payano.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, based in San Diego, California, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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