LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 19, 2019 – Long before a boxer steps into the ring, the fight is won or lost in the mind. Physical skills are important, but every punch, step, and will to continue when things get tough are controlled and driven by the mind and emotional strength.
When eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines (61-7-2, 39 KOs) steps into the ring Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to face Keith “One Time” Thurman of Florida (29-0, 22 KOs), the fight will already be won or lost in the mind.
Both fighters made weight on Friday under the welterweight limit at 146.5 pounds.
“I’m ready. This is my time. It’s grind time and it’s show time. I’m planning on giving fans an incredible fight – one to be remembered,” said Thurman.
“Tomorrow night, class is in session. I hope Keith Thurman studied hard, because Professor Pacquiao gives very hard tests,” said a smiling “Fighting Senator” Pacquiao.
A majority of the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the weigh-in are “PacMan” fans. Sports Books expect many of them and Asian fans around the world to pour money into wagers backing their favorite, skewing the odds already in Pacquiao’s favor even more so.
Throughout Fight Week in Las Vegas, predictions have been made, and game plans discussed in detail. That a 40-year-old who’s fought 474 rounds is considered competitive against a 30-year-old who’s fought 148 rounds and who holds the WBA Super World Welterweight title is remarkable. It introduces so many possible scenarios and subplots, you need a sophisticated spreadsheet to track them all.
Two men who speak from direct experience crystalize the key arguments from the fighter’s perspective and demonstrate why so many people are putting money on the veteran Fighting Senator.
Barrera on Pacquiao: ‘Difficult to face’
Former champion Marco Antonio Barrera, who lost a lopsided decision to Pacquiao in 2007 to for the WBC Super Featherweight title, says “It’s very difficult to face Pacquiao. He’s a lefty and sometimes he jumps a meter away from you and then he’s right back in front of you. I’m a fighter that’s very technical, so that made it even harder to hit Manny Pacquiao.
“Pacquiao puts in a lot of pressure and is always on top of you. Psychologically it’s a tough fight to fight Manny Pacquiao at any time because you think that he is going to go back, but then he switches it up. He maintains a constant pressure on you mentally.
Noting Pacquiao’s body attack, Barrera said “He hits that left right into the stomach, it’s devastating. That’s how he hit me in that first fight that we had. Now he’s fighting a younger guy, 10 years younger than him, he is really going to work the body on Saturday.
“At the end of the day we all get nervous when we go into the ring especially with such a big event. But once you get into the ring and start fighting, you start adapting to it and then the plan of attack that you have been training for comes into play.”
Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones Jr., Shane Mosley, Andy Ruiz, Jr., Mikey Garcia, Roberto Duran, Gary Russell, Jr., Jessie Vargas, trainer Joel Diaz, and Ray Mancini are among those who believe Pacquiao will win,
Porter on Thurman: ‘The will to win’
Former welterweight champion Shawn Porter, who lost a close decision to Thurman in 2016, also predicts a Pacquiao win. “One thing about Keith is he does not say anything that he does not mean. He believes in everything he says. The confidence that you see coming from him now is very real. The number one thing about Keith is that he has the will to win. With 29 wins and no losses, he figures out a way to do it … I’m a firm believer that he’s going to go out there and try to put the gas to the pedal really quick and try to get Manny out of there,” said Porter.
But in the end, “I’m going with Manny Pacquiao, who still has the hunger, several levels of competitive spirit and quickness out of that southpaw stance that’s hard to game plan for. Keith Thurman’s young but coming off of a very long layoff and a level of relaxation and comfort that makes it difficult for me to see him being ready for this fight. I don’t think Keith’s body will be able to withstand what’s going to come during those championship rounds. Pacquiao weathers the early storm and wins a decision.”
But Thurman isn’t without supporters who see him winning, including Deontay Wilder, Errol Spence, Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard, Leo Santa Cruz, Julian Williams, and trainers Derrick James, Ronnie Shields, and Andre Rozier.
Roach: Pressure is on Thurman to perform
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, says Pacquiao has worked harder than ever across a 24-year professional boxing career. “Thurman will try to keep up with Manny’s pace and that’s when ‘One Time’ finds out what it’s like to fight All Time. Thurman will then be faced with an unenviable choice. Does he run away from an old man like (Adrien) Broner, or get pushed around the ring by an old man, like (Lucas) Matthysse? Manny will have the Fighter of the Year award wrapped up after this one.”
“Thurman is ten years younger than Manny and Manny is the one who has been more active. This will be Manny’s third world title fight in 12 months! The pressure is all on Thurman to perform. I think he will make a show of it early and come after Manny. That’s when reality will set it,” said Roach.
As the fighters appeared together for the final news conference before Saturday’s fight, and interacted briefly at the weigh-in, specific themes emerge. Call them talking points if you believe they emerge by design in a disciplined way.
Pacquiao: ‘I can still show my best’
Pacquiao is cheerful, relaxed, and confident. “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 fight and a once-in-a-lifetime fight. 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.
“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. My feeling right now is happiness and excitement to prove that at the age of 40, I can still show my best,” said Pacquiao.
Thurman: ‘My personal legacy’
Thurman is the boxer on a hot tin roof, speaking in staccato declarative sentences. “Manny isn’t going to do anything 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 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 … I do need the victory to further my own personal legacy come Saturday night,” added Thurman.
Thurman spent nearly two years out of the ring due to elbow surgery and enjoying personal pursuits, including trips abroad and getting married. He admits to feeling depressed at times and wondering if his career was over at age 28 or 29. Thurman also admitted in a media interview his doubts concerning his health and his future.
“My grandfather never liked that I was going to be boxer … My grandfather said, “If you’re going to do it boy, get in and get out. He meant it in a two-fold way. He meant if you can stop them, stop them and get out of the ring early and make your money and get out of boxing while you’ve got sense and you can talk straight.
“I’m going to do my best to not take too many shots come July 20th. A few more of these paychecks and we won’t be here when we’re 40 years old. I don’t need 100 million dollars in life. I just need a little bit of moolah.”
Age not a fight factor – but fear might be one
Both men are physically prepared and have the skills to win Saturday. Age will be a factor in Saturday’s upcoming fight, but other factors are likely to make age irrelevant.
Pacquiao’s career greatness over two centuries and three decades cannot be denied. His speed, footwork, and ability to land punches with accuracy from unexpected angles with power has always made him dangerous. He can be a little reckless, and when he makes a mistake it can be a big one, as when Juan Manuel Marquez caught Pacquiao with the counterpunch of all time, knocking Pacquiao out cold in 2012.
But even a slowed down, less powerful Pacquiao is still the faster, busier man in the ring against all but the most elite fighters.
Thurman has more raw power, but he hasn’t scored a knockout since 2013. He can dismiss his performance against Josesito Lopez as the product of ring rust. But the world saw Thurman come dangerously close to getting knocked out by Lopez, who wasn’t expected to be any kind of threat.
It’s a lot harder to empty your mind of mental ring rust, and concerns about getting hit. Thurman is honest about these issues.
Ringside Seat’s prediction: who will win Pacquiao vs Thurman?
Thurman’s best chance to beat Pacquiao is to come running at him from the opening bell, being aggressive and emptying the tank in the first few rounds. This is where his youth and size can serve him. But if Pacquiao can avoid any serious damage through footwork and defense, Thurman will need to find another way to win, and it will be difficult.
Pacquiao can roll up round after round on the scorecards by staying busy, fast, and elusive. He can win by delivering the type of fight he could have won against Floyd Mayweather if he had been physically capable of doing so. This time, he is. 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.
We see Manny Pacquiao winning the fight by going the distance, avoiding any one time threats, and prevailing by a unanimous decision over Keith Thurman Saturday.
“The fact that this fight is happening is the best part about it,” said Porter. There’s so many different variables that add up in this fight. I think that that’s the best part about this matchup. It’s really interesting and exciting. I can pick Manny or he can pick Keith but at the end of the day, we all have to watch on Saturday night.”
Undercard set: Figueroa vs Ugas, Lipinets vs Inson, Nery vs Payano
The pay-per-view begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. In the co-main event, undefeated former world champion Omar “El Panterita” Figueroa Jr. of Texas (28-0-1, 19 KOs) taking on Yordenis Ugás of Cuba (23-4, 11 KOs) in a WBC welterweight title eliminator.
Former world champion Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan (15-1, 11 KOs) is now facing substitute opponent Javar Inson of the Philippines (18-2, 12 KOs). John “The Gladiator” Molina, Jr. had to withdraw on Friday due to a reported back injury.
Undefeated bantamweight and former world champion Luis “Pantera” Nery of Tijuana, Mexico (29-0, 23 KOs) was stripped of his title for failing to make weight, and he came in heavy at 118.5 for his flyweight fight against Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic (21-2, 9 KOs). Nery was given one hour to make weight, and he did so at 118 pounds.
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.
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.
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