The fight between welterweight world titlist Keith Thurman and the legend Manny Pacquiao, who holds a secondary belt, matches fighters with a 10-year gap in their ages and untold miles on their boxing odometers.
Thurman’s issues haven’t been hard, grueling fights but injuries that have kept the 30-year old relatively inactive in recent years. Pacquiao, the only fighter to win titles in eight divisions, is 40 and has been fighting professionally for 24 years and had numerous hard fights that have perhaps taken their toll.
As far as Thurman is concerned, he will send the old man into retirement when they square off on July 20 (Fox PPV) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“I’m gonna make a big statement. You are not gonna want to miss this fight, especially because it’s about to be this man’s last fight,” Thurman said just a few feet away from Pacquiao when they met at the kickoff news conference on Tuesday in New York.
Thurman invoked a famous fight from 11 years ago to explain how he believes the fight will go.
“I’ve always wanted to fight some of the greatest names in the sport of boxing. Years ago I wanted Floyd Mayweather, I wanted Manny Pacquiao,” Thurman said. “Floyd’s gone. Pacquiao’s here and he wants the challenge, and I’m very grateful, very happy to be sharing the ring with a legend like Manny Pacquiao. But for those who know boxing and truly understand boxing history, times change.
“I believe boxing has come to a new era. Floyd is gone. Pacquiao’s here. Come July 20, he will disappear. He’s a legend. He will always be remembered, but I’m doing to Manny Pacquiao what he did to Oscar De La Hoya. Oscar De La Hoya never fought again. Facts.”
Indeed, the prime Pacquiao moved up in weight to face De La Hoya in a 2008 mega fight. De La Hoya, now a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, was the favorite but Pacquiao brutalized him in a one-sided eighth-round knockout, after which the Golden Boy retired.
“This most likely will be Manny Pacquiao’s last fight,” Thurman said. “I love the sport of boxing but we’re in a new generation. Look at the heavyweights. There is no more Klitschkos. The Klitschkos (Wladimir and Vitali) are gone. In the welterweight division the king was Floyd Mayweather. He is gone. The legend Pacquiao, he’s here. He will be here July 20th. But come the 21st, he is gone.”
Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), a senator in his native Philippines, who will train and fight while the senate is in recess, smiled when Thurman mentioned the beating he gave De La Hoya.
“You think I’m playing but this ain’t no game,” Thurman told him.
In his storied career, Pacquiao has heard it all from opponents so he did not seem at all put off by Thurman’s remarks.
“I’ve been boxing for two decades and I’m never scared or intimidated. I am so excited for this fight because I am fighting with somebody who is undefeated,” Pacquiao said. “Keith Thurman is the kind of fighter you can’t underestimate. He’s undefeated and this gives me more encouragement and motivation to work hard like what I did before in my biggest fights against big names in boxing. I will not predict this fight but I will make sure I am 100 percent conditioned and ready for the fight. Let’s see who’s tougher in the ring on July 20. This is going to be exciting.
“I chose Keith Thurman because he’s undefeated and I want to prove that at the age of 40 I can still beat undefeated fighters.”
As for his role as the underdog for a rare time — and for the first time since his blockbuster with Mayweather in 2015 — Pacquiao embraced it.
“I like it that I am the underdog for this fight. This gives me more motivation to work hard in training and it’s fun,” Pacquiao said. “This is what I want. Sometimes I became careless and overconfident because I’m so favored in every fight but his time around it’s different. We know Keith Thurman is a good fighter also. We will make sure the fans will be happy on July 20. That’s a guarantee.”
On Jan. 26, Thurman returned from a 22-month layoff caused by right elbow surgery followed by a left hand injury to retain his 147-pound world title for the fifth time, winning a majority decision over Josesito Lopez in a much tougher than expected fight in Brooklyn. New York.
Thurman admitted it was not his best showing but said it will be different with Pacquiao.
“I’ve waited 22 months to get back in the game,” he said. “People can say what they want about my injuries. I’m a professional athlete. We have our ups and downs and obviously your boy Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman is back on the rise. I’m here.
“They saw me brush off the dust but you could see the dust against Josesito Lopez. You know that that wasn’t the best Keith Thurman you’ve ever seen. Come July 20 you will see one of the best Keith Thurmans you’ve ever seen. ‘One Time’ is back. It’s been four years since I’ve fought two times in one year. I was injured, (then) I fought Josesito Lopez. I’m taking the momentum from that training camp and I’m getting a better training camp ready right now for this fight.”
Pacquiao had a strong performance Jan. 19, when he retained his belt for the first time by cruising to a unanimous decision against former four-division titlist Adrien Broner, also at the MGM Grand.
Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs), of Clearwater, Florida said nobody should put stock in that victory.
“I’m excited to be the guy who shows him the exit’s on the left,” Thurman said. “At the end of the day, two years ago, yesterday, today, Manny Pacquiao is a legend. He’s done great things. I’ve never lost to a fighter who’s lost seven times. I have no intentions of losing to Manny Pacquiao. I don’t see him winning any way, shape or form. … He’s 40, I’m 30. I want to show him that this ain’t Adrien Broner. My ‘AB’ is I be ‘about business.’ I throw these hands. I’m gonna let them go.
“He walked out of that ring and said, ‘I feel good. I can fight more.’ I know you can because you didn’t get hit in your face! He wasn’t in a real fight. Come July 20th, we’re gonna see how much Manny Pacquiao is willing to give the sport of boxing. I believe he’s given it all that he has. But we will find out soon. I respect Pacquiao. I know he comes in shape, but he’s just gonna fall short of the finish line.
“Trash talk doesn’t mean nothing but when he’s on that mat catching that night-night on the 20th it’s really gonna mean something. And on the 21st I guarantee he’s not gonna want to see a rematch even though it’s in the contract. I don’t think this boy’s gonna want to see it after I finish him off.”
Pacquiao was unemotional about Thurman’s boasts.
“Keith Thurman doesn’t scare me. He inspires me,” Pacquiao said. “My story is 40 years in the making. My time is not yet over. My journey will continue. I’m not ready to look back. I’m still looking forward.”