This Saturday night on pay-per-view, the legendary Manny Pacquiao returns once more, as he faces Keith Thurman for the WBA welterweight title in the main event from Las Vegas.
The BLH staffers make their picks for the big fight.
My early pick for this fight was Pacquiao, but it’s one I’ve debated a lot since the announcement. Thurman is the younger man, the slightly bigger man, the natural welterweight. But as far as “natural welterweight” goes, whatever — Manny’s fought at this weight a decade now, it’s not some fluke that he won a fight or two at 147. He’s been a tremendous welterweight for a long time.
Pacquiao is 40 years old, and again, 40 is 40, and everyone gets truly old at some point. He gave Jeff Horn enough of an argument that Horn managed a controversial decision win in 2017, but as much as Manny has never publicly said so, he seems to have taken that performance to heart, and changed just a few things. He worked without Freddie Roach for the win over Lucas Matthysse, and has tried to stay fresh in the wake of the Horn debacle.
Thurman didn’t look particularly good in January against Josesito Lopez, while Pacquiao was sharp, but against Adrien Broner, who at this point in his career barely tries out there.
This isn’t No. 1 vs No. 2 and you might argue that both these guys are past their best days. But boxing matchmaking is so fucking dull and predictable most of the time that I cherish these fights where you actually can make a case for either guy, where however you get to it, they’re legitimately well-matched on paper.
Thurman has talked a good strategic game, but can he execute? And if Josesito Lopez can rock Thurman and sending him running around the ring, what about when Pacquiao inevitably connects clean? I think he can win if he performs the way he was a couple years ago, but I can’t pick Thurman here. I just don’t think he matches up as well with even an aged Manny as he believes he does. Pacquiao UD-12
I’ve been debating this fight in my head ever since it was initially announced, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve flip-flopped on my prediction. Originally I gave the edge to Thurman, not only because he has far less miles on him than Pacquiao, but also because I think he’s shown enough ability to compete at the very top of the welterweight division. Of course there have been concerns regarding his injuries, but at this point I have to at least take Thurman at his word that his right arm is feeling much better, and I think Thurman is cerebral enough to understand what this fight could mean for his career so I’m sure he’s prepared himself as best as possible.
But then the build-up for the fight got into full swing and I saw a version of Pacquiao I haven’t seen lately. Pacquiao appears to be extremely motivated, in great shape, and still plenty fast and powerful. And listening to Pacquiao talk about having a point to prove against Thurman leads me to believe he fully intends to turn back the clock in this outing, hoping to put on a vintage Pacquiao performance. If that turns out to be the case, Thurman is in some real trouble. But Pacquiao is still 40 years old, though, and the first thing to go in aging athletes is consistency. Pacquiao can look as great as can be in all the weeks leading into the fight, but then on fight night itself there could be tightness in his calves or whatever. We’ve seen it before. So because I’m so torn on this fight, I’m just going to stick to my guns on Thurman. Whatever you think of Thurman, the one thing he’s proven is that he’s not scared to stop while on the move, sit down and exchange hard punches when he has to - and I’ve seen him visibly hurt basically every fighter he’s ever been in with doing just that, even ones with really great chins like Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. I’m going with Thurman to edge it out on the cards. Thurman SD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
I don’t know how you can consecutively beat two of the five or six best fighters in your division and wind up with lower stock than when you started, but Keith Thurman managed it. It’s not that he’s not an impressive fighter, it’s that he’s become...forgettable, I suppose. “One Time” was a genuine monster during his rise, putting tough sonsabitches through the meat grinder before sending them to the land of Nod in memorable fashion. Now he has just one finish in the last five years, a bizarre corner stoppage against Luis Collazo, and struggled mightily with the overachieving Josesito Lopez.
Look, I like Josesito Lopez. I think he’s awesome. I also recognize that he cannot handle strong punchers, and ring rust or no, the fact that he was able to plant his feet and slug with Thurman does not say good things about the WBA super champ. And he needs to be able to hurt Manny Pacquiao to win this fight; faded as he is, “Pac-Man” still boasts remarkable speed and combination punching. If Thurman can’t bully him or land a big enough shot to slow the Filipino legend down, he’ll get outworked all night.
Thurman without a one-shot kill is no more imposing than the other standouts Pacquiao’s left in his wake. Unless Thurman’s been storing his power like some knockoff Dragon Ball character, Pacquiao outspeeds and outlands him on the way to a clear 8-4/9-3 decision. Pacquiao UD-12
Thurman’s inactivity could really bite him on the arse against a fighter like Pacquiao. Fast hands (still), fast combinations (still) and a tricky southpaw attack will be hard for Keith to negate in the early stanzas — the longer the fight goes on the more success I expect ‘Pac-Man’ to find in this fight. One KO win — against a shot Matthysse — since 2009 convinces me to believe Manny wins this on the cards, with Thurman proving his toughness in the championship rounds. Pacquiao’s defence can be open at times, but Thurman’s power seems to have faded over the past few years. Thurman’s size shouldn’t cause Pacquiao too many problems with a sustained body attack the recipe for success. Pacquiao UD-12