Bill Tibbs writes about what we can expect to see this Saturday night
40-year old men, who happen to hold down side jobs in politics, as Senators in their home country, generally don’t have time for a professional sports careers after hours – especially if your side gig happens to be world championship boxing!
But Manny Pacquiao isn’t like most people.
On July 20, live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao ( 61-7-2, 39 KOs) will take on Keith “One Time” Thurman ( 29-0, 22 KOs) in a battle for the WBA super world welterweight title.
It could be easy to see this bout as an undefeated fighter in his prime (Thurman) against a fighter who is living on the fumes of a great career (Pacquiao) that has seen its better days. However, the seemingly ageless Pacquiao, a full-time senator in his home country of the Philippines, has edged up to even (or slightly ahead, depending on your source) in the odds against the once heavily favored Thurman.
Pacquiao has looked very good in camp working with his longtime friend and trainer Buboy Fernandez, trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning coach Justin Fortune. But, boxing is a sport where many fighters look like champions in the gym but transferring that into practice under game conditions on fight night can be a much harsher task. So, the questions remain. Is Manny just looking good on the mitts and in sparring? Will Thurman bring Pacquiao back to reality and remind him why he’s an undefeated champion who is also 10 years his junior? Or can Manny do what he has done many times in the sport (defying logic, assumptions and conventional wisdom) and pull off a win against one of boxing’s best?
Manny is going to either look like a former great, whose best days are in the rear view mirror, who is trying to take one more victory lap, or he is going to look like the great fighter he is who was again able to defy the undefeated Father Time once more.
But, as good as Manny has looked in training, he is in with a tough, undefeated and motivated fighter in Thurman who knows a victory adds a legend to his resume. But, a loss puts an asterisk on his record against a fighter who is assumed to be long past his sell-by date. In short, there is much more on the line for Thurman with a loss than Pacquiao. If there was ever a time that “One Time” will be motivated, it’s this time!
This fight is as big a bout as Thurman has ever been in. He will want to use the big stage to show the world why he says he’s the best welterweight out there. Both he and trainer Dan Birmingham have long claimed the fight won’t see the final bell. In short, Team Thurman has a lot of respect for Manny but, at this stage of his career, they don’t see him as a real threat.
Pacquiao, powered by faith, family and his beloved Filipino people, lives in his own reality. He truly believes that he is as relevant a fighter as he ever was and really believes that he will win the fight. Manny has never been a fighter that let age, odds, the past or the future, dictate what will happen in the present. In every fight he has ever been in he believes his time is now and it is this undeterred, passionate focus that has allowed him to compete and beat some of boxing’s best fighters throughout his incredible run that has netted 8 world titles in his career.
Can Manny find a way to win again? Can he do it again? Can he beat the odds one more time?
On paper, probably not - but Pacquiao has never been a paper champion. In the end, like most fights, it’ll all come down to styles.
Thurman is technically sound and proficient in most areas of the game. While these strengths have allowed the Clearwater, Florida native to remain undefeated, he isn’t what one would describe as a tricky or complex fighter. However, I mean that with the utmost respect and best of intentions; his efficiency is his proficiency.
Manny, could be described as somewhat less technically sound. However, his unpredictability and (at times) unorthodox ring movements are what make his so effective.
Cautious and calculated vs. crazy and creative? That may be overstating it, but it is indeed a tale of 2 styles.
I believe Thurman has all the tools to handle Pacquiao, in fact if he’s sharp on fight night he might do it quite easily. However, that is assuming Manny plays nice.
Pacquiao has a lot going against him in age and odometer miles at this stage. But, if 40 is the new new 20 then Manny is your poster child.
Ok, here we go. Prediction time.
In the end, I see Manny having to be sharp all night; there isn’t a lot of room for error here, as Thurman will be looking to walk him into a strong counter punch. Manny has to be all movement, all night, not allowing “One Time” to get set anytime and dictate the pace. But if Manny is anything in the ring it is the fast and the furious. And, if he can be on point, and on pace for 12 rounds, I see a tough fight, but a winnable fight, ending in a Pacquiao victory - a close points win or SD 12.
It’s gonna be an interesting fight. Who ya got?