By Keith Idec

LAS VEGAS – Bob Arum still has a soft spot for Manny Pacquiao.

Even though Pacquiao parted ways with his longtime promoter last year, Arum maintains an appreciation for all the Filipino icon accomplished for his company, Top Rank Inc. As the 40-year-old Pacquiao prepares for a fight against a top welterweight who’s 10 years younger than him, Arum expressed concern Wednesday for Pacquiao’s long-term health.

Arum discussed Pacquiao’s situation with reporters following the Tyson Fury-Tom Schwarz press conference at MGM Grand.

“Look, I love Manny Pacquiao,” Arum said. “I have a whole history with Manny Pacquiao. So, when you ask me a question like that, I’m really rooting for Manny Pacquiao. But you’ve gotta realize, he’s 41 years of age. And when a fighter who’s been around so long, you know, passes his late 30s and goes into his 40s, he is not gonna be as good as he was in his prime. So, I wish him the best and I hope he wins the fight.

“But I am concerned, as I would [be] for any fighter, that when they get to a certain age, they probably shouldn’t be fighting anymore. You know, the doctors will tell you that the cranium, as you get older, thins out. So, a guy who’s younger gets hit and the cranium absorbs the blow, so it doesn’t affect the brain matter. When they get older, the cranium is thinner. And when you get hit, it affects the – and that would be the worst thing in the world, if Manny Pacquiao suffered brain damage at this point.”

Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), who has won his past two fights convincingly against younger opponents Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner, is only a slight underdog entering his fight against Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC). They’ll square off July 20 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in a FOX Sports Pay-Per-View main event.

The odds aside, Arum pointed to recent brain trauma suffered by Adonis Stevenson and Zab Judah as evidence that people should be concerned about Pacquiao continuing to fight.

Stevenson, 41, sustained brain injuries during an 11th-round knockout defeat to Oleksandr Gvozdyk on December 1 in Quebec City, Canada.

Judah, 41, was hospitalized Friday night following an 11th-round TKO loss to Cletus Seldin in Verona, New York. Judah’s injuries weren’t as serious as the damage Stevenson suffered, but obviously will signal the end of a 22-year pro career.

Pacquiao has been a pro even longer than Judah (24 years).

“Zab Judah, you know, he had bad habits, but he was a terrific fighter,” Arum said. “His fight with Mayweather was a very good fight. And Zab Judah is a perfect example of how dangerous it is for a guy to continue fighting into his 40s. … Look at Adonis Stevenson. Forty-two years old, you know, he performed pretty good in the fight and in the last round took a beating from Gvozdyk. And the referee did a good job. You know, he went through 11 rounds, he was, I think, winning the fight or it was an even fight, and then Gvozdyk got to him and knocked him out before the referee could stop the fight. And the poor guy has spent now, what, six, seven months in the hospital? And even though, thank God, he’s recovered a little bit, he’ll never be the same again. We’ve got to really pay attention to that.”

Arum, 87, realizes he’ll draw criticism for expressing concern for Pacquiao because he has promoted fights involving boxers who were over 40.

“You know, and then they say, ‘Well, what about George Foreman? He came back and he won the [heavyweight] title in his mid-40s,’ ” Arum said. “But maybe Foreman is the exception that proves the rule.”

The Hall-of-Fame promoter has encouraged aged fighters to retire “a number of times. And of course, they never listen.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.