By Jake Donovan
KISSIMMEE, Fla.—The July 20 welterweight title consolidation clash between unbeaten Keith Thurman and legendary eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao has already generated a lot of industry chatter. That can only be good news for an event which will headline a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View telecast, live from MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The fight is viewed as a virtual pick-‘em on paper, despite a 10-year age difference between the two. The fact that Pacquiao can still run with the best in the world at age 40—and at a weight division more than 40 pounds from where he turned pro 24 ago—is a testament not just to his status as an all-time great, but flair for preservation in the twilight of his career.
Of course, the outcome of the bout might not play out that cut and dry. It would be an unfortunate perception for the 30-year old Thurman, who ended a 22-month hiatus with a 12-round win over Josesito Lopez earlier this year but in a performance that suggests he might be just past his optimal best.
At the very least, it leaves the door open for a letdown in July—or a lack of proper credit even if everything goes right.
“Keith is in kind of a no-win situation if you think about,” former two-division champ Timothy Bradley told a group of reporters following Saturday’s ESPN telecast in Kissimmee, Fla. “If he wins the fight, he beat a 40-year old Pacquiao not a prime Pacquiao.
“I’m happy that he got the fight. Everyone’s looking at the last fight, his first fight back. But when you (are) fighting a legend like Manny Pacquiao, you’re gonna get up for him.”
Bradley is certainly an expert on the subject, having thrice faced the Filipino southpaw. Their first ended with Bradley claiming a highly questionable 12-round split decision to win a welterweight title, lodging two successful defenses before Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39KOs) scored a clear-cut points win in their April 2014 rematch. The two fought again two years later, this time with Pacquiao scoring two knockdowns en route to a landslide decision that at the time was believed to be the last of both of their respective careers.
It was for Bradley, although Pacquiao returned later that year, having won three of his last four starts, including a 12-round win over Adrien Broner this past January.
Thurman (29-0, 22KOs) has remained supremely confident of beating Pacquiao to the point of insisting he will retire the modern-day legend—or leave the game himself in the event he fails to accomplish that mission.
Naturally, the media ate up the sound bite but those who know the game better should understand the situation for what it actually means.
“That’s just motivation,” Bradley insists. “He’s trying to pump himself up, saying to himself, ‘I don’t beat a 40-year old fighter like Manny Pacquiao, I don’t belong in the ring.’
“He’s just pumping himself up. I’m banking on Thurman to get the job done.”
Jake Donovan is a senior write for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox