By Michael Rosenthal
I have a lot of hopes for Manny Pacquiao.
I hope that, at 40 years old, he truly belongs in the ring with a prime thoroughbred like Keith Thurman even though I have serious doubts. They fight for Thurman’s WBA welterweight title on July 20 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
I hope Pacquiao’s impressive victories over a faded Lucas Matthysse and a small, reluctant Adrien Broner in his last two fights mean more than I think they do.
I hope the popular notion that a 40-year-old can retain the physical tools of his or her youth – or at least enough of them – is accurate even though it’s counterintuitive.
I hope he throws enough punches to be competitive with Thurman even though my eyes – and the numbers – tell me that he isn’t nearly as active in the ring as he once was.
I hope he still has the legendary hand speed that allowed him to overwhelm so many of his opponents even though common sense suggests he must be at least a tick slower.
I hope he can still move his feet as quickly and efficiently as he once did even though his stated desire to have Thurman come to him during the fight tell me that even Pacquiao knows his legs aren’t what they used to be.
I hope he has retained his reflexes, which will be tested against an opponent as quick and athletic as Thurman, even though, again, I worry because of his age.
I hope Pacquiao performs more like Bernard Hopkins than Roy Jones Jr. at this stage of their careers.
I hope he really has looked terrific in training camp, as many zealous observers have publicly declared, even though appearances in the gym often mean little come fight time.
I hope Pacquiao has the punching power to keep Thurman honest, as trainer Freddie Roach suggested he has, even though one knockout (over Matthysse) over an entire a decade suggests otherwise.
I hope Roach’s confidence in his longtime protégé is genuine even though candid comments he made to Los Angeles Times columnist Dylan Hernandez – “They're all beatable on a good night for Manny, but you can't really count on having a good night every time at 40 years old,” he said – make me wonder.
I hope, as the Times put it, Pacqiuao doesn’t have “a false sense of security because of his religious convictions.” In my opinion, Pacquiao will face Thurman alone.
I hope Pacquiao truly has renewed focus on his training and inner peace because he has abandoned his vices – “womanizing, gambling, drunkenness,” he told the Times – as he claims.
I hope Pacquiao doesn’t realize at the worst possible time – in the heat of the action – that he no longer can compete with the best welterweights even though I believe that’s a strong possibility.
I hope – and have faith – that the referee or Roach will stop the fight a second too soon rather than a second too late if things become hopeless for Pacquiao.
I hope Pacquiao and his team are careful about who they choose to fight next – Errol Spence? God forbid – if he’s able to get past Thurman.
I hope Pacquiao was telling the truth when he said, “I will stop right away,” when his body can no longer do what his brain tells it to do even though Roach told Hernandez, “It's a lot harder to walk away from the sport than people realize. I know this. I've been there.”
I hope Pacquiao’s team members are brutally honest with him – instead of telling him what they might think he wants to hear – when it’s clear that he doesn’t have it anymore.
I hope that whenever Pacquiao decides to call it quits that good health allows him to enjoy many years in his retirement from boxing.
I hope he now has earned – and retained – enough money that he doesn’t feel he has to continue fighting if things don’t go well against Thurman.
I hope one of the greatest fighters of his era doesn’t stay one fight too long and have done to him – by Thurman or anyone else – what he did to Oscar De La Hoya a decade ago.
I hope Pacquiao has enough knowledge of history to know that most once-great fighters go out like De La Hoya did and enough sense to avoid that fate if it doesn’t happen against Thurman.
Most of all at this moment, I hope Pacquiao doesn’t get seriously hurt on July 20.
Michael Rosenthal was the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades. Follow him at @mrosenthal_box.