by Cliff Rold
One is a man who had unified two of the four major titles in the division, positioning himself to take over the mantle as the world’s best welterweight before injuries contributed to an almost two-year layoff.
The other is one of the greatest fighters in the history of boxing, a man who won his first world title at flyweight over twenty years ago and has been a staple in the welterweight division for the last decade.
Father time may be undefeated, but there is never a certain date when he will win. He hasn’t beaten Manny Pacquiao yet. Even at 40, Pacquiao remains a consensus top five welterweight chasing his third (no, the WBA sub-belt he has now isn’t the same thing) major title in the division.
Keith Thurman doesn’t care about Father Time. Keith Thurman is coming to beat Manny Pacquiao all on his own. It’s a fascinating fight headlining one of the better cards of the year (Saturday, 9 PM EST).
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBA “super” Welterweight (2013-Present, 8 Defenses including interim title fights)
Previous Titles: WBC welterweight (2017-18)
Height: 5’7 ½
Weight: 146 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Clearwater, Florida
Record: 29-0, 22 KO?
Press Rankings: #3 (Ring), #4 (TBRB, ESPN, Boxing Monthly), #7 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 1 KO (9-0, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 163-16-2 (.906)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Carlos Quintana TKO4; Jan Zaveck UD12; Julio Diaz RTD3; Robert Guerrero UD12; Luis Collazo RTD7; Shawn Porter UD12; Danny Garcia SD12
Title: WBA Welterweight – sub-title (2018-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBC World Flyweight (1998-99, 1 Defense); IBF Super Bantamweight 2001-03, 4 Defenses); Lineal/Ring World Featherweight (2003-05, 2 Defenses); Lineal/Ring/WBC World Jr. Lightweight (2008); WBC Lightweight (2008-09); Lineal/Ring World Jr. Welterweight (2009-10); WBC Light Middleweight (2010); WBO Welterweight, (2009-12, 3 Defenses; 2014-15, 1 Defense; 2016-17, 1 Defense); TBRB Welterweight (2016; Retired)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight:145 ½ lbs.
Hails from: General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
Record: 61-7-2, 39 KO, 3 KOBY
Press Rankings: #3 (ESPN, BoxRec, Boxing Monthly), #5 (TBRB, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 20-4-2, 11 KO, 1 KOBY (including Lineal, Ring, or TBRB title Fights); 22-4-2, 12 KO, 1 KOBY (including WBA sub-title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 148-9-3 (.934)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Chatchai Sasakul KO8; Medgoen Singsurat TKO3; Lehlo Ledwaba KO6; Agapito Sanchez Tech. Draw 6; Jorge Eliecer Julio TKO2; Marco Antonio Barrera TKO11, UD12; Juan Manuel Marquez D12, SD12, MD12, KO by 6; Erik Morales L12, TKO10, KO3; Oscar Larios UD12; David Diaz TKO9; Oscar De La Hoya RTD8; Ricky Hatton KO2; Miguel Cotto TKO12; Joshua Clottey UD12; Antonio Margarito UD12; Shane Mosley UD12; Timothy Bradley L12, UD12, UD12; Brandon Rios UD12; Chris Algieri UD12; Floyd Mayweather L12; Jessie Vargas UD12; Jeff Horn L12; Adrien Broner UD12
The Case for Thurman: Thurman’s last outing, against Josesito Lopez, was more competitive than expected and some of that can be chalked up to his inactivity and just the process of getting back to live fire. It was also a reminder Thurman is reachable by most foes. It’s not the same as beatable yet. His war with Porter, and close technical battle with Garcia, were his toughest tests and showed off Thurman’s grit and the strength of his fundamentals. Thurman doesn’t abandon his jab and can work off both the front and back foot. He has the height and reach edge against Pacquiao and if he can use the stick to upset the Filipino Senator’s ability to get to him, he’ll have time to defend against the Pacquiao left from greater distance. If fireworks get started, Thurman has been durable enough to hold his ground. Thurman has never been unhittable but if he can make Pacquiao miss the older man’s age might catch up sooner.
The Case for Pacquiao: Pacquiao has sometimes had underrated boxing IQ. He’s still beating good fighters near the age of 40 largely because of it. Pacquiao has scored only one stoppage since moving to the welterweight division full time against Miguel Cotto. He’s won with more than power. The power isn’t gone though. While there aren’t knockouts, how many elite welterweights in the last decade have scored as many knockdowns or near knockdowns? Pacquiao’s body work will matter Saturday; Thurman has been bothered to the body before. Manny’s left to the belly will create opportunities if he gets it home. Where Pacquiao will have to be most focused is in the early rounds. His legs seem to warm up a little slower than they used to and if Thurman attacks early, Pacquiao may have to weather a storm before he can open up.
The Pick: Given his age, the level Pacquiao is still fighting at is remarkable but this isn’t the Manny Pacquiao of a decade ago. He’s slowed down, throws less, and doesn’t finish like he used to. There are certain world-class fighters it feels like he probably can’t handle anymore and others he appears to match up well with. Saturday, he’s fighting one of the guys he looks more competitive against. Thurman is a good fighter but he’s looked vulnerable and rarely puts tremendous distance between himself and his best foes. Based on recent form, and considering the injury layoff for Thurman, Saturday looks evenly matched going in. If it is, Pacquiao’s greater experience and accuracy are a real factor as is Pacquiao’s ability to still hurt or drop most foes even if they last. The thinking here is Pacquiao rocks Thurman at some point and lands enough in spots to steal the crowd, and wins enough rounds, for a close decision and at least one more big night.
Rold Picks 2019: 45-12
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]