By Jake Donovan
There is a growing belief among boxing insiders that Keith Thurman was chosen as Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent only after looking vulnerable in his most recent performance.
In fact, Thurman is among those very believers as he has wondered aloud whether his struggling at time in a win over Josesito Lopez this past January was enough to land the July 20 date versus Pacquiao.
Whatever the reason, the two are set for their welterweight title consolidation clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. Their bout tops a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View event which has been hailed as the best card of the year, on paper.
It is for that reason, according to the former eight-division tltlist, that he selected the unbeaten welterweight 10 years his junior.
“I didn’t select him as an opponent just because of his performance in that fight,” Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39KOs) insisted during a recent media conference call. “He was off for two years. This fight I’m sure, he will be in 100% physical condition.”
Pacquiao and Thurman (29-0, 22KOs) fought on back-to-back weekends in January, the timing along with their holding separate versions of the World Boxing Association (WBA) title having far more to do with the pairing than suggested cherry picking. Pacquiao made his debut under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) for his first fight of 2019, scoring a landslide 12-round win over former four-division titlist Adrien Broner.
One week later, Thurman struggled at times but ultimately prevailed via majority decision over Lopez atop a Fox primetime telecast which remains the most watched boxing event of 2019 to date.
Shortly after this particular pairing was finalized, Thurman opened up as a slight favorite amongst oddsmakers. It was tempting enough to attract bettors to invest in the 40-year old Pacquiao, of the belief that he’s facing an “old” Thurman rather than the Thurman of old.
Public perception aside, the former eight-division titlist isn’t buying into any of that talk.
“I’m not basing (his ability) on his last performance,” insists Pacquiao, speaking from personal experience given his own ups and downs over the past decade. “He was laid off for almost two years. As a boxer I can understand how difficult it is to start again.
“We know he’s working really hard for this fight. He’s not training for Josesito Lopez this time, he’s training for Manny Pacquiao. Likewise, I am training for the best (version) of Keith Thurman.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox