If you’re seeking reasons why Manny Pacquiao opted to take this undeniably dangerous fight against Errol Spence Jr., look no further than Freddie Roach’s assessment of Pacquiao’s upcoming opponent.
Roach respects Spence, but after studying footage of Spence and Keith Thurman, Pacquiao’s legendary trainer considers Thurman the better fighter. Pacquiao dropped Thurman in the first round, hurt him again with a body shot during the 10th round and beat his much younger, undefeated foe by split decision in their 12-round, 147-pound title fight in July 2019.
Roach went as far during an interview with BoxingScene.com on Tuesday to state that he believes the smaller, significantly older Pacquiao can knock out the unbeaten Spence in their welterweight championship match next month.
“I think it’s the right fight for him now,” Roach said. “I think his last opponent [Thurman] is actually better than Spence. I’ve been studying [Spence’s] tapes and so forth and going through what he does well and what he doesn’t do well. And I think it’s a good fight for Manny. I like the fight a lot. And I like that it’s a competitive fight. I like that Manny doesn’t just wanna fight stiffs or actors or whatever it may be. He’s still fighting real people.”
Pacquiao’s longtime trainer previously expressed concern about matching Pacquiao against Spence, a strong southpaw who stands more than four inches taller than Pacquiao. Roach told BoxingScene.com in 2019 that he would “think twice” about Pacquiao-Spence prior to Pacquiao’s narrow win versus Thurman.
Oddsmakers have installed Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) as slightly more than a 2-1 favorite to top Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) on August 21. Their 12-round fight for Spence’s IBF and WBC welterweight titles will headline a FOX Sports Pay-Per-View show from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 42-year-old Pacquiao hasn’t fought in the nearly two years since the Filipino southpaw won the WBA “super” welterweight championship from Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The longest layoff of Pacquiao’s illustrious career, coupled with his advanced age, led most boxing experts to anticipate Pacquiao would return to the ring against a less formidable fighter than Spence.
Roach is proud that Pacquiao picked an elite opponent for what will be his first fight in 25 months.
“This fight is a real fight,” Roach said. “And this is not an easy fight for either person. We had a real nice press conference [Sunday]. They both were very respectful of each other, and they both are gonna come to win. That’s for sure. That’s what we intend to do.”
The provocative Roach realizes that the vast majority of fans and pundits consider Spence to be a better fighter than Thurman.
The 31-year-old Spence is ranked number three by BoxingScene.com on our pound-for-pound list and he thoroughly defeated Danny Garcia in his last fight. Numerous other outlets list Spence among the top five boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport as well.
The 2012 U.S. Olympian’s impressive points victory over Philadelphia’s Garcia (36-3, 21 KOs) proved Spence is the same fighter he was before the DeSoto, Texas, native sustained an assortment of injuries to his face and mouth during a one-car accident in downtown Dallas in October 2019.
The 32-year-old Thurman, meanwhile, has not fought since his close loss to Pacquiao. Thurman, of Clearwater, Florida, is not part of any credible pound-for-pound list, either.
Nevertheless, Roach thinks Thurman is a more complete, technically sound boxer than Spence.
“Just watching tapes on them and studying both fighters,” Roach said, “I think Thurman throws more combinations and I think he’s a little bit stronger. Spence has a few flaws. He makes some mistakes that we’re gonna take advantage of. Watching tapes on both guys, I see more mistakes by Spence than I did with Thurman.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.