In what feels like the biggest boxing event of the year so far, 40-year-old Filipino Congressman Manny Pacquiao graces a Las Vegas boxing ring for the 20th time in his (61-7-2) 24 year career.
Having made his professional debut in 1995 in his homeland as a Flyweight, it was not until 2001 that ‘Pac Man’ first came to the USA, challenging for the IBF world Super bantamweight title held by South African holder Lehlo Ledwaba who was stopped in 6 rounds. Pacquiao’s career quickly gained momentum, and he fought the rest of his career almost exclusively on American soil, he only boxed in the Philippines 4 times after the Ledwaba fight.
It falls to Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman the current WBA Super Welterweight world champion to try and defeat a rejuvenated Pacquiao.
Thurman (29-0-0) had looked like the best 147lb boxer in the world for some time, beating Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, claiming the WBC title that Porter held in the process to add to his WBA version. But, a shoulder injury which caused Thurman to have corrective surgery and a subsequent 2 year break from the sport, have put doubts into the minds of many pundits and fans alike.
Thurman came back from his extended hiatus in January in a hard fought battle with Josesito Lopez. Although he won an entertaining defence of his title, he was badly hurt and pushed to his limits by a foe that many believed he would defeat easily.
Lopez is far better than his (36-7-0) record suggests, and he rose to the occasion believing that a ring rusty Thurman might be vulnerable, and he was right.
Pacquiao took part in 13 successive bouts in which he didn’t score a knockout since his 2010 meeting with Joshua Clottey at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Many fans saw this as the start of a slow decline in his power, however Manny has stated that he could still make the 135lb Lightweight limit if required to do so.
He broke his decision winning streak by stopping Argentine Lucas Matthysse to win the WBA regular Welterweight title in July 2018.
In January he scored a lopsided win over a pumped up Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner, a man 11 years his junior, and a former 4 weight world champion. The win was expected, but the manner of Pacquiao’s performance made many doubters believers once again. The speed and stamina Manny showed that night looked like he had learned how to ‘turn the clock back’.
Keith Thurman has waited a long time to fight a true legend of the sport. He came along just a little too late to challenge Floyd Mayweather, and although the Porter and Garcia victories proved he was the current best, he needed that career defining fight to cement his legacy. Winning against Pacquiao will suffice.
On current form, Thurman is the puncher in this fight, he is by far the bigger man and his 22 stoppage wins out 29 straight victories could mean trouble for Pacquiao, however Thurman’s stoppage streak also slowed to a near halt since forcing Luis Collazo to retire after 7 rounds of a title defence in 2015. He has won three 12 round decisions since that fight.
Everything points to this fight ending in a 12 round points decision. Will Pacquiao push the pace even further than he did in the Broner fight? Is he still capable of doing so? Has Thurman regained the form we saw from him against Porter and Garcia?