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Pacquiao: ‘Thurman is the best 147 [pounder] available’

Keith Thurman Manny Pacquiao

By Kenneth Friedman: Former eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) says he chose to fight Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) for his next contest on July 20, because he thinks he was the best available welterweight. WBA World welterweight champion Pacquiao will be battling ‘One Time’ Thurman on the 20th of July on PBC on FOX Sports PPV in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pacquiao, 40, liked what he saw from watching Thurman defeat Danny Garcia a couple of years in March 2017. Thurman edged Garcia by a 12 round split decision, but suffered an elbow injury that later required surgery to repair. Between the surgery, marriage and enjoying his life away from boxing, Thurman stopped fighting for two years. When he finally returned to the ring last January, he had a difficult time beating fringe contender Josesito Lopez. Thurman won the fight by a 12 round majority decision, but it was one of his worst performances of his career.

Pacquiao has his hands full with Thurman

Thurman, 30, is the guy that Pacquiao wanted, but it’s going to be hard for the Filipino star to win this fight. Thurman is fast, powerful, and he tends to retreat quickly when he’s under attack. Thurman doesn’t stay in the pocket for prolonged periods of time. He’s the type of fighter that likes to throw one or two shots, and then retreat quickly to get away before his opponents have a chance to hit him with anything. What Thurman likes to do when he’s chased is to stop suddenly, throw a left hook, and then get back into the retreat mode. He can circle the ring, hit and then dash away. In some ways, Thurman is the worst possible opponent for a fighter like Pacquiao. It’s still possible for Pacquiao to win this fight, but he’s going to have to be fast on his feet, and be looking to take away Thurman’s left hook, which is a bread and butter puncher.

“He is the best 147-[pounder] available at this time, so I watched some video of Thurman and saw that he brings an exciting style to the ring,” Pacquiao said to Yahoo Sports News. ”That’s what the fans want, two of the best going at it. I want to entertain the fans. I believe Keith Thurman is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing. That is why I am fighting him,” Pacquiao said.

It’s not entirely correct what Pacquiao says about Thurman being the “best 147 [pound fighter] available” right now. IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. wanted to fight Pacquiao next. Spence, 29, even called Pacquiao out in challenging him after his victory over Mikey Garcia on March 16 in Arlington, Texas. Pacquiao accepted the challenge, but then failed to followup. The next thing we heard was negotiations starting between Pacquiao and Thurman. So, the Filipino superstar changed his mind, and decided to fight Thurman rather than Spence. If Pacquiao chose Thurman because he truly believes that he’s the “best available 147 [pound fighter] available at this time,” then you can give him a pass, but it’s hard to make a case that he is the best. The way that Thurman looked in his recent close win over Josesito Lopez on January 26 in Brooklyn, New York, he’s not nearly the best fighter available at welterweight.

Thurman looking beatable now

Pacquiao picked the right time to face Thurman with him coming off of less than stellar effort against Josesito Lopez last January. Maybe that was just ring rust from two years of inactivity, but it also could be a sign of age. Thurman is 30-years-old now, and that’s an age where fighters start to lose their foot and hand speed. Look at boxing great Muhammad Ali. He had fast feet when he was in his 20s, but by the time he was 30, he was becoming more stationary and not the mover he’d been earlier. Thurman looked like just an average fighter in beating Lopez. Yeah, Thurman got the win, but he didn’t beat Lopez nearly as well as Marcos Maidana and Andre Berto did. Thurman had all he could handle beating Lopez, and he was lucky he didn’t get knocked out in the seven round. Lopez clipped Thurman with a hard left hook that had him staggering and ready to go.

“I would say Keith Thurman has looked rusty in the past,” Pacquiao said. “I do not think that will be an issue when we fight because he has already fought once this year. I anticipate an action fight from him.”

Pacquiao is assuming that what he saw in watching Thurman’s performance against Josesito last January was just ring rust. It might not have been. That might have been age rearing its ugly head. When a track athlete has been on the shelf for two years with injuries, they don’t come back to be the speed demons that they were before. Thurman’s game is built around his foot speed, which has enabled him to escape from guys that would otherwise work him over in the pocket like Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and Luis Collazo. Thurman’s fight against Josesito wasn’t the first time that he’d been hurt in one of his fights. A lot of casual boxing fans might think that was the first time Thurman has been clipped with a big shot that had him buzzed in his pro career, but that’s not reality. Thurman was hurt by the following fighters:

– Diego Chavez

– Jesus Soto Karass

– Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero

– Leonard Bundu

– Luis Collazo

– Danny Garcia

– Josesito Lopez

The fact of the matter is Thurman has been getting hurt more and more with each progressing fight. Although he’s possessed with excellent hand and foot speed, as well as punching power, but his punch resistance is that of a lesser fighter. Thurman doesn’t possess a world class chin. His punch resistance is more of what one would see in a C-level fighter. But Thurman is able to disguise this flaw in his armor with his power and speed. As we saw in his last fight against Lopez, the speed isn’t the same for Thurman. He’s slowed down.

Pacquiao-Thurman winner could face Spence-Porter winner

There’s a good chance that the winner of the Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight will wind up facing the winner of the August unification fight between IBF welterweight champion Spence and WBC champ Shawn Porter later this year. This would be like a tournament of sorts. The winner of the Pacquiao-Thurman and Spence-Porter fights would be facing each other in what would be viewed as a semifinal. The final would likely involve WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) coming across the street to fight on PBC against one of those guys. PBC could extend the tournament by including Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas, Amir Khan, Sergey Lipinets and Josh Kelly. That would make it very interesting if PBC wanted to expand the tournament before looking across the street to match the eventual winner against Crawford if he’s still fighting at a high level and holding down his WBO welterweight crown. There are a lot of exciting matches than can be made beyond just the Pacquiao-Thurman and Spence-Porter on the PBC side. Kelly is Matchroom Boxing, but he would be an interesting addition to the tournament due to his slick style. He showboats nonstop and makes entertaining to watch him.

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