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Tarver: Thurman could out-box Pacquiao

Image: Tarver: Thurman could out-box Pacquiao

By Pete Axline: Former light heavyweight champion Antonio ‘The Magic Man’ Tarver says the youth, ring IQ, and the power of Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman may prove to be too much for the 40-year-old Manny ‘Pac Man Pacquiao in their fight two weeks from now on July 20.

WBA ‘regular’ welterweight champion Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) will be battling it out against the still undefeated WBA ‘Super World’ 147 pound champion Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) on the 20th of July on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Thurman should be viewed as #1 welterweight if he beats Pacuiao says Tarver

Tarver, 50, says Thurman is still the #1 welterweight on the planet despite his inactivity, and his less than impressive performance in his comeback fight against Josesito Lopez last January. He feels that Thurman is still The Man at 147, and if he beats Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) on January 20th, then he should be considered to be rated above the likes of Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford

For a lot of boxing fans, they don’t view Thurman as being anywhere in the proximity of Spence and Crawford in terms of talent. Many of the fans now doubt whether Thurman could even beat the likes of Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia at this stage in his career. Thurman barely beat those fighters years ago when he was in the zenith of his career. His inactivity from his 2-year layoff has clearly sapped a major portion of Thurman’s game, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever get it back. 

“You have to,” said Tarver when asked if Thurman should be considered the #1 welterweight in the division if he beats the 40-year-old Pacquiao. “He’s been there longer. He has more tenure there at the welterweight division than anybody. Before [Errol] Spence was there, Thurman was there. Before [Terence] Crawford got there, Thurman was there. So, it’s Thurman’s division until somebody beats him. I know a lot of fans feel that Crawford and Spence maybe a step above Thurman. That may be the case, but he is still the king of the welterweight division, because he’s undefeated. Nobody has ever beaten him, and he has more tenure there in the welterweight division as champion than all the champions that are there now. So, I still think it’s his division,” said Tarver.

Tarver: Thurman must use his legs to keep from getting hit by Pacquiao

According to Tarver, Thurman didn’t use his legs as much in his last three fights against Josesito, Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. As  result, Thurman was hit a lot more in those matches than he was in his 26 prior fights since turning pro 12 years ago in 2007. Of course, you can make a strong argument that Thurman didn’t fight a lot of high quality guys or big punchers until he met up with Lopez, Garcia and Porter.

The fighters that Thurman was fighting up until he battled Porter in 2016 were largely older guys like Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Julio Diaz and Leonard Bundu. Those are easily the best fighters that Thurman had fought during his career before he battled Porter three years ago. So you can argue that Thurman competed with a lot of old timers, and mediocre guys with limited talent. As a result, it’s not all that shocking that Thurman has been getting hit more often in his last three fights than he had in the past, because he’s finally facing better opposition after cruising through the first nine years of his career fighting beatable guys.

When a fighter raises the level of his opposition, he tends to get hit more. That’s how it goes in boxing. Thurman couldn’t his entire in showcase matches against weak fighters. He had to step it up eventually, and now that he has, he’s getting hit more. Before Thurman fought Porter, these were the best names on his resume: Jesus Soto Karass, Julio Diaz, Diego Chaves, Collazo, Bundu, Carlos Quintana, Brandon Hoskins and Jan Zaveck. Those are NOT high quality fighters. None of them are. Those guys would all likely lose badly to the contenders in today’s division. You throw those fighters in with Yordenis Ugas, for instance, and they would all likely lose badly to him. So, Thurman’s resume before he fought Porter, Danny Garcia and Josesito was highly suspect. His management did a good job of putting Thurman in matches where he wouldn’t be tested or exposed. That’s what management does. They put their guys that give their fighters the best chance to win. But unfortunately, they can’t protect their fighters forever. The have to eventually face quality guys, and when that happens, they get hit and struggle. We’re starting to see that happen with Thurman. He’s getting hit now that he’s stepped it up against better opposition, and Tarver is realizing that Thurman was being matched carefully until recently. It’s not that his legs aren’t working for him any longer. It’s that Thurman is finally facing better opposition, and he’s being exposed as not having the greatest chin, or the best defensive skills. 

Keith, he’s got to get back on his legs, and his movement,” said Tarver . “He hasn’t been moving as much as he did in the past. If you go back to his last two fights, and last three fights, he’s been getting hit with punches he didn’t used to get hit because he’s normally out of the way. His legs have always been his best asset. Pacquiao can move too. He moves in and out. He throws punches in and out, so he’s dangerous. Thurman is going to have to be cautious of both hands, especially when he’s in close. If Thurman keeps Pacquiao on the outside, I think he can box him and control him more from the outside. But if Thurman isn’t on his legs, and he’s sitting down on the inside with Pacquiao, it’s going to be dangerous, a real dangerous fight. Thurman has a chin, I think he’s proven that, but he can get hit. I think that’s been proven too,” said Tarver.

Thurman’s youth will help him prevail says Tarver

The 30-year-old Thurman’s youth will be a factor in him beating the older Pacquiao, says Tarver. He sees Thurman as the younger guy taking on an older lion with over 20 years in the game of boxing in Pacquiao. Thurman is the younger fighter by 10 years, but he looks slower for having been out of the ring for two years. ‘One Time’ tends to blow up in weight when he’s not fighting, and that takes a lot out of a fighter when they have to use training camps as fat farms to lose weight before they even begin with the quality training. For the first five weeks of Thurman’s current training camp, he looked like he was still using the camp as a fat farm to burn though the pounds that he’d put on since his last fight against Josesito Lopez last January.

Thurman put on weight fast after the Lopez fight, and it clearly took him awhile before he burned off the fat so that he could begin the quality training for the Pacquiao contest. In contrast, Pacquiao stayed in condition following his last fight against Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner last January. Although Pacquiao was out of the ring for the same amount of time as Thurman, he didn’t let his weight get away from him by not training, and not paying attention to his diet. Thurman appears to let himself go in terms of his conditioning and diet after he fights. You can’t do that as a professional athlete if you want to have a long career in the sport of boxing. So it’s not surprising that Thurman performed poorly against Josesito last January, because he lets himself go in between fights. Two years out of the ring would be hard for anybody, but it’s much harder for a fighter that isn’t staying in shape, and who is eating the wrong type of foods.

I’m going for Keith Thurman. He’s a younger fighter, but Pacquiao has been at this level for so long,” said Tarver. “He still feels he has one more big hurrah, and I think this is his best chance to get back into the mix by being a top welterweight, and being considered a top welterweight at his age would be phenomenal if he can pull this win off. But I think you would have to go with youth, and when the fight settles in you have to go with youth in this case, because I think Thurman has enough to keep Pacquiao at his distance, and keep him in range at his distance. I think if he controls the fight, Thurman has a great chance of winning. If he boxes him, it might not give him the most powerful fight for him, but it gives him the best chance to win. What people don’t understand is to be a great fighter, you need to be able to adjust, and make adjustments on the dime. You train for whatever but you don’t know what style you’re going to use. And if you have a style, then something is wrong anyway. You’ve got to be able to fight the style that best allows you a winning chance. No matter what that is.”

Tarver: Pacquiao hasn’t been inside the ring with a fighter as crafty as Thurman since Mayweather

Pacquiao is going to be dealing with a crafty fighter in Thurman, says Tarver. He feels that Thurman is a step below Floyd Mayweather Jr. in terms of being a “crafty” fighter, and thinks this could be a problem for Manny. In Pacquiao’s loss to Mayweather in 2015, he was getting hit cleanly by right hands and jabs when he was charging forward to try and land his shots.  This resulted in Pacquiao slowing down on his attacks in the first half of the fight. Once it was clear that Pacquiao was far behind, he started attacking Mayweather more in the second half, and taking chances. This allowed Pacquiao to get back into the fight, and make it a closer affair than it would have if he continued to fight in a cautious manner.

For Pacquiao to beat Thurman, he’ll need to be relentless like he used to be, and forget about worrying about the traps that ‘One Time’ will be setting for him. Thurman is a low volume puncher, who wins by throwing single pot shots like Mayweather. He has problems when his opponents attack him nonstop the way that Danny Garcia did in the second half of their fight in 2017, and how Porter did.

“If he can avoid getting knocked out, and control the ring generalship, that’s how boxing is won,” said Tarver about Thurman. “That’s how you can last 22 years and still be able to talk, and still be able to function. We’ll have to see that fight goes,” said Tarver when asked if the winner of the Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight would be favored over Spence. “You’re only as great as your last fight. So we’re going to have to draw comparisons, and this is a very important fight. It’s how Manny Pacquiao handles himself against a guy that moves a lot. A guy that tries to set things up. That’s going to be challenging for Pacquiao. I don’t think he’s been in the ring with as crafty as a fighter than Thurman since [Floyd] Mayweather, and I’m not saying Mayweather and Thurman are on the same level. I’m just saying boxing-wise, knowing how and having the experience, this is the most dangerous fighter Pacquiao has faced since Mayweather. A guy that can truly probably out-box him, out-think him in the ring, and just be a step or two ahead. I think Thurman can fight that type of fight, and make it very difficult for Pacquiao,” said Tarver.

Pacquiao will need to be “defensively responsible” against Thurman says Tarver

Tarver says Pacquiao is going to need to be focusing on his defense in this fight, and not just come rushing in like he normally does. He thinks Pacquiao could get clipped by one of Thurman’s shots if he charges him the way he’s done in the past against opponents. Tarver sees a scenario where Manny could get caught with a hard shot just like he did in his sixth round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. Pacquiao was knocked unconscious by Marquez in that fight. Since that fight, Pacquiao has been more cautious, and won seven of his last nine fights.

You can argue that if Pacquiao had been the same aggressive fighter he was in the past, he would have knocked out Jeff Horn in their fight in 2017. Pacquiao only fought aggressively in the ninth round when he had Jeff Horn on the brink of being stopped.  It would be in Pacquiao’s best interest to ignore what Tarver says about him being “defensively responsible” against Thurman, because if he does that, he’ll have a better chance of winning. Thurman does well in fights that are fought at a slow pace that allows him to dictate the action. Pacquiao can’t allow Thurman to fight slowly, because that would play into his hands. So for that reason, it’s better for Pacquiao to take chances by pushing a fast pace fight than for him to fight cautiously for 12 rounds, and let Thurman have rest periods in between single punch attacks. Keeping Thurman under pressure will give Pacquiao his best shot at winning. 

“Manny is going to have to be defensively responsible in this fight,” said Tarver. “A little bit more so, because the angles of those shots that Thurman throws on the move. He’s crafty, he’s real crafty. You should see him sometime. And just like [Juan Manuel] Marquez, he could catch Pacquiao coming in like he normally do, overly aggressively, and catch him with a shot that he don’t see, and could spell trouble for Pacquiao,” said Tarver.

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