Manny Pacquiao, 40, faces PBC PPV Fight with Thurman Premier Boxing Champions in Las Vegas Title WBA Full Fight undercard preview.
welterweight titlist Keith Thurman, who is a decade younger. Thurman, who hadn’t fought in nearly two years, survived his last fight against Josesito Lopez. The aging Pacquiao will be fighting for the second time this year. We asked veteran trainers to assess Pacquiao and Thurman. then let the fighters respond to their own scouting reports.
He’s had a lifetime of success as a boxing trainer. He’s guided the career, start to finish, of Hall of Famer Winky Wright. He’s built world champions and taught countless numbers of hopeless pugs how to better defend themselves.
TRAINER ON PACQUIAO Pacquiao will underestimate Thurman’s punching power. Thurman is being judged by his last fight against Josesito Lopez [a 12-round majority decision for Thurman on Jan. 26]. You can’t do that. He had been out of the ring for more than a year.
He’s been a star, though he’s never sought attention. In back-to-back years, he was chosen as Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, largely for his work with Wright and former world champion Jeff Lacy.
PACQUIAO I’ve been over his last fight; I’ve been over the fight he had before that. I’m sure he trains hard and is prepared, but I’m different [from his previous opponents]. I respect his power, but I can handle it.
He’s always been an easy-going, affable sort of guy, willing to share insights into the sport that has done so much for him.
TRAINER Pacquiao [61-7-2, 39 KOs] will fight Thurman the same way he’s been fighting for years, with in-and-out movement. But I just don’t see it working.
Dan Birmingham, now pushing 70, suddenly seems a lot like one of those sage curmudgeonly trainers you heard about from the ’30s and ’40s, when boxing was one of the three biggest sports in the country, along with baseball and horse racing.
PACQUIAO That’s our focus for this training, side by side and in and out. In the gym, our focus is footwork. I just work hard. It’s much easier when you move around.
He’ll be in Keith Thurman’s corner on Saturday when Thurman puts his unbeaten record (29-0) on the line against the legendary Filipino champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2).
TRAINER As you get older, you’re not as fast or strong. And Keith is a hard guy to hit — you’re not just going to wind up and hit him.
Pacquiao’s one of the best draws in the history of boxing, and he’s in yet another big fight on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, PPV) at the MGM Grand when he’ll meet Thurman for the WBA belt they both hold.
PACQUIAO I’m so thankful for good health and that I’m able to do what I did when I was young. The speed is still there, the strength is still there, so that’s why I’m still here continuing my career.
One of the reasons for Pacquiao’s success selling pay-per-views is his trainer, Freddie Roach. Roach is never afraid to stoke the fires and unleash a few choice words in the name of selling tickets.
TRAINER But Thurman [29-0-0, 22 KOs] has good power too, and Pacquiao runs into right hands all night. It’s going to be a very, very tough fight for Manny Pacquiao.
When Pacquiao was preparing to fight Mexican superstar Erik Morales for the first time, Roach hit him with an almost unrelenting verbal assault during the fight’s build-up. After Pacquiao conclusively ended their trilogy by knocking out Morales, Roach laughed and said he had Mexican fans wanting to kill him for his comments.
TRAINER ON THURMAN Thurman’s youth — at 30 years old, he’s a lot younger than Manny Pacquiao — could be the reason that he’ll win the fight. Not because he’s a better fighter, not because he’s faster, not because he’s stronger. I don’t see anything that he has that’s better than Pacquiao, except for his youth.
He’s been no different as Pacquiao, now 40 and a senator in his native land, prepares to face Thurman, his staunchest test since he lost to Floyd Mayweather in 2015.
THURMAN I do believe there’s a little bit of an advantage, but Manny Pacquiao seems to be in tremendous shape. Ultimately, what’s going to help me is my skill set. I’ve always been better than Manny Pacquiao. Six years ago, I would have beaten Manny Pacqiuao.
He’s said Thurman is slower than ketchup, and referred to him as “Lobster Thurmandor.” TRAINER But against Lopez, Thurman showed that he was smart in the ring. He used his brains, not just his bulk.
THURMAN At the end of the day, I’m a boxer-puncher. I’ve had over 100 amateur fights. Manny learned how to fight as a professional. Manny is not the world’s best boxer today. He wasn’t the best boxer when he was in his prime. Manny is a world-class fighter. I believe that my boxing skills and my ring IQ is going to help me.
Birmingham has said little in response, but it’s largely because he’s seen what Thurman has done every day.
TRAINER He found a way to survive despite being injured in the Lopez fight; he didn’t fight his best fight being off for two years, but it didn’t really affect him.
“Keith is not slow, I can promise you that,” Birmingham said in his gravelly voice. “It’s easy to talk and say this and say that. When that bell rings, Manny is going to find out how slow Keith is. And he’ll find out that not only is he pretty fast, he hits hard.”
THURMAN That fight was a comeback fight after 22 months of inactivity. So I was brushing off the rust. I’ve trained a lot harder in prep for this fight. I was prepared to win my last fight. I wasn’t prepared to put on one of the best performances of my career. I believe we’re back in motion (toward that goal).
“It was good,” Thurman said of the Lopez bout. “I dropped him in the second round. I could have possibly had it finished in that round. They would have said, ‘Oh, Keith Thurman is back. He’s devastating,’ but, I wouldn’t have had a tough fight. I know what kind of champion I am and it just takes certain fights and certain challenges for me to prove how I can fight out of rough situations.
THURMAN I believe this performance is going to show that. I hired strength and conditioning coaches for [this fight]. I trained myself for my last fight. I did my boxing training with my coach, but my strength and conditioning I did by myself at LA Fitness. I didn’t take Josesito Lopez that serious because I knew Keith Thurman could beat Josesito Lopez any day of the week. For Manny, I’ve put together a real 10-week training camp.