It's the classic passing of the torch bout but boxing icon Manny Pacquiao says his fire is still burning as he prepares to face undefeated welterweight champion Keith Thurman Saturday night on FOX Sports PPV.
Legends die hard in boxing and eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, even at 40 years of age, doesn’t plan on going away anytime soon. Undefeated welterweight king Keith Thurman, however, is eager to knock off the legend to become one himself.
This Saturday, July 20, at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Philippine Senator and regular boxing icon Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) squares off against world welterweight world champion Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) in a blockbuster era-defining showdown, live on PBC on FOX Sports PPV (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
Before the pay-per-view action kicks off, undefeated IBF super middleweight world champion Caleb "Sweet Hands'' Plant makes his first title defense against similarly undefeated contender Mike Lee on a FOX PBC Fight Night telecast also live from the MGM Grand (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT).
One of the rarest things in boxing these days is a true passing of the torch bout. In the past, the flowing from one era into another was built on the proverbial torch being taken from the hands of some aged king by a raging young lion hungry for stardom.
The business of boxing has changed a bit since the old days, but Pacquiao-Thurman revisits that classic boxing mindset and brings generation vs. generation intrigue back to the main stage.
The 30-year-old Thurman has made a case for himself being the no. 1 welterweight in the world with wins over the likes of Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and several other high-end names.
Most recently, the Clearwater, Florida native returned to the ring after nearly two years away due to injury. He had some shaky moments against the always-tough Josesito Lopez, but took a majority decision and eagerly moved on to this biggest challenge of his twelve-year pro career.
Blessed with great athleticism and in possession of hard-earned, high-end skills, Thurman can do just about everything in the ring. He can be a defense-minded stylist, out-boxing opposition with speed and precision. He can also settle in and flat-out fight, bringing with him solid power in both hands.
Lately, he’s leaned towards the boxing side of things, utilizing angles to go along with his natural speed. He’ll probably need it all-- brains, brawn, and speed—against Pacquiao.
Not only will this be the toughest stylistic challenge of Thurman’s career, but it will also be the most important—one that could take him to next-level stardom and earning power.
"I've always wanted to become a legend in the sport,” Thurman recently told media. “And I've said that there are two ways to become a legend in the sport - one is by defeating a legend, and the other is… to create your own legacy. I have an opportunity right now to create my own legacy by defeating Manny 'Pac Man' Pacquiao."
Pacquiao, meanwhile, may be no stranger to blockbuster showdowns with elite-level fighters, but this one is different because of who he’s facing and when he’s doing it.
Although Pacquiao has shown little-to-no signs of deterioration in recent dominant wins over Adrien Broner and Lucas Matthysse, Thurman’s complete package of gifts and skills will challenge him like no one since Floyd Mayweather.
At his best, Pacquiao is a lethal mix of awkwardness, unorthodoxy, and aggression. From his extreme southpaw stance to his herky-jerky ring movements, the Filipino icon has made his fame turning elite-level fighters into tentative pickers and pawers.
Four years ago, after his high-profile loss to Mayweather, critics predicted the end of the line. Two years ago, after a controversial decision loss to Jeff Horn in Horn’s back yard, the critics screamed even louder, pretty much demanding that Manny hang up his gloves. Now, after easily taking apart two top 10 foes in back-to-back outings, calls for his retirement have turned into questions about how much longer he can continue at this level.
Pacquiao, himself, is looking forward to the upcoming challenge as an underdog and how it will push him to even greater heights.
"I have been in boxing for two decades and I am never scared or intimidated with my opponent, and I am so excited for this fight," Pacquiao said. "Keith Thurman is the kind of fighter you can respect. He is undefeated and this gives me more encouragement, motivation to work hard…
"I will make sure I am in 100% condition and ready for the fight, and let's see who is tougher in the ring on July 20. It is going to be exciting…I like it I am the underdog for this fight, this is fun, this is what I want."
Thurman has two roads to victory on Saturday. He can take to his bike and work to outbox Pacquiao, taking some pointers from Mayweather’s win over Manny. He can also stay in the pocket and counter, counting on having the heavier hands and better reflexes to rough Pacquiao up and grind him down.
Neither is a guaranteed path to success, though, because, in part, Pacquiao is just that good and also because of Thurman’s own liabilities in the ring.
Thurman has been hit and hurt several times throughout several fights, showing particular vulnerability to the body and to opposition that has the hand speed and accuracy to clip him on counters.
Pacquiao definitely has fast enough hands and reflexes to do just that-- and if he hurts Thurman, he will finish him.
Thurman will have to win Pacquiao’s respect early on to keep him at arm’s length for any strategy to work and that’s where the fireworks will happen. If “One Time” doesn’t have the pop or the sharpness to keep “Pac Man” off him and one step back, a boxing match will turn into a war and Pacquiao will have a great chance of keeping his legendary run alive.
For a closer look at Pacquiao vs Thurman, check out our fight night page.