Don’t tell WBO champion Terence Crawford but two of the very best bouts that can be made in the welterweight division take place later this year. First, former six-division (alphabet) world champion Manny Pacquiao challenges unbeaten Super WBA king Keith Thurman on July 20. Then, in the autumn, WBC ruler Shawn Porter - who Thurman had narrowly defeated - meets undefeated IBF boss Errol Spence Jr in an attempt to unify. So which is the finer fight?
Pacquiao vs Thurman
- Pacquiao is a legend in the sport, a Filipino national hero and one of the two greatest fighters of his generation.
- Recent dominant wins over Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner suggest an upturn in form for Pacquiao.
- Thurman is unbeaten, in his prime and holds wins over top competition in Porter and Danny Garcia.
- Thurman’s fast, athletic style and good range and movement should mesh well with Pacquiao’s explosive southpaw power, footwork and volume, providing both men a look they haven’t seen before in the pro ring.
- Thurman only returned from a long, injury-enforced period of inactivity in January.
- Defensively flawed, the Floridian struggled in his return against an opponent in Josesito Lopez he was, rightly or wrongly, expected to cruise past.
- Pacquiao is not the force of old, though still world class, and is now more punch picker than the threshing machine of his prime.
- Manny’s stoppage of Matthysse was his first inside-schedule win in almost nine years.
- Both men may have have taken this fight to avoid the arguably more formidable Crawford and Spence.
**Pacquiao vs Thurman on UK PPV**
Spence vs Porter
- Spence may be the best of the lot and, at age 29, appears to have it all: skill, speed, strength, power and ring generalship.
- While capable of winning fights by boxing, the Texan is keen to engage, making for a fan-friendly style regardless of the opposition.
- Porter is an aggressive operator, with a low centre of gravity, Bernard Hopkins-eqsue intelligence and cunning and is a man who relishes getting rough in the trenches.
- The man from Akron also comes in just two fights removed from a career-best victory over Garcia.
- This fight virtually guarantees brutal exchanges and a compelling war of attrition.
- Spence, while happy to trade, can sometimes take his foot off the gas and be content to go the distance if in the ascendancy, as against Mikey Garcia.
- Porter has limitations. A good amateur, he nonetheless looks far less confident on the back foot, as was true of his recent struggle with Yordenis Ugas.
- Shawn has been beaten before, both by Thurman and Kell Brook. Each decision was tight but he was exposed to an extent.
- It could get messy in close, clinches may be an issue and, crucially, there is an increased risk of cuts ending this prematurely.
Pacquiao vs Thurman is the bigger event, given Manny’s exalted status and Keith’s long reign. Spence vs Thurman is the bigger fight, as it is a unification between two fighters at or near their peak. The better in-ring spectacle is the toughest to call, as I expect both to be very entertaining. I edge towards Pacquiao vs Thurman being more to my ’purist’ liking, but Spence vs Thurman could well be an educated brawl for the ages.