As Manny Pacquiao vs Keith Thurman is set for July, Danny Flexen reflects on the legend’s enduring quality and desire
Going into his epic showdown with Floyd Mayweather, the consensus was that Filipino hero Manny Pacquiao, despite being a record-breaking six-weight world champion, was past his incredible prime. After a desultory decision defeat, few doubters remained: Pacman was far from the force of old.
That pay-per-view blockbuster took place just over four years ago and, even more startlingly, Pacquiao is still going strong at age 40, all while working at a senior level in politics and with great rival Mayweather long since retired. He has won four of five since then - the loss to Jeff Horn looks increasingly like an off-night - and even picked up his first inside-schedule victory in almost nine years when stopping Lucas Matthysse for the WBA Regular welterweight belt last July.
Most significantly, as Pacquiao’s long-rumoured shot at Super WBA ruler Keith Thurman is finally confirmed for July 20 on Fox PPV, Manny is on a run of form that proves, while not the marauding, unstoppable phenom of his glory years, he remains capable of competing - and winning - at an exalted level.
Few pundits or fans want to see the ghost of Pacquiao served up to an Errol Spence or Terence Crawford, but Thurman, with his obvious flaws and recent inactivity before returning in January - and struggling with Josesito Lopez - appears an altogether more attractive opposition for a man who retains sufficient speed and intelligence to have a good chance.
Thurman can be hit and hurt, though is unbeaten and has showed ample heart when in trouble. Athletic and with a strong punch, his performance level can be patchy, even within individual contests. Pacquiao will believe that, even with distinct disadvantages in physical strength, reach and freshness, he can triumph by boxing a smart, consistent 12 rounds, as he did when clearly beating Adrien Broner in January.
Thurman is a level or more above Broner of course but another potentially crucial factor is the return to the Pacquiao corner of Freddie Roach, ahead of the impressive domination of Broner. He had made made way for Manny’s close friend Buboy Fernadez against Matthysse; the latter remains part of the team.
With the band solidly back together, and while Thurman may start an understandable favourite, it would take a brave person to bet against Pacquiao achieving one last hurrah.