It's not often world title challengers are the favorites going into a boxing match. Then again, Manny Pacquiao isn't your typical challenger.
For starters, the Filipino (61-7-2, 39 KOs) is a legend of the sport, a world champion in an unprecedented eight divisions who has beaten some of the best boxers of his generation.
Also, thanks to boxing's patchwork quilt of sanctioning organizations and championship hierarchies, Pacquiao is technically a welterweight world champion going into Saturday night's pay-per-view fight against Keith "One Time" Thurman.
Pacquiao is the "regular" WBA world titleholder at 147 pounds, having beaten Lucas Martin Matthysse in July 2018.
The undefeated Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) is the "super" champion. He earned that status when he beat Danny Garcia in March 2017. Injuries kept him out of the ring for nearly two years, so the WBA kept the world title chase alive in his absence with the "regular" title.
So Pac Man is a champion, and so is Thurman. The latter has never lost, though, which makes him the man to beat when the two enter the ring Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
However, the 40-year-old challenger is still one of the most popular boxers alive, and he is likely the main reason people will tune in on Saturday night.
With a win, Thurman can ensure he's both the main man and the main draw in his next fight.
When: Saturday, July 19 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
TV: Fox Sports Pay-Per-View ($74.99)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Pay-Per-View
Odds: Pacquiao -132 (bet $132 to win $100), Thurman +135 (bet $100 to win $135)
Odds are according to Oddschecker and updated as of Thursday at 7 a.m. ET.
Thurman's advantages going into Saturday's bout are obvious. He's 10 years younger than Pacquiao, taller with a thicker frame and he has a two-inch reach advantage, (69" to 67", per BoxRec). When he's at his peak, combining a strong jab with thunderous power shots and deft footwork, he can make proceedings lopsided.
But it's possible we won't see his peak Saturday. In his return to the ring in January, he spent the first few rounds beating up on a game Josesito Lopez, even scoring a knockdown in the second round.
The fight took a turn in the latter half, with Lopez wobbling Thurman in the seventh and generally making life difficult for him every round after that. In what was supposed to be a tune-up bout, the champion had to settle for a majority decision.
Instead of another tune-up, Thurman jumped at the opportunity to face Pacquiao. He's made it his mission to get under his skin, saying he will "crucify" the Filipino and referencing his political career, per CBS Sports' Brian Campbell:
Pacquiao has apparently been listening, but he's kept his cool in the pre-fight buildup.
"The more Thurman talks, the more it will help me," the veteran said, per ESPN's Dan Rafael. "His words are motivating me and encouraging me to work even harder day after day."
It's hardly lightning-rod stuff, but that's how Pacquiao tends to operate in the twilight of his career. Working with longtime trainer Freddie Roach, he needs to find a way to hit whatever counts for his peak to win Saturday. It's hard to tell exactly where that is these days, considering Matthysse and his most recent opponent, Adrien Broner, didn't offer him much resistance.
Pacquiao is a tricky southpaw who can counter a jab better than most and string together combinations. He's looking to use his speed to create problems against his bigger opponent.
"Better for me, especially if you are going for the body," Pacquiao said, per the Los Angeles Times' Norm Frauenheim.
If Pacquiao can find the vulnerabilities lurking in Thurman's game the same way Lopez did, he has a good chance at pulling off the victory. He will have to be cautious as he goes about his business, though.
The Filipino has hit the canvas before, and Thurman is going to load up on the big punches if he feels himself falling behind.
However, there's so much for Thurman to lose Saturday. A defeat will confirm the suspicions of those who believe he lost a step during his injury layoff or that his killer instinct is gone. It will take him out of the lucrative championship circuit, where potential megafights against Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter await (the latter two are booked to fight in September, per The Athletic's Lance Pugmire).
A win, however, and Thurman gets to tout a victory over a boxing legend as he makes his next move. Pacquiao might hang it up with another loss, but he's showing few, if any, signs he wants to leave the sport behind. He didn't do it after his undeserved loss to Jeff Horn in July 2017.
Beating Thurman would give him a chance for a big showdown with the aforementioned titleholders. Pacquiao might just keep fighting until someone in the sport forces him out.