Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman are set to battle for the WBA "super" welterweight title Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao, 40, seems to have little interest in winding down his legendary career. He's gunning for another world title against one of the most dangerous fighters in what is arguably boxing's most talent-laden division.
Just a few years ago, Thurman was on his way to superstardom, having beaten Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in consecutive fights. He looked set to rule at 147 pounds, but injuries derailed his career for nearly two years. In that time, Pacquiao has had a resurgence, Errol Spence Jr. has continued his ascendancy, and Terence "Bud" Crawford moved up to welterweight in style.
After a shaky tune-up fight against Josesito Lopez in January, there can be no setbacks for Thurman if he wants to prove he's still the best in the division and set up some lucrative unification bouts. All he has to do is beat a boxing icon Saturday night.
The fight is available via Fox Sports pay-per-view. The main card starts at 9 p.m. ET.
Tale of the Tape
Records: Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) — Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs)
Age: Pacquiao (40) — Thurman (30)
Height: Pacquiao (5'5½") — Thurman (5'7½")
Weight: Pacquiao (146.5 lbs) — Thurman (146.5 lbs)
Reach: Pacquiao (67") — Thurman (69")
Stance: Pacquiao (southpaw) — Thurman (orthodox)
Hometown: Pacquiao (General Santos City, Philippines) — Thurman (Clearwater, Florida)
Nickname: Pacquiao (Pac-Man) — Thurman (One Time)
Fight Preview, Predictions
Despite being 10 years older than his opponent, Pacquiao is the slight favorite going into this one. According to Oddschecker (as of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday), Pacquiao is a -148 favorite (wager $148 to win $100). By all accounts, Pac-Man is in incredible shape and has not lost his passion for the sport. He avenged a controversial loss to Jeff Horn in July 2017 with wins against Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner.
Thurman showed his power in January against Lopez, scoring a second-round knockdown. In years past, he might have finished the job right then. Instead, Lopez recovered and was the better boxer for long stretches in the later rounds.
This shaky showing is a big reason why a 30-year-old undefeated boxer defending a world title is a slight underdog. Another tune-up bout might have erased some doubts, but it's too late for that.
It appears the boxing world is fairly evenly split on this one. ESPN's Andres Ferrari polled 15 members of boxing media; nine see Pacquiao winning it, six say Thurman.
CBSSports.com's Brian Campbell rounded up the opinions of 23 fighters and trainers. In his poll, 10 have it for Pacquiao, 10 for Thurman and three say it's too close to call.
Many of the opinions are close because it's hard to tell which version of each boxer is going to step into the ring Saturday night. If Pacquiao's speed and precise combinations are there, he can make life difficult for Thurman. All he has to do is shake him up early on to plant a seed of doubt.
However, if Pacquiao has lost a step, Thurman might not even need to resort to big, winding power punches to impress the judges. He can use his physical advantages and a strong jab to keep the southpaw out of rhythm.
Likewise, Thurman will have to tap into the well that allowed him to win a slugfest with Porter in late 2016. If that version of One Time shows up, he should have no trouble winning a war against an ageing Pacquiao. The Thurman who came out against Lopez can still win, but he will have to box smartly and rely on defense and his jab.
It could be a slugfest or it could be a cagey battle of competing strategies and styles. Thurman has been aggressive in the pre-fight buildup and told Bad Left Hook's Will Esco "I wanna trade with Pacquiao," so that he can use his power to his advantage.
His power will pose problems for Pacquiao and impress the judges. If he can win a few of the high-output rounds, look for him to switch to a defensive approach and use his bigger body and jab to keep Pacquiao from stringing together combinations.
Prediction: Thurman by split decision.