Keith Thurman keeps calling Manny Pacquiao a legend, and in the boxing world, he probably is correct. Then the undefeated WBA welterweight champion keeps promising to end the ring career of the senator from the Philippines.
Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman will fight for World Boxing Association welterweight supremacy on July 20, promoters confirmed on Sunday (AEST).
An announcement on the Fox television broadcast of the Premier Boxing Champions card featuring Jarrett Hurd and Julian Williams confirmed the bout.
Eight-division world champion Pacquiao, 40, is coming off a January victory over American Adrien Broner that took his record to 61-7-2 with 39 knockouts.
That could happen, too.
For once, Pacquiao is the underdog in the July 20 fight in Las Vegas for the WBA belt.
Or Pacquiao, holder of titles in eight weight classes during 24 years in the sport, could continue his Hall of Fame-caliber career at age 40 with another impressive win.
“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 Tuesday at a news conference announcing the bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“Keith Thurman is the kind of fighter you can respect. He is undefeated and this gives me more encouragement, motivation to work hard — like I did before, in my previous fights with big names in boxing.
“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 and I like it. I like it I am the underdog for this fight, this is fun, this is what I want.”
He holds the WBA’s secondary “world” welterweight title.
In Thurman, he’ll be taking on the WBA’s “super world champion” in the division.
“In the biggest night of boxing this year, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, Senator Manny ‘Pac Man’ Pacquiao, will take on undefeated WBA Welterweight World Champion Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman on Saturday, July 20 in a blockbuster showdown that headlines a Premier Boxing Champions on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View event,” promoters said in a statement.
Venue for the bout was not announced, but the card will also feature a free-television clash between undefeated International Boxing Federation Super Middleweight World Champion Caleb Plant, making his first title defence against unbeaten contender Mike Lee.
“#TeamPacquiao is back. July 20 l #PacThurman,” he tweeted.
Thurman returned from a near two-year layoff to retain his title with a 12-round majority decision over Josesito Lopez on January 26.
The victory saw Thurman improve to 29-0 with 22 wins inside the distance and in the immediate aftermath he said he’d be ready to take on Pacquiao this year.
“Maybe Brooklyn, maybe Vegas, wherever Manny Pacquiao wants it,” Thurman said. “I’d even fight him in the Philippines if I have to.” Thurman had been idle since edging Danny Garcia by split decision in March of 2017 to unify two 147-pound titles.
The next month he had surgery to remove calcium deposits from his right elbow, and as he was readying to return to the ring he suffered a left hand injury in March of 2018 that forced him to take more time off.
On January 20, Pacquiao battered Broner in a lopsided bout in Las Vegas, winning easily with an impressive display of superior hand speed and destructive power that landed him the unanimous decision over the much younger American at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“I really don’t believe my career is over. I proved it in my last fight against (Lucas) Matthysee,” Pacquiao said after that fight. “And now I prove it again at the age of 40.”
After beating Broner, Pacquiao also called out Floyd Mayweather, who beat the Filipino on points in the world’s richest prize fight in 2015.
Although fans have clamoured for a rematch, the unbeaten Mayweather, who is officially retired, hasn’t risen to the bait.
What Thurman wants is to fully establish himself as the top gun in a loaded division. It’s his first pay-per-view fight despite being 29-0 with 22 knockouts. It’s also an opportunity to prove that the rustiness he showed in a January decision over Joselito Lopez is gone after Thurman fought only three times in three years, in part due to injuries.
And yeah, it’s a chance to send Pacquiao packing to full-time politics. “Come July 20, he will disappear. He belongs as a senator in the Philippines,” Thurman said.
“What I am doing to Manny Pacquiao is what he did to Oscar De La Hoya.”
That would be the 2008 manhandling that sent De La Hoya into retirement and established Pacquiao as a worldwide boxing force.
“This is a big fight, bombs are being dropped,” the 29-year-old Thurman added.
“I waited 22 months to get back in the game (after injuries). We have our ups and downs in this sport; your boy Keith Thurman is back on the rise. You will want to be there, especially because this will be this man’s last fight.”
Pacquiao smiled at Thurman’s boast. He smiled a lot at the smack talk on Tuesday, though the verbiage never got out of hand like it did for his previous bout, when he toyed with Adrien Broner for 12 rounds in January. Pacquiao-Thurman is an intriguing matchup.
Although Pacquiao had lost a unanimous decision to Jeff Horn in 2017, he determined he was not through when many — possibly most — in the boxing world had written him off. He won the WBA crown from Lucas Matthysse a year later, then easily beat Broner. If nothing else in a 61-7-2 career, he has staying power.
Thurman seemed headed toward elite status in the sport when he won the interim WBA title in 2013 and the full championship in 2015. His wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia were close but fair, and his performances were stellar.
But right elbow surgery slowed him in 2017 — he jokes that his “One Time” nickname became “Sometimes” — and he’s been an infrequent defender of his title. Thurman vows that will change once he sends Pacquiao into retirement. “Come July 20 you will see the best,” he said.
“It has been four years since I fought two times in one year.
“Trash talk doesn’t mean nothing, but when he is on that mat and catching that ‘night night,’ it’s really going to mean something.”
The undercard will feature two unbeatens. Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) makes the first defence of his IBF super middleweight belt against Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs).