Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman
Thurman expert in solving southpaws
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There’s something about “super” WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman’s history that makes him a dangerous opponent for “regular” WBA titleholder Manny Pacquiao. Thurman’s trainer Dan Birmingham is an expert in dissecting southpaws as two of his protégés, former IBF/WBC lightheavyweight ruler Chad Dawson and former IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO superwelterweight king Winky Wright, were lefthanders. And Thurman thrashed southpaws Luis Collazo, Robert (The Ghost) Guerrero, Carlos Quintana, Marcus Luck and Carlos Peña on the way to compiling a pro record of 29-0, with 22 KOs and one No-Contest.

Pacquiao, a southpaw, will face Thurman in a WBA unification showdown in Las Vegas on July 20. If Thurman has a fix on disposing of lefthanders, it’ll be a long night for Pacquiao. But Thurman hasn’t fought anyone quite like Pacquiao who doesn’t fit the pattern of an ordinary fighter, lefthander or orthodox. Pacquiao is a relentless, heavy-handed volume puncher with the ability to switch gears in a split second. Whether or not Thurman can keep pace with Pacquiao is a question mark.

Birmingham, 68, took over as Thurman’s trainer in 2009, the year the fighter’s original coach Ben Getty, who used to work with Sugar Ray Leonard, died. Birmingham was 15 when he started to box himself and is known for guiding the careers of Wright, Dawson and former IBF supermiddleweight champion Jeff Lacy. Thurman had a chance to hook up with Freddie Roach but chose Birmingham to succeed Getty.

Thurman stopped Collazo in the seventh round in Tampa in 2015 but not before he was hurt with a shot to the body in the fifth. Danny Garcia, whom Thurman beat on a split decision in 2017, also exposed the fighter’s weakness in the body with blows that clearly shook him up in the 10th round. Guerrero was decked by Thurman in the ninth but went the distance in losing on points in 2015. The scorecards weren’t close as the judges had it 120-107, 118-109 and 118-108 for Thurman.

Quintana was floored in the first round and referee Jack Reiss halted it at 2:19 of the fourth round in Ontario in 2012. Quintana retired from the ring after the loss. Both Luck and Pena were knocked out in the first round early in Thurman’s career.

What may work against Thurman is his physical condition. It’s not certain if he’s back to 100 percent. In 2016, he suffered back and neck injuries, caused by a whiplash, after driving his Mustang off the road. And he took a 22-month layoff to recover from surgery in his right elbow and an injured left hand before returning to the ring to pound out a majority 12-round verdict over Josesito Lopez in Brooklyn last January. Thurman floored Lopez in the second round, couldn’t finish him off and was badly hurt by a left hook and a straight right to the head in the seventh. A booming right struck Thurman late in the last round and he struggled to finish on his feet. 

Thurman has been knocked down only once in his career. He was decked by Quandray Robertson in the first round in Los Angeles in 2010. But Robertson himself was floored in the first, second and third rounds before the fight was called off. When Thurman made his pro debut in 2007, Pacquiao was already a two-division world champion and en route to becoming the only fighter ever to capture eight world titles in eight weight divisions.

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