Manny Pacquiao is greeted by a horde of fans at the MGM Grand Hotel lobby.
MP Promotions
Pacquiao locked, loaded for battle
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Despite Keith Thurman’s not too impressive showing in his fight against Josesito Lopez early this year, Manny Pacquiao isn’t taking the unbeaten American lightly and will enter the ring locked and loaded for battle when they face off for the WBA welterweight unified title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning, Manila time).

Pacquiao, 40, is careful not to get careless against Thurman who’s a cerebral tactician with a powerful left hook and overhand right.  Standing in the pocket longer than usual is a dangerous proposition because Thurman is an efficient counterpuncher so for sure, Pacquiao will zip in and out to avoid presenting himself as an easy target. 

Thurman, 30, likes to start strong and Pacquiao is expected to test him in the early going. Against Lopez, Thurman was a man on fire in the first round and scored a knockdown in the second. But coming off a 22-month hiatus, Thurman faded in the middle rounds and in the seventh, was so seriously hurt that the three judges scored it 10-8 for Lopez even without a knockdown. Thurman escaped with a win by a majority decision over an opponent who was stopped by Canelo Alvarez, Andre Berto and Marcos Maidana and lost on points to Pacquiao victim Jessie Vargas.

Pacquiao said he anticipates Thurman will show up in better condition than he was against Lopez. “I’m not considering his performance and style in that fight because he just came back from a long layoff of almost two years,” he said. “This time, I’m sure he’ll be in 100 percent condition. He worked hard, he’s well-prepared for this fight because he’s not fighting Lopez but he’s fighting Manny Pacquiao. I’m not taking him lightly. He’ll be ready for this fight.”

But Pacquiao said Thurman will have his hands full. “It’s hard to fight a boxer who has speed and skills accompanied by power,” he said. “It’s easy to say I can fight that guy but if you fight a fast boxer, it’s not easy. Thurman reminds me of Ricky Hatton. Will it be the same result as when I fought Hatton? You never know. I’ve encountered many boxers who had speed and power. It’s not new for me. I think Thurman’s not really that quick. He has a different style compared to (Adrien) Broner and I think this challenge is different. I know Broner is faster than Thurman. I have to be careful in the ring. I have to make sure I’m not careless.”

Thurman’s trash talking hasn’t bothered Pacquiao as much as it has his mother Dionisia. There was a time when Mommy D wanted Pacquiao to retire. Now, she’s changed her mind. “My mother got mad because of Thurman trash talking,” he said. “She’ll be at the fight. I’m not angry with Thurman. I’m very motivated by what he said. It gives me more motivation to focus on my training and my condition, how hard I push myself in training. This is a very interesting fight for me because it’s been a long time that I’ve focused like this for a fight.”

Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach, now taking a back seat to Buboy Fernandez in the corner, said he hopes Thurman will bring out his best in the ring. “We’re ready to go” he said. “I don’t think Thurman’s the best fighter we’ve fought. But he’s a good, solid, strong guy. Manny’s in great shape for this fight and we worked very hard for this fight. Someone asked me if we’re looking for a knockout. No, we never look for a knockout. But if Thurman wants to trade with us, he’ll get knocked out.”

Roach said Pacquiao will overwhelm Thurman with his speed. “He hasn’t been in the ring with speed like Manny has,” he said. “Manny’s speed is unbelievable and at 40, it’s as good as ever. It’s ‘One-Time’ versus ‘All-Time.’” Roach referred to Thurman’s nickname “One Time” and Pacquiao’s reputation as one of the greatest fighters of all time.

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