Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman face off on Saturday (Photo: Hustle Boss)
By Dennis “dSource” Guillermo
Whatever Keith Thurman’s true intentions are, he’s definitely done his part in hyping up his “dream match” with Manny Pacquiao.
Whether he’s simply playing the heel to drum up interest for the pay-per-view audience or his aggressive verbal jabs are a preliminary part of his gameplan, Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs), the WBA ‘super’ welterweight world champion, has definitely generated a lot more drama and interest for his July 20 bout with the future Hall of Famer, Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs).
The way the 30-year-old Clearwater, Florida native has been hurling insults and threats at the 40-year-old fighting senator from the Philippines, one has to wonder if anyone taught him to respect his elders. From clever and comedic antics like wearing a shirt that says “Game Over” referencing Pacquiao’s nickname and creatively trolling him in exclaiming that “the Pac Man game is over” during Tuesday’s Grand Arrivals at the MGM Grand, to not so clever nor comedic disses saying he will “crucify” his devoutly Christian opponent during their press run, Thurman has proven that he is willing to say whatever he has to say even if it’s borderline blasphemy just to get in Pacquiao’s head.
Lo and behold, Thurman got his wish.
Thurman has succeeded in doing something very few have done before in getting under Pacquiao’s skin through his big mouth. Despite saying multiple times and sticking to his old mantra of “nothing personal, I’m just doing my job”, Pacquiao finally admitted and cracked when asked by writers during last Tuesday’s media scrum that he was indeed bothered and offended by at least one of Thurman’s comments and even said he “wants to teach him a lesson”. I’ve been covering Pacquiao’s career for more than a decade and I can’t remember a time when I saw the same amount of disgust in his face the way he did in trying to hold back and bite his tongue in addressing this specific topic. And yes, it was the “crucify” comment that got to him, in case you hadn’t guessed it yet.
Pacquiao says the comment has motivated and inspired him to train harder for Thurman and claimed this camp has been far better than his last one against Adrien Broner. It’s easy to understand why such a comment will get that type of reaction from someone like Pacquiao, who has been holding bible study sessions almost every day with friends and fans throughout camp. Remember that old adage “never discuss politics or religion in polite company”? Well, I guess that’s what it took for Thurman to finally penetrate Pacquiao’s shield and ‘polite’ isn’t exactly something he’s going for with a person he is going to war against. Ironically, those are the two things Pacquiao dabble in the most outside of boxing: politics and religion.
If indeed, inciting Pacquiao through talking smack is what Thurman truly intended to do from the beginning in hopes to tempt the bull to charge at him with a little extra recklessness and abandon while he plays the role of the matador in hopes to catch the Filipino boxing legend with malevolent counterpunches, then he’s definitely gotten as close to accomplishing that as he can with his words.
If not, who can blame Thurman for trying? It’s not as if Pacquiao won’t try to take his head off had he been polite.
Don’t be fooled, Pacquiao may be a gentleman outside the ring, but the violence of combat is the drug that keeps his blood pumping more than anything. Why else do you think he’s still fighting? Thurman is an intelligent and thoughtful person; he knows what he’s doing. Word to the wise, however: be careful what you wish for.
Dennis Guillermo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org