Will ‘One Time’ be the Last Time for Pacquiao?

Manny Pacquiao faces Keith Thurman on July 20th in Las Vegas (Photo: Stephanie Trapp)

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By Dennis Guillermo

As long as Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) continues to defy age and keeps winning, the narrative isn’t going to change each time he is set to face another young, hungry and determined opponent.

Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) easily fits that bill. The unbeaten WBA welterweight champ is next in line to attempt to slay the legend. He vows to do nothing less.

“I believe that boxing has come to a new era. Floyd [Mayweather] is gone, Pacquiao is here. Come July 20th, he will disappear,” Thurman proclaimed when the two protagonists first announced their bout at their New York presser.

“They announced him as a senator, he belongs as a senator in the Philippines. With all respect, he’s a legend, he’ll always be remembered in the sport, but I’m doing to Manny Pacquiao what he did to Oscar De La Hoya,” Thurman further elaborated in his backhanded compliment.

Not one to get rattled by verbal jabs, Pacquiao took the slight in stride and a wry grin. After all, the 40-year-old, eight-division world champion has heard it all before.

“I’ve been in boxing for two decades. I’m never scared or intimidated with my opponent and I’m so excited for this fight because I’m fighting an undefeated fighter,” Pacquiao responded.

Talk is cheap. But the question does remain; Can Thurman send Pacquiao into permanent retirement? Before we even try to validate that statement, I’ll nip that in the bud right here and say that’s boldly exaggerated.

Pacquiao may be old and have suffered a lot of devastating blows before, the most recent and memorable being that knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth fight back in 2012. To his credit, he has rebounded from that loss and dusted off his shorts as if it never happened at all. If there ever were a time when Pacquiao should’ve considered hanging up his gloves, that definitely was one of them. But to dismiss Pacquiao without regard to his recent history is foolish. This version of Pacquiao may not be the same dynamo who steamrolled through opponents a decade ago, but that also comes with pros and not all cons.

The explosive knockouts and beatdowns have become more of a bonus than a standard since that loss to Marquez, but the opposite is also true with how Pacquiao throws caution to the wind. This older version of Pacquiao is also wiser. He is more calculated with his aggression, sacrificing knockouts more in favor of preserving victory as well as himself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s become a defensive genius in the likes of Mayweather and such, but you can see the progression and improvements as far as risk management. Truth be told, Pacquiao was going for the kill when the bloodied Marquez, nose broken and all, landed that vicious counter that sent him fast asleep on the canvas.

Incidentally, Thurman did downplay Pacquiao’s recent win over four-division world champion Adrien Broner last January saying, “he wasn’t in a real fight” and “you didn’t get hit in your face,” which Pacquiao credited to his defense instead of belittling the caliber of his opponent. The fact that Pacquiao didn’t recklessly try to end that bout prematurely against a defensive opponent who didn’t engage even in the final three rounds, perhaps in an effort to catch him with a clean and devastating counter, only supports the theory. With that said, however, maybe Thurman thinks by verbally inciting Pacquiao, it might swing him back to his old habits come July 20th.

“Like Manny said, trash talk doesn’t mean nothing, but when he’s on that mat and he’s catching that nite-nite on the 20th, it’s really gonna mean something. And on the 21st, I guarantee he’s not gonna see a rematch even though it’s in the contract,” Thurman further added.

Nice try.

For my money, though, I don’t see how Thurman can retire Pacquiao, unless of course these tactics work and the Filipino boxing icon goes back to his old bad habits and expose himself as much as he used to. Highly doubt it. Thurman isn’t that type of a puncher either, unless of course he already started training with those magical strength and conditioning trainers.

Ultimately, this will be a true test of wits and grit. Thurman has as good a shot as Pacquiao in winning. Unless of course Father time comes knocking.

Dennis Guillermo can be reached at dennisguillermo2@yahoo.com

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