Readers of this column already know the accomplishments of future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao. The only man in boxing history to become a five-division lineal champion is as big of a boxing star as most fighters can even dream of.
The question going in to Saturday’s fight from Las Vegas at MGM Grand Garden Arena is who is Keith Thurman?
In asking that, we know he’s a top young talent in the sport with a four-year reign as WBA Welterweight champion. He was elevated from interim to full champion back in 2015. He has a solid resume with wins vs. Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.
Thurman’s problem is many believe Porter deserved the decision and some thought Garcia did enough as well.
From the Garcia fight things got worse for Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs); he had surgery on his right elbow in May 2017, followed by a hand injury which delayed his return even longer. Finally after a 20-month layoff Thurman returned to the ring against Josesito Lopez and called the fight “a tune-up.” Thurman was in big trouble in the seventh round but ultimately won the fight.
The consolation prize to the setbacks and winning razor-thin decisions is looking like a beatable champion. Due to these factors, Thurman has the opportunity at 40-year old Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs).
Every Pacquiao breakdown starts with hand speed, Manny has a ton of it and behind that speed comes cracking power a handful for everyone who steps in the ring with PacMan. Thurman must find a way to keep Pacquiao from getting into a rhythm, which means he will need to give PacMan a bunch of different angles and consistently change up the timing of his attack and counterpunching early in the fight.
It takes a special fighter to beat a prime Pacquiao -- the good news for Thurman is PacMan’s prime can’t go on much longer. On any given night the Pacquiao we’ve come to know could disappear in an instant.
Thurman is a better mental fighter than an elite skill type of guy. He does whatever he needs to pile up rounds on the scorecard. The problem with the matchup against Manny, Thurman will have a hard time dictating where the fight goes because of the difference in hand speed and PacMan’s awesome at controlling the distance. Two factors which have won him numerous fights.
The lack of recent Pacquiao KO’s (one in nine years) is why the round total opened up at 11.5 rounds. Over -400 (many shops)/under +330 (at Caesars). Meanwhile Pacquiao was at +125 at Westgate in May and is now -150.
I have gotten a few tickets on PacMan at +115 as I thought the line was incorrect and now the line has moved 65 cents.
I always preach in my articles about price being the key and honestly I can no longer recommend a play on Pacquiao. Since price is everything there comes a point where I believe Thurman would become the play but I don’t see him getting high enough but will be tempted to go with him as a free roll.
But let’s keep this simple, Pacquiao wins a decision because if Thurman feels his power much like Broner did in PacMan’s last fight Thurman might find the fire too hard to walk through and start giving rounds away. If you can find a shop with Pacquiao by decision +160 then I would get down on that.
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