Undefeated welterweight boxing champion Keith Thurman recalled on Tuesday the night that Manny Pacquiao defeated Adrien Broner in January. Specifically the part of the night when Thurman, inspired by the Filipino superstar, embarked on a run.
At 1:30 a.m. — with his sights set on the sport’s only eight-division champion.
“This goal has been in motion for 23 years,” said Thurman, a native of Clearwater, Florida. “I want somebody to show the world that Pacquiao is not that dude anymore.”
He’ll have the opportunity Saturday.
Thurman (29-0, 22 knockouts) and Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) made their grand arrivals Tuesday at the MGM Grand, the former receiving considerably less applause than the latter from fight fans in attendance. The two will fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for Thurman’s WBA welterweight championship.
At age 30, Thurman is in his prime. But Pacquiao, well past his prime at 40, is a minus 125 favorite at William Hill sportsbooks.
“I want to thank the fans for trusting me,” Pacquiao said. “It is because of my hard work that I am favored for this fight. I am more motivated for this fight. This is different.”
The fighters exuded varying levels of confidence Tuesday.
In different ways.
Thurman, an even money underdog, spoke with bravado and often referenced himself in the third person as he explained his intent to win the fight. He wore a black T-shirt with the capital words “Game Over” emblazoned across the front in white lettering, insisting that he plans on beating Pacquiao one way or another.
“Right now, we’re living out one of the most positive moments in my professional career,” Thurman said. “I’m a champion. I’m undefeated. And Keith ‘One Time” Thurman belongs at the top of the welterweight division. Yesterday, today and forever.”
As usual, Pacquiao avoided trash talk and spoke with a calm demeanor about the importance of the fight at this stage of his career — flashing an occasional grin in the process. He’s defeated the who’s who of boxing, his legacy intact after two decades of dominance across the eight divisions.
But this fight still “means a lot. Being 40 years old (if) you can beat an undefeated (fighter),” Pacquiao said. “At 40, this fight is one of the most important fights of my career. … I want to prove something. My opponent, he’s very good at talking.”
Thurman has the rest of the week to talk — and prepare — for the most significant fight of his career. He’s building an impressive resume but has yet to beat a boxer of Pacquiao’s caliber.
He knows what’s at stake and seems ready.
“(Broner) didn’t (stop Pacquiao). I got a shot. Do I do it?” Thurman asked rhetorically. “We’re on the clock. We’re going to find out real soon.”
— LAS VEGAS JOURNAL