By David Robinett
Ratcheting up the interest before his showdown against Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) in Las Vegas for the WBA welterweight title, Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) and his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach spoke with reporters on a media conference call this past Thursday. As usual, the Senator from the Philippines and his long-time mentor were low-key but confident about taking on yet another younger opponent looking to score a career-defining win at their expense.
“A lot of people are doubting my ability at the age of 40, so I have something to prove,” observed Pacquiao. “Right now, I’m still hungry and still enjoying this, and still doing my best.”
Pacquiao added, “Believe me, this is very interesting fight for me, its been a long time since I’ve focused like this. [Thurman] is well prepared for this fight because he’s not fighting [Josesito] Lopez, he’s fighting Manny Pacquiao, so I expect him to work hard and to be 100%.”
Trainer Roach was more direct in his assessment of the undefeated Thurman, who is only fighting for the second time in nearly two and a half years. “He’s young and all that but I don’t think he’s the best Manny’s faced [since Floyd Mayweather]. He’s a good solid guy who should make for a very good fight.”
Roach continued to break down Thurman’s chances, commenting on Thurman’s boast to “come at” Pacquiao. “Talk’s talk, let’s see who really shows up,” said Roach, noting that Thurman isn’t the first opponent to declare his intentions but fail to back it up in the ring. “Thurman’s a strong guy, he’s a good puncher, but he hasn’t been in the ring with the speed that Manny Pacquiao has. Most people are overwhelmed with his speed once they get into the ring, even at 40 years old its as good as ever.”
Pacquiao was also asked about whether a more aggressive Thurman would play into his hands. “I’m not predicting a knockout, I don’t want to be careless in the fight, but if he gives me the chance, why not,” explained Pacquiao. “I have to grab the opportunity to knock him out if its there. I think Thurman has speed, he’s quick, but I have to be careful in the fight, to make sure everything is fine.”
Regardless of how things play out in the ring, both Pacquiao and Roach sounded pleased with their preparation leading into next Saturday night. “We’ve had a very good training camp, some good sparring,” said Roach. “We have one more day of sparring today and then we’ll close camp down and get ready for the fight.”
Pacquaio, in particular, sounded enthusiastic about how training camp went, adding that even now, in the twilight of his career, he still enjoys the lead up to the fight. “I really love exercise, I’m addicted to exercise,” explained Pacquiao. “Even if I don’t have a fight, I exercise four or five hours almost every day.”
Despite his love for training, Pacquiao noted how he and his team have adjusted their training regimen for his last few bouts to account for his age, something he felt was necessary after his controversial loss to Jeff Horn in July 2017. “In the Horn fight, I feel like I overtrained, I have to admit that,” acknowledged Pacquaio. “But this time around, my coaching staff, they were watching me closely. After the Horn fight we learned a lot and changed the training, changed a number of things to give my body rest, because its hard to recover [at his age].”
Beyond next Saturday, Pacquiao was also asked what his goals were at this stage of his career, particularly with his political career offering him a calling outside of the sport. “I just want to maintain my name in the top of boxing,” answered Pacquiao. “I’m continuing my career because boxing is my passion, especially because God gave me blessings of good health, speed and power.”
Getting in the last word, (and likely unable to resist one last dig at Pacquiao’s opponent), Roach concluded the conference call by riffing on Thurman’s nickname, joking that “It’s going to be ‘One-Time’ vs. ‘All-Time’.”
Pacquiao vs. Thurman will take place July 20, 2019, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions promotion on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View.