Best bets for Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman 🥊

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Mar 6, 2018
[h=1]Best bets for Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman[/h]

The best venues in Las Vegas have seen many a curtain call from some of the biggest stars. Barbara Streisand, Tom Jones, Celine Dion and "Ol' Blue Eyes" himself, Frank Sinatra, have all trodden the boards of the finest stages the strip has to offer. It might be the final curtain for Manny Pacquiao this weekend at the MGM Grand, as he looks to upgrade his belt from the WBA welterweight title and take Keith Thurman's WBA welterweight super title.

The Filipino eight-division champion is firmly on the back nine of his career. Approaching 41 years of age, Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KO's) is a remarkable fighter and will be a first-ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible five years after retiring. But the one opponent no fighter can beat is Father Time, and the clock is ticking down on what has been a stellar career.

Back in 1998 when Pacquiao won his first world title at flyweight, nobody could have thought that we would still be talking about him today, facing an unbeaten champion at welterweight. Even more remarkable is that he still has a fervent support, which has seen him backed into favorite status. It was only three fights ago that he lost to unheralded Aussie fighter Jeff Horn, and most experts were saying it was time for him to call it a day. Two subsequent wins later -- over a washed-up Lucas Matthysse and over Adrien Broner by unanimous decision -- have stirred up the belief that Pac-Man can turn back the clock once more and deliver a victory in what I believe will be his stiffest test since his defeat to Floyd Mayweather four years ago.

Thurman (29-0, 22 KO's), on the other hand, has become somewhat of a forgotten man, which is astounding for a fighter who has held his title for six years and has made eight defenses. Two years ago he was talked about as being one of the major forces in the 147-pound division, and fight fans were clamoring for big fights against Errol Spence and Terence Crawford. Victories over Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Robert Guerrero backed up the hype. All that talk was silenced in 2017 when Thurman, nicknamed "One Time," suffered an elbow injury that kept him out of action far longer than expected.

It is safe to say that inactivity showed when he made his long-awaited comeback against Josesito Lopez at the beginning of this year. He had Lopez down in the second round, and although I thought he won handily enough, the ring rust was clearly evident. It is that performance which gives Pacquiao fans considerable hope to cling onto.

However, I believe we are going to see a changing of the guard Saturday. Pacquiao has always struggled against counter-punchers. In all four of his fights against Mexican legend Juan Manual Marquez, Pacquiao never really figured out how to deal with a fighter who is effective on the counter. Whenever he got close enough to Mayweather, Pacquiao found himself on the end of the counter right hand and couldn't solve the puzzle.

The aging Pacquiao is not the all-action fighter of yesteryear, and he sticks to what he does well now, which is to dart in, land his punches and get out before the counters come back. That worked against Matthysse and Broner, who seemed mesmerized by the superstar in front of them, but the counter-punches will come from Thurman, and this is what I believe to be the key in this intriguing matchup.

The only way I see a victory for Pacquiao is by decision, and that will only happen if we see another under-par performance from the 30-year-old Floridian; I don't believe that will happen. Opinion will be divided, but I feel Thurman will score a decisive victory, either by a comfortable points decision or perhaps a stoppage in the second half of the fight. It's not every day when we see an unbeaten champion of six years as the underdog, and that scenario should be taken advantage of while it is there.

Pick: Thurman to win at +130, and I wouldn't put anyone off a small play on under 11.5 rounds at +330.

[h=2]What the industry insiders/experts are saying[/h]

"Pacquiao has been more active than Thurman, and I feel he has enough left in the tank to take enough rounds to edge a decision."

Leeonzer Barber, former WBO light-heavyweight champion

"Although I believe Pacquiao's speed and movement will shape the first half of the fight, ultimately it will be Thurman's youth, size and power which proves decisive. Thurman points/late stoppage."

Colin McMillan, former WBO featherweight champion

"Even at age 40, Pacquiao's style of darting in and out with combinations will likely present too many problems for a still certain to be rusty Thurman to overcome. Pacman by unanimous decision."
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