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Pacquiao Vs Thurman [Vol.II]: ‘Don’t Run From Me Son!’

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“Are you a better fighter than you were four years ago?” 

It hung in the air like #23 in a pair of vintage Jordan’s, in a way that both felt and looked like a long time. Authentic WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman (29-0, 22KOs) has a way of doing that. Quixotic, contemplative and brighter than his glow-in-the-light t-shirt matched by what black folks call a high yellow complexion, he rubbed his chin a few times before deciding: 

“No.” 

I wanted to expound on a few points he made in reference to Malcolm X on the podium, following a clear, but disturbing 12 round UD over gritty journeyman Josesito Lopez at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. A fight that saw Thurman flapping around like a balloon impersonating a person in front of a car dealership in the 7th round. Before I can go there, “One-Time” has a second retort, before NYF’s editor-in-chief Michael Woods and I are out of time and forced to run.

“But… I’m a smarter fighter, and one who’s still recovering physically. I didn’t have these issues four years ago. Six months from now I would change that answer to yes.”

That was January 26, 2019. On Tuesday, Thurman was back in New York to talk about that very fighter we’ll see roughly six months removed from that statement. On July 20, he’ll face Filipino icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39KOs), and vows to not only be a better fighter than the one I witnessed escape Luis Collazo at the USF Sundome in Tampa, but one who’ll send “Pac-Man” packing up his belongings from the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles for the last time. 

“I believe boxing has come to a new era. Floyd is gone. Pacquiao’s here. Come July 20, he will disappear,” said Thurman, in full promo mode. “He’s a legend. He will always be remembered, but I’m going to do what he did to Oscar De La Hoya. Oscar never fought again. Facts.”

I can’t wait to see and talk to him at his St. Petersburg camp in Florida, to envision such a scenario. A Thurman ring appearance always seems like a theme park adventure, one that always includes the wildest roller coaster and a bumper car ride. Thurman, 30, was nearly broken by a Collazo left hook to the body in the mid rounds before the Puerto Rican vet sat on his stool in the eighth during their July 2015 encounter. It was during the post fight presser for that bout where he first started bullhorning for legends Floyd and Manny, saving the bulk of his ire for Danny “Swift” Garcia. “Yo Daddy’s Boy! Don’t run from me son!” cried Thurman. This was all captured on video, and it was so funny I laughed out loud uncontrollably– which made him laugh. We live for moments. 

What came next was no laughing matter at all– WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter. This, after a Mustang crash that nearly killed him in early 2016. The Porter fight was fought from the balcony of hell that summer, followed by an encore presentation of DSG in March 2017, one that resulted in hell on an operating table to repair his elbow and other maladies. This fight, with a 40 year-old version of Pacquiao, should let us know if the solid A fighter we saw flash glimpses against Collazo four years ago (and an occasional few against Showtime and DSG) is no more. Facts.             

In searching for a ring equivalent of comparison, I don’t know if he rates as a fresh Oscar De La Hoya against an old Pacquiao. I’m thinking more of a long in the tooth Henry Armstrong against a bootleg and somewhat damaged Sugar Ray Robinson, on black and white LED flatscreens set in modern Las Vegas. That should all add up to a potential FOTY candidate and high drama, as Al Haymon and PBC probably have themselves an instant classic.

Reached for a quick minute by Seconds Out reporter Radio Rahim, who asked the all-time great to chime in on Thurman’s vow to get him old-school De La Hoya’d like a vintage him, Pac chalked it up as politics. “We’ll see. He’ll have to prove it in the ring, you know me,” offered Pac, looking like a business power lunch host. He did have more to say earlier in the unveiling of this fight during the Big Apple affair; but moreso with already elite conditioning if judging his physicality alone.              

This will be a very emotional fight, featuring two different athletes of two different aspects of physical decline adamant about excellence. The promotion should pick up pace as they hit camp. Pacquiao, at once reticent and inadept at English– but no less brave in attempts to speak it with a child’s innocence, is now decent, with a politician’s philosophical wit. Don’t forget to thank a higher power he’s not singing anymore. His stint at Wild Card with Buboy Fernandez and the legendary Freddie Roach…

..should be an interesting one as always.

Thurman has never been quiet; though long winded, he’s not really loud. A pugilistic presentation of the Grateful Dead gone Hip/Hop, “One-Time” is almost Woodstock in psychedelic Everlast gear with a philosophical wit politicians really don’t want to hear. The sound of the bell will be easy on the eye. 

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About John Gatling

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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