Manny Pacquiao heard Keith Thurman’s bold claim. The unbeaten champion predicted that the result of their July 20 bout would usher Pacquiao into retirement.
Pacquiao, 40, replied Wednesday with his own assertion: that he’d handle his exit strategy on his own terms.
“He’s saying things before we fight, but I will send a message to him in the ring about exactly who he’s fighting; he will come to know that,” Pacquiao said Wednesday as he and Thurman stopped at the Beverly Hills Hotel to promote their bout. “No man can dictate when I’m going to retire.
“I’ve been in this sport two decades. Nobody intimidates me. Thurman should respect his elders, especially this elder.”
Thurman (29-0, 22 knockouts) said during a media session in New York on Tuesday that he intended to finish Pacquiao’s career in the ring.
“If you understand boxing history, you know that times change,” Thurman said. “Boxing is in a new era. Come July 20, Pacquiao will disappear. He’ll always be remembered in the sport, but I’m doing to Pacquiao what he did to Oscar De La Hoya. I’m excited to be the guy who shows Manny Pacquiao where the exit is.”
Thurman was referring to when Pacquiao stopped De La Hoya in 2008.
Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 knockouts) is confronting a second consecutive foe more than 10 years younger. In January, the Philippines Senator convincingly out-boxed former four-division world champion Adrien Broner by unanimous decision in Las Vegas.
In Thurman, 30, Pacquiao meets a former World Boxing Council champion who relinquished that belt and has fought only twice since June 2016 because of surgery to his right elbow and a left hand injury. On Jan. 26, one week after Pacquiao defeated Broner, Thurman emerged with a sluggish majority decision over Josesito Lopez.
That showing wasn’t as impressive as Pacquiao’s, although it was enough to establish Thurman as a better than an even-money favorite over Pacquiao — bet $135 to win $100 — in Las Vegas sports books.
“I’ve seen [Thurman’s] style and I know his techniques, and I know I’ll win,” Pacquiao said. “Talking trash before the fight, saying he’ll send me to retirement … I want to give him a lesson.”
The bout will take place at MGM Grand in Las Vegas and be televised on Fox pay-per-view.
“I love being an underdog because I’ve been an underdog my entire life. It’s great motivation and it encourages me to train hard,” Pacquiao said. “Fighting an undefeated fighter is a thrill because I enjoy taking that record away from them.
“I promise that the best is yet to come, and I assure you Keith Thurman doesn’t scare me. He inspires me.”
Pacquiao said he’s capable of fighting two or three more elite bouts after Thurman, noting that unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been silent about a rematch since Pacquiao humbled Broner.
The Pacquiao-Thurman winner will be in position to meet either the winner of a potential late-summer bout between former four-division champion Mikey Garcia and former two-division champion Danny Garcia, or the coming welterweight unification meeting between Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter.
Thurman defeated Porter and Danny Garcia by narrow decisions in back-to-back fights in 2016 and 2017. Those bouts have been his most substantial tests.
Pacquiao counters with a legacy that includes retired legends De La Hoya, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto and Tim Bradley Jr. as beaten foes. Current WBC champion Porter worked his way up from being a Pacquiao sparring partner.
That voluminous ring experience, combined with the assessment that “my speed, focus and power are all still there,” give Pacquiao the confidence to answer Thurman’s talk by summarizing, “This story is 40 years in the making, and I want to prove I can still beat an undefeated champion.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime fight in a lifetime of memorable fights.”