Keith Thurman lacks experience compared to Manny Pacquiao, his opponent Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.
But he definitely doesn’t lack the confidence needed to defeat an opponent of Pacquiao’s caliber.
“It’s hard for a Keith Thurman fight for it not to be the Keith Thurman show,” said Thurman, who often refers to himself in the third person. “Nobody comes to a fight more willing to talk how they feel than Keith Thurman.”
Hard to argue that this week.
Leading up to the most significant fight of his career, Thurman (29-0, 22 knockouts) has unveiled an uncanny bravado, buoyed in part by an undefeated professional record and five successful defenses of his WBA welterweight championship. The 30-year-old carried the promotion with a bevy of oral barbs aimed at Pacquiao, the humble 40-year-old Filipino who often smiles more than he speaks.
“I know about the buildup to this fight in which I’ve been very, very impressed with (Thurman), is that he understands how to promote his fights,” said Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, who is co-promoting the card. “He’s extremely confident coming into this fight because he knows what beating a guy like Manny Pacquiao does for his career.”
Thurman began boxing more than two decades ago in his native Clearwater, Florida, and trained under the late Ben Getty, who once worked with Sugar Ray Leonard. He fought more than 100 times as an amateur and dropped out of high school to pursue a career as a professional boxer.
“I’ve always known what I wanted for myself,” Thurman said. “I was 10 years old when I said nobody is going to be the boss of me. I was going to pursue boxing and hope that boxing opened up doors that allows me to live out my life as an entrepreneur. Luckily, for me, I’ve had great success.”
Thurman debuted professionally as an 18-year-old in 2007 and quickly flourished into one of the world’s top welterweights. He claimed 21 of his first 22 victories by knockout — earning the nickname “One Time” for his punching power — and won the WBA interim title from Diego Chaves in 2013.
He became the regular champion in 2015 with a win over Robert Guerrero, and victories over Shawn Porter in 2016 and Danny Garcia in 2017 legitimized Thurman as a top-flight fighter.
But right elbow and left hand injuries and almost two years of inactivity clouded his future.
“I started having to ask myself the question are you ever going to fight again. Is your career over at the age of 28, 29 years old? Are you done?” Thurman said. “I’m still in my prime, so it was quite depressing to start thinking like that, and obviously I got myself out of that chain of thought.”
Thurman returned to the ring in January with an uninspiring victory over Josesito Lopez, but he thinks he’s healthy enough to beat Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs).
Then again, he has defeated all comers.
Perhaps his confidence is justified.
“I think he’s the top of this division,” said Thurman’s trainer, Dan Birmingham. “I think he’s the very best out there.”
Who: Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: MGM Grand Garden
Tickets: Starting at $232.85 on axs.com
TV: Fox Sports (pay-per-view)
Odds: Pacquiao -160, Thurman +140 (Westgate)
Tale of the tape
Reach: 67 inches
Record: 61-7-2, 39 KOs
Reach: 69 inches
Record: 29-0, 22 KOs