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Manny Pacquiao driven to remain relevant at age 40

Updated July 19, 2019 - 5:51 pm

Eight-division boxing champion Manny Pacquiao maintains a humble demeanor, rarely offering anything more than an occasional quip or shy smile before his welterweight title fight against Keith Thurman.

The 40-year-old Filipino senator is at ease with his legacy, well aware of what he’s accomplished during his 24-year career.

Thurman, the WBA champion, is aware, too.

“He’s a legend. He’s done this many times,” the 30-year-old said. “He’s humble outside of the ring. He’s vicious inside of the ring. If most boxers achieve half the accomplishments he’s achieved, they still have a successful career in the sport.”

Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 knockouts) is seeking another signature victory when he fights Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs) on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden. At this stage of his life, Pacquiao seeks to fulfill an insatiable drive and love for the sport and, of course, to prove that he’s still the class of the division by defeating Thurman.

“I just want to maintain my name in the top of boxing and continue my career,” Pacquiao said. “I already accomplished what I want to accomplish in boxing. I’m continuing my career because boxing is my passion.”

Pacquiao began boxing more than 30 years ago and has conquered eight weight classes and a variety of distinguished opponents, fighters such as Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto.

In his prime, Pacquiao relied on a signature southpaw style, quick feet and hands and raw punching power, taking down the best of the best while building a global brand and following.

But now, well past his prime, he’s lost some of that power and has one victory by knockout since 2010.

“We know that a lot of our fans and people in boxing were doubting my capability at the age of 40,” Pacquiao said. “So I have to prove something this time because at the age of 40 I’m not thinking about my age. I’m thinking about what I can do for the fans.”

Pacquiao and his trainer, Freddie Roach, modified their approach while preparing for Thurman in an effort to minimize wear and tear. Roach scheduled more off days to prevent Pacquiao from overtraining.

“His work ethic is unbelievable,” Roach said on a conference call during the promotion. “He wants to work every minute of every day. He wants to do 40 rounds a day in the ring and so forth. We got him right where we want him right now, and he’s in great shape. He’s ready to go.”

Pacquiao is focused only on Thurman despite speculation about his future. Thurman playfully suggested that he will force Pacquiao into retirement, but Pacquiao insists he’ll retire on his own terms.

When he’s ready.

Which might not be anytime soon.

“I can still show my best,” he said. “There’s a time (to retire). Right now, I’m good. My body (condition) I’m mentally, physically, spiritually good. One fight at a time. That’s my plan.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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