Saturday Boxing Showcase

At age 40 Pacquiao still has the goods to beat Thurman

Photo illustration courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.

Manny Pacquiao is a shell of his former fighting self. Now 40 years old, gone is phenom who won world titles in a record eight weight classes. Gone is the thunderous left hand that led him to knockout victories over the likes of Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales and Miguel Cotto. Gone is the transcendent star, who became a household name not just in the boxing world, but in the general public. But instead of focusing on what's gone, let's talk about what's still there. At age 40 Pacquiao is still an overwhelmingly skilled pressure fighter. He's quick, intelligent and relentless. Despite all he's lost, what Pacquaio (61-7-2, 39 KO) has left is still more than enough to beat Keith Thurman Saturday night.

Thurman (29-0, 22 KO,) who will take the ring opposite Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, has never lost a fight in his professional career. He's a tremendous technician who has beaten a who's who of PBC welterweights throughout his 12-year run in the division. But despite being a decade younger, we can't talk about what Pacquiao has lost without having the same conversation about Thurman. Following an uninspiring victory over Danny Garcia in 2017, Thurman had elbow surgery. The injury kept him out of the ring for nearly two years, just returning this January to beat journeyman Josesito Lopez in another lackluster performance.

Thurman has also shown an erosion of power. Originally nicknamed "One Time" for his ability to score one-punch knockouts, Thurman hasn't recorded a knockout since a 2013 victory over Jesus Soto Karass. Sarcastic boxing fans and opponents have joked that now "One Time" is a reference to how many times a year Thurman usually fights.

Thurman's resume also pales in comparison to Pacquiao. Pacquiao has taken down multiple hall of famers en route to what will ultimately be a first ballot hall of fame career. With victories of the likes of Cotto, Marquez, Bradley, Mosley, Hatton and Marquez it's not an exaggeration to say you can count on both hands the number of fighters Pacquiao has beaten that are better than Thurman. On the other hand, Thurman has never faced the best at 147 pounds. He never got a crack at Floyd Mayweather, avoided Errol Spence, and boxing politics have prevented a Terence Crawford fight. Thurman's victories over Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter both qualify as "nice" but stop miles short of career defining.

Manny Pacquaio has had quite a career in the boxing ring, and may only have a few fights left. He's not the fighter he used to be, but what's left is a top-5 welterweight with superior hand speed, timing and movement. Is that enough to beat Keith Thurman on Saturday night? We will know soon.

TIM'S PREDICTION

Pacquiao by unanimous decision.

UNDERCARD REPORT

The televised card starts with a showcase fight for Sergey Lipinets (15-1, 11 KO) against John Molina Jr. (30-8, 24 KO.) Molina's skills have long eroded and this should be an excellent chance for Lipinets to score a knockout in an exciting slugfest.

Fight two pits Yordenis Ugas against former prospect Omar Figueroa. Ugas (23-4, 11 KO) is fresh of a controversial loss to Shawn Porter in a fight many observers thought should have gone his way. Figueora (28-0-1, 19 KO) has battled injuries, distractions and problems making weight, but is still tremendous power puncher.

The co-feature pits super-middleweight titleist Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KO) in what should be a showcase fight over Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KO,) who is taking a big step up in competition.

PAY PER VIEW DETAILS

The fight will be distributed via Fox Pay-Per-View for a price of $74.99. Cord cutters can stream the action on FoxSports.com for the same price.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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