During all the weeks of pre-fight hoopla and the long promotional tour, Manny Pacquiao, a nice man with a lot of class, quietly took a whole lot of Keith Thurman’s shit with a smile. With much grace and class, “The PacMan” put up with all the insults, all the jabs, all the childish and vile smack-talk from Keith Thurman’s irresponsible mouth.
But then, in the ring, something powerful could be seen. With all the talking done and the fighters called to ring center to hear the referee’s final instructions, the camera zoomed in on the faces of Thurman and Pacquiao and one could not help noticing the baleful look from the Filipino legend seconds before they touched gloves. It was a silent expression that spoke volumes.
Before this there had been too much talk from “One Time” about all the bad things he was going to do to “The PacMan” as he prepared to send him into retirement, or so Keith and his team said. Manny took it all with a bemused smile. He told the press the slights just strengthened his resolve to beat Thurman when the time came.
Why did “One Time” keep all that negative chatter going? What did he hope to gain? Perhaps he thought he could get under Manny’s skin? Rattle him a bit? But there is an old saying: “The best laid plans of mice and men are oft to run astray.” And Thurman found that out in the worst sort of way.
We were all shown, by a 40 year-old one-of-a-kind champion who looked 30, what Keith Thurman underestimated, namely Manny’s ironclad resolve to win this fight, fueled by Thurman’s misguided and misplaced disrespect.
So that baleful look in Pac’s eyes as he stared up at the taller Thurman, his smiling Mr. Nice Guy veil left back in the dressing room, said: “Yes Keith, you dissed me badly and now the time has come for you to eat those words. I’m going to make you pay for all the wolf-tickets you sold with your mouth and beat you up, bell-to-bell, confuse you, take your best shots, and make you eat some painful leather in return. Above all, I’m going to take your title and make you just another contender. You shouldn’t write checks with your mouth that your ass can’t cash; now I’m going to make your ass cash that check. I’m going to be your worst nightmare and in the end you will hold my hand up and you will praise me.”
It was quite a look. It said a lot. And it predicted a lot of pain and suffering for Keith Thurman. And in the end, Manny Pacquiao prevailed. And if the fight was close on the official cards, everyone knows it really wasn’t. It was a sound and thorough and much-deserved ass-kicking from Manny to Keith. And Pacquiao accepted his victory, and Thurman’s strap, with the same smile he had on his face when he listened to all of Thurman’s disrespectful blather.
Now in the aftermath, here are some of my takeaways from Pacquiao vs Thurman:
First and foremost, here’s hoping Manny soon comes to his senses and announces his retirement. He took some truly heavy shots from Thurman the other night. But while Pac sucked up Thurman’s best with a smile, you can’t keep on that way, lest you become brain-damaged.
Pac made over 20 million on this fight. I don’t know what he’s earned in total over his career, but he doesn’t need money, and from this fight alone he’ll certainly have enough to continue to give cash to the poor who line up at the gates of his homes in the Philippines. He wants for nothing. So I hope he realizes he’s taking huge risks at his age and hangs up his gloves soon, so that eventually Manny Pacquiao is sworn in as the next President of the nation of The Philippines with sufficient and intact gray matter.
This defeat is a far bigger setback for Thurman, actually a disaster, than it would have been for Pac, as Manny Pacquiao has nothing to prove. Keith Thurman is now officially relegated to contender status. What a downgrade! Keith Thurman, contender, is now officially on the comeback trail.
This was a humbling experience for Keith who faces a career crossroads in a very stacked 147 pound division. Will he continue to fight at welterweight or will he move up to 154? There are two great fighters at 147, either of whom could be number one, Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, but Thurman declared he won’t fight Crawford. And he won’t fight Errol Spence as he is likely aware that if he couldn’t defeat a forty-year-old legend well past his prime, he’s not going to beat that dapper young man from Texas who was seated in the third row next to his beautiful young lady and who looked like he had the world on a string.
I actually fear for Shawn Porter’s health in his upcoming fight with Spence. And I have no doubt Keith Thurman would not come out of a Spence fight victorious and Keith Thurman has to know that, too, in his heart of hearts.
Thurman can’t defeat Spence and refuses to fight Crawford so in a quest for relevance, what other fight could he make in the welterweight division? The case can be made that he should take a rematch with Danny Garcia. But their first fight, a very competitive one, was over two years ago and, in the ensuing hiatus, Thurman seems to have lost something and I wonder if there’s a good reason why Thurman has not made a re-match with either Garcia or Porter. Is it that weak mid-section that both Garcia and Porter showed up, the one that Pacquiao exploited with a well-placed shot to the mid-section in the tenth round, a punch that almost ended the fight?
One more thing to consider: Thurman’s inactivity. He really is still on the comeback trail, in terms of conditioning and getting enough real rounds under his belt to have the reflexes, the eye, and all the other subtleties of being in proper shape from actually fighting real rounds. The Pac fight was only Thurman’s second getting-the rust-off match since his long layoff ended. Sure, I can understand Thurman going for the money with a chance to face Manny Pacquiao, but it might have been too much, too soon from a conditioning standpoint.
But Pac made Thurman pay for his bad habits of backing straight up and squaring up, not to mention the obvious stamina and strength deficits in the later rounds. Thurman looked spent at the end of the ninth and badly hurt in the tenth and Pac had an easy time of rounds eleven and twelve, though Thurman still looked dangerous in spurts. These issues can be corrected only if Thurman still has the heart of a warrior and is willing to do the hard work of getting back to championship form.
Or Keith Thurman can retire. Because let’s face it: this defeat is nothing less than a life-changing event for Keith “One Time” Thurman. He is truly at a personal and professional crossroads. When we’re down, we either get up and keep stepping or we go further down. Although I’ve been hard on Thurman in the past, I wish him no ill will. As a victim of near-clinical depression myself, I sincerely hope Keith Thurman doesn’t have a relapse of the depression he told reporters he suffered during the long layoff.
Have you ever had a dream, a nightmare really, of falling from a great height? It’s an awful terror-inducing feeling when it’s happening, isn’t it? And I wonder if, right about now, the Keith Thurman of today has that awful feeling. But if he does, he has only himself to thank because it all started with that look in Manny’s eyes before the bell for round one. That look said it was time for a painful reckoning and that’s exactly what transpired on Saturday night. It was the kind of defeat that can change a man’s life. And I sincerely hope it ends well for Keith, not a hard landing. — Ralph M. Semien