Las Vegas—Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman both tipped the scales at 146.5 pounds ahead of their much-anticipated WBA world welterweight title clash on Friday.
Filipino icon Pacquiao smiled and waved to several thousand fans inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena as he faced off with undefeated champion Thurman for the final time before Saturday’s bout.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” Pacquiao said from the stage.
“I want to prove something in this fight. It’s all set for tomorrow,” added Pacquiao, who was half a pound lighter for his last fight in January against Adrien Broner.
Time to quit?
Pacquiao’s longt-time trainer Freddie Roach acknowledges that for all Pacquiao’s impressive form in training, the acid test will come under the bright lights of the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena on Saturday. Boxing history is littered with veterans who needed one fight too many to realize they are shot.
“This is true,” Roach said. “Usually it doesn’t show up in the gym. It only shows up in the fight. And I’m very aware of that. And if it does show in the fight I’ll be the first one to stop the fight if need be.”
Thurman meanwhile was greeted by loud boos from an overwhelmingly pro-Pacquiao crowd.
“It is my time. This is one time. Manny Pacquiao ain’t doing nothing to me, baby,” Thurman said.
Pacquiao is attempting to capture Thurman’s WBA “super” welterweight crown, regarded as the sanctioning body’s most important championship belt in the division.
The 40-year-old will be climbing into the ring for the 71st time in what is seen as his most challenging contest since defeat to Floyd Mayweather in 2015’s “Fight of the Century.”
Thurman meanwhile returned to the ring in January after a near two-year layoff, defeating Josesito Lopez to improve his record to 29 wins with 22 knockouts.
The 30-year-old from Florida is determined to boost his legacy with a win over Pacquiao, and has pledged to send the Filipino into retirement with a decisive victory.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to destroy a legend,” Thurman told reporters ahead of Saturday’s fight.
Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 knockouts) meanwhile said he was unconcerned by Thurman’s trash-talk.
“For me nothing is personal,” Pacquiao said. “Our job is to fight. He has to prove something, and I have to prove something. It’s easy to say things. But it’s not so easy to do it in the ring.”
Roach is bracing for an early onslaught.
“I feel he’s going to try and come for Manny and try to prove that he’s the bigger, stronger man,” Roach told AFP. “He will come forward. He’s a pretty good puncher but Manny’s footwork should keep him out of trouble.
“I would love a collision because Manny will beat him to the punch every time. One guy is fast, one guy is slow. Thurman hits hard but he has no speed at all. I don’t see him being able to get close to Manny because of his speed.”
Roach is nervous that a verbal agreement brokered with Pacquiao several years ago—namely that when the veteran cornerman believes it is time to retire, he will heed the advice and hang up his gloves—may no longer be valid.
“There’s too many people around him who will tell him I’m full of shit, and he may listen to them,” Roach told AFP. “At one time I’d have said our agreement was pretty solid and he’d listen to me. But today I’m not so sure.”
The financial incentives may tempt Pacquiao to keep plugging away regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s contest.
This weekend’s fight will reportedly add another $20 million to career earnings estimated at $200 million. A lucrative offer to fight Britain’s Amir Khan in Saudi Arabia in November is on the table, though Pacquiao’s camp deny a contract had been signed.
Pacquiao, who retired in 2016 only to return seven months later, says he will continue fighting as long as his body allows.
“Boxing is my passion,” he told AFP. “It’s really hard to stop and hang up the gloves when you know that you can still fight.”