By: Alex P. Vidal
“We all think we’ve got one more boxing match in us, and that, probably, will be the downfall of Floyd Mayweather, George Foreman, Manny Pacquiao. We’ll overstay our welcome.” – George Foreman
AT five feet and seven inches, Keith “One Time” Thurman Jr. stands only an inch taller than Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, but he looks menacing when he is in front of an opponent while ready to unload his vicious signature hooks.
He reminds of the legendary Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns (61-5, 48 KOs), a ring monster who reigned terror in the 80’s and who owned one of boxing’s most scary knockout wins: a second round demolition of the feared Roberto “Manos De Piedra” Duran (103-16, 70 KOs) at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on June 15, 1984.
Hearns was only 25 when he shot the daylights out of the Panamian phenom, considered at that time as already “past his peak and something less than highly motivated” at 33.
Thurman is 30 while Pacquiao is 40.
In that battle for the WBC super-welterweight title, “The Hitman” took control, backing the smaller Duran up with aggressive footwork and a hard left jab, making excellent use of his 12 inch reach advantage.
Generally a slow starter, Duran, who lost to Marvelous Marvin Hagler by 12-round unanimous decision on the same arena months earlier, looked to take his time and find his rhythm.
The taller, stronger, more assertive Hearns, however, never gave him a chance.
Hearns’ annihilation of Duran was viewed as one of the single most devastating right hand missiles ever thrown by “The Motor City Cobra.”
It crashed on the side of Duran’s jaw and the triple-crown champion who had never come close to being stopped in his entire career, instantly went limp and collapsed face first to the canvas.
Referee Carlos Padilla didn’t bother to count.
Like Duran, Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) is highly-touted, revered as a dangerous ring warrior who doesn’t backpedal against taller opponents.
Technically at 40, Pacquiao is also considered already as past his prime; meaning, fans expected him to retire even before he became 35 or five years ago.
I interviewed Duran in Las Vegas in 2015 and he told me he admired Pacquiao a lot. The feeling between him and the senator from Gen. Santos City was mutual.
Pacquiao idolized Duran, who amazingly fought in five decades: 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and in his last fight in 2001 where he lost by a unanimous decision to the late Hector “Macho” Camacho in Denver.
Like Duran, Pacquiao was sometimes careless during mega fights and got walloped by Juan Manuel Marquez’s wicked short right in one of Pacquiao’s most brutal KO defeat in 2012.
The similarity didn’t end there. Both Pacquiao and Duran are hailed in their respected countries as folk heroes; they are so popular and loved by fans that they could win the presidency of their countries.
And when they unexpectedly lost important world title bouts that they should have won, fans easily forgave them and gave them a second chance to redeem themselves (Duran to Sugar Ray Leonard in the infamous “No mas, no mas” on Nov. 25, 1980 and Pacquiao to Erik Morales on March 19, 2005).
Going back to Thurman.
Aside from Julio Diaz, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia, those on the list of his victims were like passengers in a roller coaster rides in the Coney Island.
But they all gave Thurman heckuva and YouTube-quality fights for all the world to see and compare vis-à-vis Pacquiao’s recent jousts versus Adrien Broner, Lucas Martin Matthysse, Jef Horn, and Jessie Vargas.
Thurman is a confident fighter like Hearns.
During fierce exchanges, Thurman’s punches usually come from outside and are delivered mostly as counters. And they pack wallops.
Pacquiao’s camp might not force the issue in the first three rounds and will wait for Thurman to fade away in the middle rounds like what happened when Thurman won by decision against Josesito Lopez in January 2019.
We don’t expect a knock out either from both camps to come early or even in the later rounds. But we won’t be shocked if the more veteran fighter quits out of fatigue or after being bamboozled by Thurman’s dizzying hooks.
If underdog Thurman knows how to use science to tire out an older man, he might cruise to a unanimous decision win.
In retrospect, what transpired on that Duran versus Hearns WBC fight night in Las Vegas isn’t so shocking.
As famed writer Michael Calbert had described it: “But at the time, it was, for one simple fact: no one, not even a deadly puncher like ‘The Hit Man,’ knocks out Roberto Duran. It had never happened before; no one expected it to happen now.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)