No one ever thought that Manny Pacquiao would still be boxing, more so a champion, at the age of 40.

Pacquiao, who has defied poverty and all sorts of difficulties throughout his life, is once again showing to everybody that perseverance will take anyone a long way.

In a period where his boxing contemporaries all rode off into the sunset, here the Pacman stands, hungry as ever to prove that he’s still the very best in the ultra-competitive welterweight division.

On July 20 at MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Pacquiao’s determination will once again be tested as he faces one of the welterweight’s kingpins, the reigning WBA (Super) champion Keith “One Time” Thurman.

The 30-year-old Thurman poses a serious challenge to Pacquiao, having a significant advantage in age, height and reach.

Undefeated in 30 professional fights with 22 knockouts around his belt, he’s a boxing technician with a tremendous in-ring I.Q. Many pundits consider the American as one of the hardest punchers, if not the hardest, in the 147-pound weight class, making him among the few well-rounded fighters in boxing right now.

El Terrible Comparison

There’s no telling the real reason why Pacquiao picked Thurman over Erroll Spence Jr, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Terrence Crawford as his next opponent. Although he insists in interviews that the Thurman fight would offer more fireworks and better entertainment factor, there’s must be a deeper logic behind Pacquiao’s choice of opponent.

This is where the Erik Morales comparison comes in.

In 2005, Pacquiao engaged in an epic 12-round brawl with Mexican boxing legend Erik “El Terrible” Morales also at the MGM Grand Garden. That fight deservedly ranked among the very best bouts in boxing history, as it featured high-level technical boxing from Morales, devil-may-cry onslaught from Pacquiao and wild exchanges from both fighters.

Ironically, the outcome of the first Morales fight significantly molded Pacquiao to a fighter that he is today. The nightmares of the Mexican’s stiff left jabs and right hook counters motivated Pacman to improve his right hand, which played a key role in his next two fights with Morales and succeeding bouts.

Pacquiao’s decision to pick Thurman must be rooted in familiarity.

Like Morales, Thurman is a lanky, technical fighter who has a tendency to engage in toe-to-toe confrontations.

Morales measures 5’8’ with 72-inch reach while Thurman stands at 5’7’ with 69-inch reach advantage. Both have an outstanding all-around game. They have excellent jabs, counter-punching skills, and KO power in their arsenal. And like Morales, Thurman showed in previous fights that he’s excellent in solving southpaw opponents such a Robert Guerero, Luis Collazo, Carlos Quintana, Marcus Luck, and Marcos Pena.

War of Attrition

Over the years, Pacquiao had memorable fights and success with aggressive fighters such as Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Juan Manuel Marquez.

The Filipino boxing icon probably believes Thurman is from the same mold as the Mexican trio. He could be thinking that, as he did against Morales before, he could force Thurman to come out of his defensive shell and go all-out with him at the center of the ring.

If this fight turns into a brawl, Pacquiao knows he will have the edge because of his furious in-fighting game. He may no longer have that destructive one-punch KO power, but he’s still capable of launching a barrage of shots when he sees daylight in Thurman’s defense.

This is going to be a nip-and-tuck battle. It wouldn’t be surprising if haymakers are thrown right from the get-go. Thurman, like what he promised, will be gunning for a knockout in the early rounds.

He will exchange punches with Pacquiao and will get hit here and there. The question now is will he have the resolution to continue his aggressive approach in the later rounds or will he shift to a more technical stance as soon as he tastes Pacman’s power?

Remember, Pacquiao is no longer the same unhinged slugger he was in the past. Sure, he’s still an offensive juggernaut in the ring, albeit with controlled aggression. The KO punch he absorbed at the hands of Marquez has made him more cautious over the years.

The key for Thurman to win the match is for him to stick with his original style. He should pick his spots and use his physical advantage wisely ala- Floyd Mayweather. Adrien Broner tried to replicate Mayweather’s strategy in his fight with Pacman, yet he was too reserved in letting his hands go.

Thurman should be Morales sans the Mexican bravado. He needs to hit Pacquiao with stiff jabs, tag him with right hook and step back every time he comes in. He mustn’t let his emotion get the better of him. He should stay calm and collected at all times. This is the perfect game plan to stop Pacquiao. Because when a fighter plays fire with fire Pacman, everybody knows it’s a battle that cannot be won, regardless of his age.