Manny Pacquiao is now down to the final phase of his preparation for his upcoming WBA welterweight showdown with Keith “One Time” Thurman on July 20 at MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pacquiao, who is gunning for the 62nd win in his illustrious career, will be entering the ring as a 40-year-old fighter with something to prove against one of the top welterweights in Boxing today.

Thurman currently holds the super version of the WBA welterweight belts.

Although he’s coming off a two-year layoff because of an elbow injury and a brutal fight with Josesito Lopez that exposed some of his vulnerability, the undefeated American fighter is still without a doubt the toughest opponent Pacman will ever face in the ring since taking on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015.

The initial betting odds in Las Vegas put Thurman as the slight favorite. However, the Filipino boxing icon has surged over the past few weeks to flip the script ahead of the clash next weekend.

The extremes of the fight

Ever since that fateful showdown with Mayweather four years ago, Pacquiao fought consistently in the succeeding bouts.

With the exception of the robbery Down Under against Jeff Horn, the Filipino has pretty much run over all his foes, winning over Timothy Bradley, Adrien Broner, and Jesse Vargas by a blowout and even showing off KO power against Lucas Matthysse in the Kuala Lumpur fight last year.

Of course, Pacman’s current punching power pales in comparison to his destructive haymakers during his prime, yet the speed, stamina, and agility that catapulted him to the top of the boxing world remain, surprisingly, there. He still fights like a Tasmanian devil in the ring, launching a flurry of punches from all kinds of freakish angles.

It all seems that as long as he possesses that out-of-this-world speed, Pacquiao will continue to demolish any opponent on his way.

But the Thurman fight offers the extremes for Pacquiao.

It could either turn into a one-sided bloodbath just like what happened in his fights with Antonio Margarito or tactical warfare comparable to his four epic showdowns with rival Juan Manuel Marquez.

Erroll Spence Jr. said it best - that the outcome of the Pacquiao-Thurman fight will all depend on which version of Pacman appears in the ring.

“It just depends on which Pacquiao comes out and, you know if he can turn the tables a little bit, and become the Pacquiao of back then, you know.

[Then] I think he can win. But if it’s the Pacquiao that fought Broner, I think Keith might edge him and might out-point him, because Keith will get on his bicycle if need be and just move around, and just pot-shot him. So, I think Keith will edge it out,” Spence revealed his prediction to BoxingScene.com.

The moment of truth

Picking Thurman as an opponent is a high-risk, high-reward for Pacquiao. Honestly, it may actually define the second half of Pacquiao’s career.

The result of the fight may continue or completely shut down Pacman’s career.

It’s the moment of truth for the Filipino icon. Pacquiao, with all the accolades he’s achieved on and off the ring, should come into the fight with the ferocity of a hungry 20-year-old Pacman from General Santos City.

Thurman is no pushover. He has one of the best in-ring I.Q in the business. He’s a smart, tactical fighter with a killer instinct. He attacks when once he smells blood in the water. His style reminds everybody of a prime Erik Morales with slower punches but a lot meaner KO power.

That’s why this July 20 bout is an intriguing one for sure. Obviously, Pacquiao is the better polished and battle-tested fighter of the two – not disrespecting Thurman’s wins against Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. Still, no one should discount the grit and determination the American showed every time push came to shove.

As he has done throughout his career, Pacquiao will come out like a house of fire, motivated by the trash-talk and blasphemy Thurman threw at him in the press conferences.

The American will return the favor to Pacquiao. He will try to punch from a distance but still engage because he knows to let the Filipino speedster go all-out from the get-go would be basically game-over for him. The million dollar question, is can he really neutralize Pacman’s speed?

Thurman’s camp claims they have the perfect formula to slow down Pacquiao. They think they can replicate Horn’s game-plan that involves smothering and wrestling like moves that took Pacman out of his game.

However, one thing they haven’t paid attention to is that Pacquiao is a fast-learner with experienced coaching staff in his corner. When he got knocked out by Marquez, Pacquiao became more cautious in his attacks. When he got schooled by Mayweather, Pacquiao has found more ways to break defenses. And when he got illegally head locked by Horn, Pacquiao developed techniques to attack from the outside.

If this fight just took place 10 years earlier, then this would be easily a Pacquiao victory. Unfortunately, it will happen in 2019, and here is the 40-year-old Pacman trying to fend off Father Time. And yes, Father Time is undefeated.

The bottom line is if Thurman doesn’t come up with a solid plan to slow Pacquiao, he will get annihilated the same way Margarito experienced in 2010. But if he does indeed have the formula and Pacquiao does show signs of aging, then this could very well turn into a war of attrition: a showdown that will draw the very best from these competitors, a fight that boxing direly needs in this time.

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