Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Boxing, like life, is a constant flirtation with risk. During the fight calculations of risk influence real time decisions, such as when to attack or when to retreat, when to push or when to relax.
Outside of the ring, the biggest risk comes in the form of matchmaking: should a fighter choose to take a specific challenge, one which could instantly raise their profile and massage their bank balance, but which comes with a real risk of a defeat which could threaten future pay days and damage their legacy; or avert such risk, minimising the threat to their status, choosing relative safety and security over the dance between glory and anonymity.
Both fighters headlining at the MGM Grand on Saturday night could be said to be taking the risk. Keith Thurman (29-0) is the undefeated WBA super welterweight champion and a fighter who boasts impressive victories over challengers Danny Garcia (SD), Shawn Porter (UD), Luis Collazo (retired) and Robert Guerrero (UD).
His risk comes in the potential gamble of taking Saturday’s fight prematurely following his comeback from a two-year inactive absence through injury: time spent healing initially his elbow and then his left-hand. In his first return fight against Josesito Lopez (36-7) in January, he showed encouraging glimpses of his world class best – dominating the first six rounds – yet displayed surprising defensive vulnerabilities and understandable ring-rust.
Conceding the contradictory nature of the performance, Thurman told reporters, “I said you wouldn’t see the best Keith Thurman tonight, but you’d still see a world class performance, and I gave you that tonight.”
He did enough, but on Saturday, he’ll likely have to do more.
Challenger Manny Pacquaio is an eight-weight world champion, an indubitable future hall-of-famer, a senator in his home country, the Philippines, and the current WBA welterweight champion. Since losing to Floyd Mayweather in May 2015, Manny has four wins and one highly contentious loss: losing via unanimous decision to home fighter, Australia’s Jeff Horn.
He has gone the championship distance four times, defeating Timothy Bradley (33-1-1), Jessie Vargas (27-1-0) and Adrien Broner (33-3-1); and became WBA welterweight champion by stopping Lucas Matthysse in the seventh round. His risk is in willingly relinquishing the physical advantages of height, weight, reach and age, to an opponent of the potential calibre of Thurman at age forty when his seemingly-timeless reserves of speed and stamina should be beginning to diminish.
Freddie Roach, Pacquaio’s trainer for the majority of his championship career, believes that Manny has “three of four fights left”; has described this training camp as being their best since Mayweather – with Manny’s renewed dedication being motivated by both the disrespect shown by Thurman, as well as the understanding that the journey is winding to a close – and has also predicted a mid-to-late Pacquiao stoppage:
“I don’t think it will end early. Both guys are tough guys and usually in long distance fights, so I think Manny’s gonna knock him out [in] about the ninth round…I think Thurman can’t handle Manny’s speed and Manny’s speed is continuous…”
It is the unforgiving nature of the sport that only one of these men can ultimately stand victorious; so tune in on Saturday night to see which one’s calculated risk will be conclusively rewarded.