On July 20, WBA World Welterweight Champion Keith Thurman will face WBA regular champion Manny Pacquiao in a bout that is not only the fight of the summer but also the biggest event in the sport in 2019. There is still a chance Canelo Alvarez will face Gennady Golovkin in September. Deontay Wilder is supposed to fight Luis Ortiz in a rematch and there is a chance Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua will meet again later this year.
All of those fights are big, but none of them have as much current and historical relevance as Pacquiao-Thurman.
The match will unify the WBA titles. Pacquiao earned the interim title in July 2018 when he stopped Lucas Matthysse. He has since defeated Adrien Broner via unanimous decision. Thurman has held the WBA title since 2015, and he plucked the WBC belt from Danny Garcia in March 2017. That win had many calling him the best welterweight in the world. However, injuries kept him out of the ring for nearly two years before he returned in January to defeat Josesito Lopez.
When Pacquiao and Thurman clash, we’ll have just one champion from one of the four major governing bodies.
Boxing fans would love to see a unified champion, and eliminating the interim title in the WBA would be a step in that direction. Having Thurman or Pacquiao emerge victoriously also helps to set the winner up for another major fight. IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. and WBC champion Shawn Porter have reportedly agreed to a unification bout later this year.
The winner of Pacquiao-Thurman should theoretically take on the winner of Spence-Porter. As long as Premier Boxing Champions pushes their stable to complete this four-man tournament of sorts, we could see one fighter emerge with the WBA, WBC, and IBF welterweight titles. There is only one other legitimate world title, and it’s the WBO belt which is held by Top Rank Boxing’s Terence Crawford.
Unfortunately, this is where things get a little dicey. Top Rank and PBC will have to come to an agreement for their top fighters to meet in a huge bout that more than likely wouldn’t take place before the fourth quarter of 2020, or even early 2021. In any case, the Thurman-Pacquiao fight plays a significant role in this logical, but still mostly utopian concept.
Perhaps more important than the immediate ramifications to the sport is the fact that the Thurman-Pacquiao fight will be a pivotal one for the Filipino legend’s career. If Pacquiao wins, the 40-year-old will have silenced all of his doubters. He will have added even more credibility to his current status as an elite fighter. If he is to have any chance of luring Floyd Mayweather Jr. out of retirement, perhaps the extra push generated by a victory over Thurman could entice Money to return to the ring for the mega-rematch.
Even without that pie-in-the-sky scenario playing out, Pacquiao will be one more victory away from capturing an even bigger chunk of the 147-pound crown, while securing another major fight and payday.
A loss, especially a definitive one, would leave Pacquiao with very few options beyond some sort of farewell fight. Essentially, the continued relevance of an all-time great boxer is on the line. Thurman has said he will retire Pacquiao. Barring some sort of devastating KO, that may be difficult to do. However, he could eliminate Pacquiao from all of the major fight discussions, which might be just as big of a deal.
With so much at stake, this bout has become a must-see for any boxing fan with an interest in today’s welterweight scene, and a sense of history as it pertains to a legend still competing past his 40th birthday.