Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman says the key to victory for Yordenis Ugas on Saturday night is for him to relentlessly attack the body of Manny Pacquiao to weaken him.
Former WBA/WBC welterweight champion Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) knows first-hand the type of shots that bother the 42-year-old former eight-division world champion Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs), having fought him in July 2019.
If Thurman had to do it all again, he would have chopped Pacquiao down with body shots to weaken him quickly and then take him out in the second half of the fight.
With that said, Thurman feels that WBA ‘Super World’ welterweight champion Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs) has the ideal fighting style to defeat Pacquiao, with his focus on throwing shots.
Ugas likes to direct his punches to the midsection of his opponents and wear them down. We saw that in his fight with Shawn Porter in March 2019, when he wore down the former champion and had him fleeing.
Ugas made Porter look bad in battering him the entire fight, only to wind up on the receiving end of a controversial decision. Who knows? We may see a similar robbery tonight, but Ugas will be trying his best to take the judges out of play by knocking Pacquiao out.
Ugas must make Pacquiao uncomfortable
“I’ll take all fights, especially I’m strapless,” said Keith Thurman. “Where’s the straps at? Where’s the cash at?
“The punch angles, even though it made me smile,” Thurman said when asked what’s the most difficult though to adjust when fighting Pacquiao.
“I love his tricky uppercut because I do it in sparring all the time,” Thurman continued. So I felt like it was a veteran move, but inside me, I was like, ‘Yeah, I know that move, Manny. Nice little move.’ It’s like being on the poker table and getting bluffed by deuce seven.
“Certain veterans, they can outplay you and do things. Pacquiao has gone through everything a fighter can go through, from being knocked the F-out to winning all these world titles to always being the small guy at 147.
“Can you ever make him feel uncomfortable? Step on his foot, Ugas, and you won’t be the first to do that. I’m just saying. How can we make this guy [Pacquiao] feel uncomfortable,” said Thurman.
As Thurman jokingly advises, the best way to make Pacquiao uncomfortable isn’t to step on his feet.
Ideally, the best way for Ugas to make Pacquiao uncomfortable is to hit him in the breadbasket from start to finish, focusing on throwing 90% of his punches downstairs instead of to his head.
Yordenis should throw uppercuts, says Thurman
“He’s a legend among legends. We have to acknowledge. This is two years after his performance against me,” said Thurman of Pacquiao. “He did take damage in that fight; let’s acknowledge this, okay? It’s two years after.
“The later rounds were favoring me. What’s going to happen this time, two years later? I’ve never seen Ugas fatigue in a 12 round fight; I’ve never seen that. I think that’s one of his strong points.
“Manny Pacquiao, his angles, he’s always a small guy. The moment he put his hands up, I said to myself, ‘What can I hit?’ The target got so small, you know? It’s like a game, and here’s a target. You up the difficulty, and there goes the target [getting smaller].
“Once when he [Pacquiao] ducks and he shots in these angles, he shots in this angle, but after you punch, you roll. Once when he punches and ducks, that was like kneecap size, bro. I don’t got no punch for that.
“I’m looking at him [Manny] over here, and I’m looking at him over there. I’m like, ‘What do I hit this man with? I don’t have a punch for that.’ Luckily, I think Ugas might have a punch for that.
“I was thinking about it; when people have a longer reach when they throw uppercuts, it naturally gets to go a little lower.
I think if Ugas gets into his uppercuts, and he sees that it’s working, and he lets that be a go-to punch, he might be able to do something in this fight tomorrow,” said Thurman.
Just as important as throwing body shots, Yordenis must throw uppercuts because it’s the best punch that a taller fighter like him can hit the short 5’6″ Pacquiao with.
As Thurman points out, he wishes he were capable of throwing uppercuts because he couldn’t hit Pacquiao was ducking below the waist during their fight.
Normally, the referee is supposed to warn fighters not to duck below the waist, but we’re talking about the superstar Pacquiao. When you have that kind of popularity, you can get away with things that other fighters can’t.
If Ugas can throw uppercuts when Pacquiao is coming in low, he could hurt him and score a knockout. At the very least, Ugas will cause Pacquiao to stop coming in low because he won’t want to continue to be hit by his uppercuts.
Ugas wants to prove he’s no paper champion
“I got knocked down [by Pacquiao], and I was pressing him with my body but not with my hands,” said Thurman in reflecting on his loss to Manny in 2019.
“After we got to the halfway point, I thought, ‘I don’t know how many rounds we won, I don’t know how many rounds I lost, but you didn’t lose every round. So, you’re in this fight. Let’s put ourselves more in this fight,’ and I did that instantly.
“It was all about the mindset and gearing myself up,” Thurman said on his fight with Pacquiao.
“Ugas’ mindset on stage, he was making a lot of facial expressions. He knows that people think he’s a paper champ; he knows that. He wants to prove that he’s NOT that.
“We just got to see. I was big. It was easy to just walk in on Pacquiao. With my hands up, I was taking a lot of that [blocking Manny’s shots]. He knocked me down going back. Ugas is going to have to be careful.
“Pacquiao has trained himself throughout the years to take advantage of fighters out of position. So he’s [Yordenis] is going to have to do his best to stay solid and not get out of position and not let Manny do what Manny does best,” said Thurman.
Thurman says Ugas attack Pacquiao’s body
“Body shots, start from round one,” said Thurman when asked what’s the key to victory for Ugas to beat Pacquiao. “If he [Pacquiao] faded on me two years ago, he most likely is going to fade on you.
“We all know the philosophy behind body shots,” said Thurman. “You chop at the tree. So if he’s [Yordenis] able to do that. I was doing that a little bit [against Pacquiao]. Hence, that body shot in the 10th round. Pacquiao was like, ‘I can do it too.’ Bam,” said Thurman.
As we’ve talked about, Yordenis’ best shot at winning this fight is to do the opposite of what Pacquiao’s past opponents have done by focusing on throwing to the body.
Pacquiao’s opponents have ALWAY head-hunted, and that’s rarely worked against him. Throwing to the body has proven to work against Pacquiao, as we saw in his third round body-shot knockout loss to Rustico Torrecampo in February 1996.