The great Manny Pacquiao has achieved so much, yet right now he is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest-ever fighters over the age of 40. Thus far, Pacquiao has had just one fight since hitting 40 – his wide and impressive decision win over Adrien Broner in January – but if he can beat Keith Thurman on the 20th of this month, Pac Man will be in a class all by himself: he will become the oldest, perhaps finest, welterweight in world championship history.
There have been some genuine boxing marvels over the years when it comes to men being able to defy the ageing process, fighters like Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman and, years ago, Archie Moore. But these greats were much bigger men than Pacquiao. For Manny to be still on top (if he beats Thurman) and to be doing it at 147 pounds, a weight where speed and reflexes are essential, arguably more so than for a fighter operating at light-heavyweight and at heavyweight, is truly remarkable. And then there is the quite gruelling training sessions Pacquiao, at 40 years and seven months, has been putting in. Again, remarkable
We are now witnessing another phenomenon: this being the single fastest, speediest and all-round fittest 40 year old world championship calibre boxer in history. What Pacquiao is able to do at age of 40, what he did against the much younger Adrien Broner – and may well do against Thurman – is quite incredible. Each of the ageing fighters listed above, who managed to achieve success during their advanced years, did so by altering their overall style, by adding little nuances, subtle tricks and devices to their game. But Pacquiao is basically fighting the exact same way he did ten years ago, 15 years ago.
Naturally, Pacquiao has slowed down somewhat from the blurring dynamo he once was, but it’s no real big stretch to say Pacquiao is almost as fast as he was when he was in his prime, that he is still crammed full of energy, that he has not eroded as a fighter at all really; certainly not as far as hand-speed goes. At the very least Pacquiao has made us think this way We have no idea how long he can keep it up, how long he can keep subduing opponents years younger than himself, but already this great fighter who has made history is looking like a boxer who will have his own page devoted to him when he finally retires.
Look where some of the welterweight greats were when they hit age 40:
Sugar Ray Robinson, now a middleweight, was being beaten by the likes of Denny Moyer, Phil Moyer and Terry Downes.
Sugar Ray Leonard, also fighting at middleweight by the time he had hit 40, was being stopped (for the only time in his career) by Hector Camacho
Roberto Duran was fighting a selection of journeymen types at age 40 and beyond, and he was losing to Vinny Paz and to William Joppy at middleweight. Duran was still capable of the odd good performance when he was in his forties, however – like his win over Jorge Castro
Thomas Hearns was losing on a twisted ankle to Uriah Grant, up at cruiserweight, at age 40.
Pacquiao still has the look of an elite fighter. But he has to beat Thurman or else Manny will join the long list of ageing fighters who were unable to turn back the clock.