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Keith Thurman ready to prove himself again, while Manny Pacquiao has extra motivation

Keith Thurman works out for members of the media ahead of his fight against Manny Pacquiao.
Keith Thurman works out for members of the media in St Petersburg, Fla., ahead of his fight against Manny Pacquiao.
(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

Keith Thurman was provocative, often bold. Manny Pacquiao was philosophical, sometimes political.

Welcome to the beginning of fight week, the so-called Grand Arrival Tuesday for the Pacquiao-Thurman bout Saturday at the MGM Grand. For a lobby full of fans, that meant cheers and maybe an autograph. For the media, it meant body language before the punches. No winners here. Just some pre-fight interpretation

First Thurman, then Pacquiao met the media after saying hello to the crowd.

Thurman arrived wearing his heart on his sleeve, or least across his chest. “Game Over,” it said on his black T-shirt. It might be a video game. But Thurman wasn’t playing games Tuesday. For a few hours, it expressed his intent.

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“Of course, this is meant for Manny Pacquiao,” Thurman said.

The unbeaten Thurman wasn’t exactly clear how it would end for Pacquiao, the 40-year-old welterweight who hopes to take Thurman’s 147-pound title and place it alongside all of his other titles, including his current one as a Filipino Senator.

“Keith Thurman is a diverse, complete fighter,” said Thurman, the welterweight who often refers to himself in the third person.

Pernell Whitaker, heralded as one of the greatest boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves, died Sunday night after he was hit by a pickup truck while walking across a wide thoroughfare in Virginia.

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He is approaching his bout against Pacquiao with confidence and an abundance of energy. He’s anxious, perhaps, to prove he is finally back. He has fought only once since beating Danny Garcia in March 2017. He underwent surgery on his right elbow. He underwent rehab for a bad bruise on his left hand. Inactivity means rust, enough of it to look beatable in scoring a decision over Josesito Lopez on Jan. 26.

“Inactivity wasn’t a blessing,” he said. “It wasn’t a downfall either. But it kept me out of the limelight, too. Right now, I’m living one of the most positive moments of my career.

“All athletes get injured and battle to come back. Baseball, football. It’s part of it. Tiger Woods, look at what happened to him. He was out, he was gone and everybody wondered if he’d come back. He did. But this ain’t golf.”

No, it’s what Mike Tyson once called “the hurt business.” There’s no clubhouse. Just an emergency room.

But not to worry, Thurman said. He says this is the year he is back as the healthy, strong fighter fans remember.

“I’m healthy, healthy enough to whip some . . . ,” Thurman said.

As Pacquiao took his turn, he was told about some of what Thurman said. He was asked about the T-shirt and about what Thurman said it meant. Pacquiao smiled.

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“That’s good,” he said. “I like that.”

Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach, who stood behind him as he addressed the media, believe a confident Thurman will be aggressive in the early rounds. If he is moving forward, the theory is that he will step right into the range of Pacquiao’s dangerous power.

For Pacquiao, the threat might be as simple as numbers on a scale. Thurman is bigger. Roach projects that Thurman will rehydrate after Friday’s weigh-in and add more than 10 pounds before Saturday’s opening bell for the Fox pay-per-view bout. Roach projects Thurman will be between 160 and 165 pounds. Pacquiao said Tuesday he expects to be at “146, 147.”

Pacquiao wants to augment his speed, which figures to be his biggest advantage against Thurman.

“Better for me, especially if you are going for the body,” Pacquiao said.

Above all, Pacquiao said, he is as motivated for Thurman as he has been for any fight over the last few years. In part, he said, it’s because of a word Thurman used when the fight was announced. Thurman said he would “crucify” Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who is deeply religious, was asked if the word offended his faith.

He didn’t answer. He only smiled and nodded.

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