By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THIS WEEKEND Filipino boxing superstar Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and American champion Keith “One Time” Thurman collide for World Boxing Association supremacy in welterweight.

Happening at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on Sunday (Manila time), Mr. Pacquiao (61-7-2), boxing’s only eight-division champion, try to seize the WBA welterweight title from Mr. Thurman (29-0-1) in his first fight in the United States in two years.

Both fighters have expressed confidence in winning the fight over the other and claim the top spot in the WBA order in the welterweight division, which is arguably one of the most talented divisions in all of boxing.

In more than two decades, Filipino legend Pacquiao has seen it all in a Hall-of-Fame boxing career but many are expecting him to have his hands full against Mr. Thurman, who has a lot of advantages going his way, including being the younger and bigger fighter of the two.

One of those is local fight analyst Nissi Icasiano, who, while leaning towards a close decision win for Mr. Pacquiao over the American, said Mr. Thurman would not be easy pickings in Sunday’s title fight.

“From the very start, I always believed that this fight against Thurman is the best option for Pacquiao, especially how the American boxer performed against Josesito Lopez in his comeback fight,” said Mr. Icasiano in an interview with BusinessWorld as he set up what should be expected come fight day.

“If the Thurman that beat Shawn Porter turns up, we could easily see him overwhelm Pacquiao but he needs to leverage his youth and power. He needs to gain his respect early and his movement will be crucial to unsettling Pacquiao and disrupting his balance but as this is likely to go 12 rounds, he needs to fight intelligently,” the analyst added.

Mr. Icasiano, however, said as much as Mr. Thurman is a tough opponent, he expects Mr. Pacquiao digging deep and making the necessary adjustments.

“Pacquiao has too much class and experience to get caught and if Thurman telegraphs his power punches, he will viciously counter as a southpaw,” Mr. Icasiano said.

The analyst said the outcome of the match could well decide what is in store for 40-year-old Pacquiao, who is also a sitting senator of the republic, moving forward.

“A loss for Pacquiao, depending on the nature of the defeat, could spark the end of his career. A KO loss, especially one that sees him take substantial damage, will likely have his legions of fans wishing for him to retire,” he said.

Adding, “I don’t think anyone wants to see another legend of the sport remain in the game too long to take unnecessary punches. If Pacquiao drops a decision, there are a number of ways things could go.”

The Pacquiao-Thurman fight can be seen on ABS-CBN’s broadcast and digital platforms.

It will be aired on ABS-CBN Ch.2 at 10 a.m. with immediate replay on ABS-CBN S+A (Sports and Action) at 3 p.m.