Manny Pacquiao fighting against age, the hungry Keith Thurman in the title match

LAS VEGAS: Twenty-four years after the first escalation in a professional boxing ring, Manny Pacquiao He will try to challenge the march of time here on Saturday when he fights against the undefeated American. Keith Thurman for the WBA welterweight crown.

The 40-year-old Filipino icon faces Thurman at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in what could arguably be his most challenging task since he lost to Floyd Mayweather in the Fight of the Century of 2015.

Pacquiao, who has successfully juggled his political career in the Philippines while continuing to box at a high level, looked strong in his last outing in January, a unanimous decision against Adrien Broner .

But the eight-division world champion is facing an altogether higher-calibre opponent in the shape of Thurman, renowned as one of the hardest punchers in the welterweight division with 22 knockouts in 30 fights.

Thurman, who at 30 years of age is a decade younger than Pacquiao, sees Saturday as an attempt to build his legacy, and has promised without hesitation to send the Filipino to retirement.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to destroy a legend, said Thurman, placing Pacquiao in the boxing pantheon with some of the best sports practitioners.

It's like I'm fighting Sugar Ray Robinson or Roberto Duran, Thurman said. This is Manny Pacquiao. It's a tremendous feeling, and it's going to feel even greater when my hand is raised at the end of the night.

Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) has rejected Thurman's promises of destruction, insisting he does not harbor animosity toward the brash American.

For me nothing is personal, said Pacquiao. Our job is to fight. He has to try something, and I have to try something. It is easy to say things. But it's not so easy to do it in the ring.

Pacquiao's preparations for the fight have followed a familiar routine.

After spending the first part of his training camp in the Philippines, he moved to Los Angeles to work under the direction of trainer Freddie Roach at his Wild Card gym in Hollywood.

Roach maintains that Pacquiao has not shown signs of decline during an exhausting fight, and trusts that his speed and mobility will cause problems for the Thurman, naturally bigger.

Roach, who expects Thurman to enter the ring at around 160 pounds once he has rehydrated after Friday's weigh-in, prepares for an early attack.

I feel like he's going to try to come for Manny and try to prove he's the biggest and strongest man, said Roach. It will advance. He's a good puncher, but Manny's footwork should keep him out of trouble.

I would love a collision because Manny will defeat him every time. A man is fast, another is slow. Thurman hits hard but has no speed at all. I do not see that I can get close to him. Manny for his speed.

However, Roach acknowledges that for all of Pacquiao's impressive training, the acid test will be performed under the bright lights of the MGM Grand's Garden Arena on Saturday. The history of boxing is full of veterans who needed a fight too many to realize that they are shot.

This is true, said Roach. Normally it does not appear in the gym. It only appears in the fight. And I am very aware of that. And if he appears in the fight, I will be the first to stop the fight if necessary. be.

Roach is nervous that a verbal agreement with Pacquiao several years ago, that is, when the veteran Cornerman believes it is time to retire, will heed the advice and hang up his gloves, may no longer be valid.

There are too many people around him who will tell him I'm full of shit, and he can listen to them, Roach said. There was a time when I said that our agreement was quite solid and that he listened to me. But today I'm not so sure.

Financial incentives may tempt Pacquiao to stay connected regardless of the outcome of Saturday's contest.

This weekend's fight will supposedly add another $ 20 million to the estimated career gains of $ 200 million. A lucrative offer to fight Britain's Amir Khan in Saudi Arabia in November is on the table, although Pacquiao's camp denies that a contract has been signed.

Pacquiao, who retired in 2016 only to return seven months later, says he will continue fighting as long as his body allows.

Boxing is my passion, he said. It is very difficult to stop and hang the gloves when you know that you can still fight.