LOS ANGELES — The 42-year-old Manny Pacquiao was last in the ring in July 2019 in a fight against Keith Thurman, doing just enough to sneak by with a split decision win despite being outpunched 210 to 195, per CompuBox. 

Thurman even landed 79 more power punches, but it was Pacquiao’s singular punch in the first round that led to a knockdown of Thurman and ultimately to winning scores of 115-112 (twice), while one judge had Thurman winning 114-113.

Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) will return to the ring August 21 to fight WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. (27-0, 21 KOs) on FOX Sports pay per view. 

Should Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) have beaten Pacquiao, a meeting with Spence could have been very likely. 

Now, he’s forced to play the role of prognosticator and FOX Sports analyst for the fight. 

“I favor Spence,” Thurman told reporters while discussing the fight. 

“We're big. Everything [Pacquiao] does is a challenge. This man loves challenges. That's what makes him one of the greatest fighters. You hear him constantly say, 'I want to make a great fight.' He's action, action, action. The last time he didn't get action was [the] Adrien Broner [fight in January 2019]. When he walked out of that ring he knew he won. But he was sad because he felt like he disappointed the fans. No matter where he is in his life he loves a challenge. He's a real warrior. He's a real fighter. He was raised in this. He was bred in this. He wants the best till the day he's done. He doesn't want to be in a training camp to fight anybody.”

Pacquiao dropped Thurman flat on his back with a combination completed with a clipping right hand with 26 seconds remaining in the first round. 

The Filipino Senator and boxing’s only eight-division world champion doesn’t expect to enjoy the same success against Spence.

“I won’t predict another first-round knockdown like I had against Thurman. I’m focusing my mind, body and spirit on winning the fight. That’s the only goal,” said Pacquiao. 

“This is one of the biggest challenges in my career. I can’t say it’s the biggest, because I’ve been fighting the best fighters in the world for years. But he’s right up there with anyone I’ve faced.” 

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com