Sound For Sound: Pacquiao-Thurman Could Be a Matter of Ghosts and ‘Conditioning’

Sound For Sound is a recurring column that further explores the relationship of rhythm and boxing by celebrating the music that influences and motivates fighters as they prepare for, and to excel under, the game’s brightest of lights
WBA Welterweight champion Keith Thurman heads into his first Pay-Per-View either facing Manny Pacquiao – or maybe the 8-division champ’s ‘ghost’

Next Saturday, July 20, boxing’s only 8-division world champion Manny Pacquiao and reigning undefeated WBA Welterweight champion Keith Thurman kick off Premier Boxing Champions’ unofficial 147-pound Final Four tournament. IBF champion Errol Spence Jr and WBC champion Shawn Porter are expected to be announced shortly.

Tough to predict what to expect from the 40-year old Philippines Senator when he faces Thurman in the main event of the PBC on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View card from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Thurman is 10 years younger, but has only had three fights since June 2016. His late-January return bout versus Josesito Lopez was his first fight since his March 4, 2017 unification bout with Danny Garcia. While Lopez was largely viewed as a ‘get back’ fight, Thurman’s performance produced some sketchy moments that convinced many to insert a third word in that description – ‘never’.

Interestingly, one would be hard-pressed to convince many fans that a challenge of any kind was even in Thurman’s plans for 2019. As boxing tends to do, various developments occurred over the first half of the year, and fight fans were rewarded with Pacquiao-Thurman – as opposed to Thurman-Spence.

Or Thurman-Porter 2.

Thurman-Crawford is being mentioned for entertainment purposes only.

…I was trying to let the world know that Keith Thurman belongs at the top and now the world is finally understanding why. – Keith Thurman

In truly apropos fashion, Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah released a new single earlier this week entitled “Conditioning”, and some of Starks’ lyrics could easily serve as reminders of the former unified champion whose power once had those speaking moniker “One Time” while maintaining a straight face. “One Time” hasn’t aged well, in either social media or on YouTube.

In the month prior to fight week, the uptick in Thurman’s quotes indicated he might have felt the need to respond to his critics, as well as to send a message to his 40-year old opponent. Much of Thurman’s promises are echoed in the track’s opening verse as Ghost spits in his renowned exuberance:

I still jog in the hills of Brazil
Twelve eggs and my conditioning coach is Anderson Sil
He’s a prized fighter and me, I’m a prized writer
Time you industry n—-s recognize fire
Boric acid mixed with ricin
Don’t stand under a tree ’cause my flow is lightning
Some say I should be prosecuted death by lethal injection
Electrocuted or Malcolm X em’

Heading into Thurman’s fight against Leonard Bundu, in December 2014, the Tampa Bay-based champion’s record included 21 stoppages in his 23 fights – an impressive 91.3 percent KO ratio. Thurman defeated Bundu by unanimous decision, but his lone stoppage came in 2015 when former Welterweight champion Luis Collazo retired after the seventh round.

To Thurman’s credit, he only fought once in 2016 and 2017 versus proven, durable champions Shawn Porter and Danny Garica, respectively. Neither fight included visits to the canvas for Thurman’s opponents, but the bouts cemented the fact that Thurman knows how to go the distance in physically and mentally grueling fights, while emerging as the victor.

If you’ve caught any of Thurman’s animated YouTube videos recently, or the PBC on FOX Fight Camp programs featuring training camp footage and interviews with both Thurman and Pacquiao, you know the champion’s plans are for the fight to end inside of the distance. In a couple of the clips Thurman scoffed at any notions that he’s on the decline.

In Tony Starks’, one of Ghostface’s many aliases, second verse of “Conditioning”, the veteran reminds listeners of his pre-Wu-Tang Clan street mentality which he’s rapped about in the tales of many of his songs since the once-masked emcee first appeared.

Ayo, my moms never knew that she was nursin’ a wolf
And I wrote this on 9/11, covered in soot
Spittin’ tobacco out my mouth in Claiborne fatigues
Posted under a Brinks truck waiting to squeeze
They on point like the nose of a Marlin, Spartacus brawlin’
Pressing out pushes and public, n—-, you stolen away
Nowhere to run, f—–, I’ll grab your ear
My shootin’ arm stay fresh like a bag of gear

Although Thurman is undefeated in his 29 professional bouts and was previously a unified Welterweight champion – by age 28 – the Florida native is still somewhat unheralded. Despite being in boxing’s most glamorous division, a long-standing spot on most Pound-For-Pound lists has eluded Thurman. His pursuit of becoming a household name is somewhat mirrors the lane Ghostface Killah, né Dennis Coles, occupied as a member of Wu-Tang Clan when the collective’s album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) dropped in November 1993.

Achieving standout moments on an LP among nine hungry emcees is ostensibly a difficult task – even more so on a single with a run-time of 4:48. After all, this was nine men all grasping at a single rope that could enable them to escape from the clutches of some of America’s most impoverished conditions. Ghostface enjoyed his share of bright moments throughout 36 Chambers, but accomplished his most entrancing performance on the album’s third single “Can It All Be So Simple” where he was only paired with his most frequent Wu accomplice Raekwon.

Thurman found himself struggling to create a lane for himself on the tail end of one of the Welterweight’s best eras which, at some time, featured elite fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton and a few others including Pacquiao. Throw in some of Thurman’s peers such as Andre Berto, Paulie Malignnagi, Paul Williams, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander, Tim Bradley, and Antonio Margarito.

Ghostface gradually emerged as one of the best solo artists from da Clan. He started with his classic debut album Ironman in 1996, and went on to immerse hundreds of thousands of fans with his world-building discography that includes eight other solo albums, plus nearly ten other collaborative projects. The Staten Island native patiently awaited his turn until 1996, as Ironman dropped after solo projects from Wu members Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the aforementioned Raekwon and The Genius/GZA. None of those artists have matched Ghost’s output to date.

Calls from Mayweather, Mosley and Cotto never came for Thurman before their respective exits from the fight game. And the defending champion recently spoke on his awareness of the absence of these names on his résumé.

“This is history in the making. This is one of the best fights all year. This is the biggest fight of my career. You see a lot of fight posters in this gym, I remember when Winky Wright, fought ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. I remember when he fought ‘Tito’ Trinidad. For me, this is my Mosley. This is my ‘Tito’ Trinidad moment. I get to show the world that Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman is not just a great champion he can beat legends.

“I’ve always told everybody since the day that I was first on TV. I called out the world champions then. They didn’t know who Keith Thurman was, but I was trying to let the world know that Keith Thurman belongs at the top and now the world is finally understanding why.

Pacquiao has heard Thurman’s promises too, and he’s aware of the current change in guard at the 147-pound division, but amazingly at age 40 the tireless warrior stills sees himself as a central figure in its future – if only for another fight or two.

“The more Thurman talks, the more it will help me. His words are motivating me and encouraging me to work even harder day after day.

“Thurman reminds me the most of Ricky Hatton, of fighters that I’ve faced. Will it be the same result? You never know.

Come Saturday night all of the intriguing questions surrounding these two champions will be answered, and regardless of the winner it seems like the final chapter could be forcefully closed for either man. At the moment, for many fans, Thurman has major credibility issues as it appears that his commitment to boxing is a matter of conditioning.

Bonus Play

Undefeated IBF Super Middleweight champion Caleb “Sweethands” Plant opens the PBC’s Pacquiao-Thurman night of action up on FOX. Starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on FOX and FOX Deportes, Plant headlines a FOX PBC Fight Night with his first title defense versus world-ranked Light Heavyweight Mike Lee.

Plant trains in and fights out of Las Vegas, but the 27-year old hails from Nashville, Tennessee. He won his first title back in January with a commanding 2-knockdown unanimous decision over Jose Uzcategui. Becoming a world champion, in his first bid for a title, fulfilled a promise to his late daughter Alia – she was just 19-months old. Stunningly, back on March 10, Plant lost his mother, Beth Plant, 51, after she was killed in a police-involved shooting, in Tennessee’s Cheatham County, that occurred after the driver of ambulance that was transporting her pulled over the vehicle.

During Plant’s July 11 media workout with his trainer Justin Gamber at Las Vegas’ City Boxing Gym, the champion told onlookers that defending his title would be a promise to his mother he intends to keep.

Tennessee, Memphis duo 8Ball & MJG released their third studio album, On Top of The World, back in November 1995. The two legendary Southern rappers took a moment from an album about riding high, to record a track with a hook that reminded us all that with life’s goods times comes the bad. On the track “For Real” the two wrapped some verses about the setbacks involved with hustling and the pitfalls of life with the chorus:

When hard times seem to find you (yeah, that’s for real)
When all your good days behind you (yeah, that’s for real)
When there’s no sofa to recline to (yeah, that’s for real)
And you just constantly have to pay a due (yeah that’s for real)
But if you broke s— straight till you make a little money
E’ybody gonna say you done changed
And e’ry mother—— think e’ry other mother—— tryin’ to find a new hold in the game

With his thrilling upset win versus Venezuela’s Uzcategui, Plant marked his arrival on boxing’s big stage and immediately cemented his status as a world class fighter. His solemn set of motivations to continue proving that’s where he belongs may be too great for Lee to overcome in his first outing at this level. Yeah, that’s for real.

Thurman photo by Damon Gonzalez/TGB Promotions

Pacquiao photo by Sean Michael Ham/Mayweather Promotions

Plant photos by Nabeel Ahmad/Premier Boxing Champions

All song lyrics taken from

RL Woodson

I'm all over the place, literally. Click on something and I'll explain it all. A Tribe Called Quest fan, Good Will Hunting, HTTR and Michigan athletics... #DLTCYO

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