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Pacquiao vs. Thurman title fight set for July 20

Manny Pacquiao will challenge welterweight world titleholder Keith Thurman on July 20 in the main event of a Fox pay-per-view card, Premier Boxing Champions announced Saturday night during its telecast of the Jarrett Hurd-Julian Williams junior middleweight world title fight.

Pacquiao-Thurman will take place in Las Vegas, a PBC source told ESPN, but no site was formally announced and likely won’t be until a news conference with the fighters in the next couple of weeks.

Eight-division world champion Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs), the 40-year-old Filipino icon who holds a secondary welterweight world title, is coming off a one-sided decision over Adrien Broner on Jan. 19 defense in Las Vegas.

After that fight, Pacquiao said he intended to fight again in July, which is when he has time off from his job as a senator in the Philippines. He came to Arlington, Texas, in mid-March and was ringside to watch as welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. dismantled Mikey Garcia in a one-sided decision win and then did a joint interview with Spence to talk up the prospect of a meeting between the two.

Spence very much wanted the fight, but all along Thurman was the real opponent PBC and Team Pacquiao had in mind. Still, Pacquiao’s team said it would not finalize any fight until after Pacquiao was done campaigning for candidates for Monday’s elections in the Philippines.

However, PBC wanted to make the announcement to a wide audience on a nationally televised card and got things squared away in recent days, according to Sean Gibbons, one of Pacquiao’s close advisers.

Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs), 30, of Clearwater, Florida, returned from a 22-month layoff because of right elbow surgery followed by a left hand injury to retain his 147-pound world title for the fifth time, winning a majority decision over Josesito Lopez on Jan. 26 in Brooklyn, New York.

After the fight, Thurman, who owns victoires against top opponents such as Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, said he wanted to fight Pacquiao, who happens to be his mandatory challenger because of the secondary belt he holds.

“Manny Pacquiao is not going to be here for the years to come. Just fighting a legend, I just feel like the clock is ticking,” Thurman said after the fight with Lopez. “Later this year if that fight presents itself, I would definitely be open for negotiations and I would love an opportunity to fight a legend.

“He’s not the young Manny Pacquiao that he once was but he still is a great, world-class fighter. If we get that fight, we’d be happy to do it for ourselves and the fans.”

Dan Birmingham, Thurman’s longtime trainer, also said he wanted Thurman to face Pacquiao, calling him “a formidable challenge for anybody. We would love that fight. It’s an exciting fight and I think the fans would love it.”

In addition to announcing that Pacquiao would face Thurman, PBC also announced that super middleweight world titlist Caleb Plant will make his first defense against Mike Lee, a light heavyweight who will move down in weight.

Plant-Lee will also take place July 20 but air as the main event of a PBC on Fox event that will lead into the pay-per-view telecast. A PBC source told ESPN the fight likely will also take place in Las Vegas on the early portion of the Pacquiao-Thurman card.

Plant (18-0, 10 KOs), 26, who resides in Las Vegas, won a 168-pound world title by unanimous decision against Jose Uzcategui on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles in a fight in which Plant scored two knockdowns.

Lee (21-0, 11 KOs), 31, of Chicago, gained fame as a Subway sandwich pitchman and also received tremendous publicity earlier in his career for giving up a potential career on Wall Street after graduating from Notre Dame to box professionally. He has fought his entire career in the 175-pound light heavyweight division but will come down in weight for by far the most notable fight of his career.

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