Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Keith Thurman on Saturday went the distance, and ultimately resulted in an electrifying split-decision victory for the 40-year-old fighter, who became the oldest welterweight champion in the sport’s history.
The highlight of the evening came in the first round of the bout. After both fighters darted to the center of the ring in the hopes of landing an early debilitating punch, it was Pacquiao who ended up having the bigger impact. All it took was left-handed shot to Thurman’s body, followed up immediately by a right hook to the 30-year-old’s chin for the senator to knock his opponent’s ass straight to the canvas. Thurman survived the count, but the crowd was already on its feet.
The knockdown set the tone for the early rounds, with Pacquiao in so much control that he celebrated the end of the second round with a slight taunting dance. It was the first example of any significant trash-talk from the Filipino towards an opponent that had done so much of it leading up to this fight.
But it wasn’t all Manny all the time throughout the 12 rounds. Thurman eventually returned to his championship form and rallied hard in the middle rounds. From the fifth all the way to the 10th, it was the Filipino challenger that had to show just how much gas he had left in the tank to absorb blows from an opponent 10 years his junior. There were definitely moments, albeit brief ones, that caused one to wonder whether Pacquiao might have gotten too much dip on his chip with regards to his choice to fight Thurman.
Pacquiao endured the punishment long enough to make a comeback in the 10th and create another top highlight for the evening. Partway through his first comeback round, he was able to land a strong body shot on Thurman that caused the champion to noticeably wince as he made his way around the ring.
But that shot, just like every other one that each fighter took from the end of the first round onwards, was not enough to secure what would turn out to be a necessary knockdown for the decision to be clearcut in one person’s favor. The decision went to the judges. Two of them scored the fight 115-112 for Pacquiao, while Glenn Feldman scored it 114-113 for Thurman, for reasons that require some pretty creative thinking. Sure, CompuBox said Thurman landed more punches, and his 192 power punches were the most from any Pacman opponent in the 43 fights the program has tracked, but the Filipino challenger simply defied his age and looked like the dominant boxer for a majority of the bout. Regardless, Pacquiao was the winner and the new WBA Welterweight Champion, ending Thurman’s six-year run with the title and becoming boxing’s only eight-division champion.
“It was fun,” Pacquiao told AP’s Greg Beacham. “My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong. ... I think he did his best, and I did my best. I think we made the fans happy tonight because it was a good fight.”
For as much shit-talking as he did before the fight, Thurman was understandably humbled by the defeat. But he didn’t have an Adrien Broner moment after the fact, and instead was rather understanding of why the fight went Pacquiao’s way.
“I knew it was close,” Thurman said. “He had the momentum because he got the knockdown in Round 1. ... I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe. My conditioning, my output was just behind Manny Pacquiao’s tonight. Tonight was a blessing and a lesson.”