Manny Pacquiao rolled back the years in Sin City with a tight slip decision victory against Keith Thurman to claim the WBA welterweight world title at 40-years-old.
Pacquio, boxing’s only eight-division world champion – and its only active Senator – produced a vintage performance fighting at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the 15th time in his 71-fight career.
A roaring start to the bout saw Pacquiao drop the previously unbeaten Thurman in the opening three minutes. As his long-time trainer Freddie Roach put it afterwards: “Keith Thurman may be called ‘One Time’, but Manny Pacquiao is ‘All Time’.”
After 12 rounds, the judges reached a split decision, with one judge scoring the fight 114-113 for Thurman, overruled by the two judges scoring it 115-112 for Pacquiao.
“It was fun,” said Pacquiao. “My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong. I’m not that kind of boxer who talks a lot; we were just promoting the fight. 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.”
The sell-out crowd of 14,356 were immediately entertained, the first round ending with Pacquiao flooring Thurman for the first time in his career with a straight right hand. “I knew it was too close,” said Thurman. “He got the knockdown so he had momentum in round one.”
Thurman was recovering in the second round but was haunted and daunted by Pacquiao’s right hand, as he did with the jab throughout the fight. Thurman came back into the contest in the middle rounds, smothering Pacquiao’s physicality and movement, walking the older fighter by ten years down, having success when he was able to get his combinations off before his opponent.
Despite blood pouring from his nose from round four on, Thurman landed powerful combinations on Pacquiao for much of the second half of the fight, but was never able to hurt Pacquiao or score a knockdown of his own.
“I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe,” said Thurman. “I felt like he was getting a little bit tired, but he did have experience in the ring. My conditioning and my output was just behind Manny Pacquiao’s. I would love the rematch.”
In round 10, Pacquiao landed a strong left hook to the body that clearly hurt Thurman and forced him to spend much of the remainder of the round on the back foot. The CompuBox scores were indicative of the close nature of the fight, with Thurman out landing Pacquiao 210 to 195, while Pacquiao was busier throwing 686 punches to 571 from Thurman.
Pacquiao had a large advantage in jabs landed, connecting on 82 to Thurman’s 18. The 192 power punches landed by Thurman was the most in 43 Pacquiao fights that CompuBox has tracked. Round-by-round, the two fighters were only separated by more than five landed punches in rounds two, seven and nine.
“You get blessings and lessons,” said Thurman. “Tonight was a blessing and a lesson. Thank you everybody, and thank you Manny Pacquiao.” “I really love the fans,” said Pacquiao. “Thank you so much for coming here and witnessing the fight. I’m sure they were happy tonight because they saw a good fight. Even though Thurman lost, he did his best. He’s not an easy opponent. He’s a good boxer and he’s strong. I was just blessed tonight.”
He added: “I think (I will fight) next year. I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision. I do hope to be at the (Errol) Spence vs. (Shawn) Porter fight on September 28.”
There was no indication from Pacquiao that he would be fighting Briton Amir Khan next in the Middle East.