LAS VEGAS – Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao proved the non-believers wrong. Again.
The 40year-old eight-division champion dropped Keith Thurman on the seat of his pants for only the second time in his 12-year pro career in the opening round then dealt the American WBA ‘super welterweight’ belt-owner his first defeat in 30 fights via split decision.
But most important of all, the ‘Fighter of the Decade’ 2000 showed the world that at his age, he could still win over a much younger opponent and strip him of his crown to unite at least the WBA version of the division.
The brash-talking Thurman is 10 years Pacquiao’s junior.
That was the Philippine Senator’s 62nd victories in 71 fights that also served notice to the other best in the 147-pound division he’s ready to face them all and regain the respect he once enjoyed.
And he intimated that intent to both Errol Spence Jr., owner of the IBF welterweight title since 2017, and former sparring partner Shawn Porter, the WBC titleholder, who both watched Pacquiao-Thurman title encounter.
Spence and Porter are scheduled to meet two months from now at the Staple Center in Los Angeles in what could be the first step to be taken by the Philippine Boxing Champions to ultimately unite the fragmented division.
“Yeah, I hope to meet the winner of that fight,” Pacquiao told television interviewer after the fight.
“One Time” Thurman tried to bounce back from that first-round knockdown but just couldn’t contain the Filipino’s quickness and firepower the rest of the way.
Judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham scored the fight in identical 115-112, both for the Philippine Senator, but judge Glenn Feldman saw it differently, submitting a close 114-113 card.
The split decision verdict was booed lustily by the 14,000 crowds.
Both judges Moretti and Cheatam gave Pacquiao seven rounds. The former saw the Filipino winning in the first, second, fourth, fifth eighth 10th and 12th.
Cheatam had then Pacman winning the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, 10th and 12th
Judge Feldman had Thurman the victor in the third, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th.
All three judges gave Pacquiao the first round with similar 10-8 verdict.
For the first time since the combatants started training, the bad-mouthing Thurman acknowledged Pacquiao’s advantage in hand speed, footwork and punching power, blaming the first round knockdown as to have tilted in Pacquiao’s favor.
”I congratulate Manny Pacquiao for his victory. He really won tonight,” Thurman said during the post-fight interview with media. “He’s too fast and too strong.”
“I did my best to come back but every time I did, he kept on coming back.
Pacquiao, likewise, congratulated Thurman for giving a good fight.
“Keith is a very good fighter. You can never underestimate him,” he said of his opponent. “I believe he has a great future coming his way.”
Turning his head on his victim, Pacquiao said: “Don’t be disappointed for your defeat.”
Pacquiao was supposed to fly to Manila via a private plane right after the fight to catch President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on Monday.
He was advised by the doctors, though, not to. Rule of the fight game is to rest a boxer who fought for 12 rounds or damaged badly to rest for 24 hours.
By EDDIE G. ALINEA