Sunday, February 05, 2023  |


Manny Pacquiao defies time and makes history in beating Keith Thurman

Manny Pacquiao had Keith Thurman in trouble a few times. Photo by Steve Marcus/ Getty Images

Manny Pacquiao’s birth certificate may say 40, but the rest of him seems locked in a body that’s at least 10 years younger.

“Pac-Man” wrested the WBA welterweight belt from a decade-younger Keith “One Time” Thurman with a split-decision victory before a sellout crowd of 14,356 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night on FOX PBC Fight Night/FOX Deportes.

Pacquiao 61-7-2 (39 KOs) landed 195 of 686 (28%) total punches to Thurman’s 210-571 (37%).

Pac-Man became the oldest welterweight to ever win a major title, after judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham both scored it 115-112 in Pacquiao’s favor, while judge Glenn Feldman had it 114-113 for Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs).

“It was fun,” Pacquiao said. “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.

“I really love the fans. 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.

“I think (I will fight) next year. I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision.

“I hope to be at that (Errol Spence Jr.- Shawn Porter) fight on Sept. 28.”

Thurman started fast and hard but Pacquiao took control of the bout with an opening round knockdown. Photo by Ethan Miller-Getty Images

In the first round, Pacquiao shocked everyone when he caught Thurman backing up. It was a right hook that nailed Thurman in the left cheek and knocked him down for the second time in his career with :26 left in the round. What set everything up was a straight left to the body.

“He is a fast fighter and smaller fighters normally throw volume punches,” said a very marked-up Thurman afterwards. “He really does have that hand speed. He jumps in and out with that quickness.

“I was on my back foot, he was leaping in, and he continued to punch and he caught me in an awkward moment and down I went. My balance wasn’t there and he caught me at the right moment and down I went.”

Pacquiao attacked Thurman again in the second, forcing the younger fighter backwards. After two, it appeared Pacquiao was leading.

With 1:44 in the third, Pacquiao grabbed Thurman’s attention with a lead right to the face. Thurman landed a few body shots, and connected on a few more to the body near the end of the third.

The third round may have given Thurman the confidence he needed to engage Pacquiao more. He began the fourth pinning Pacquiao against the ropes, though let Pacquiao back into the round over the last minute of the fourth.

In the early portion of the fifth, Thurman pressured Pacquiao. Midway through the fifth, Thurman’s nose began bleeding. A Pacquiao right with :23 left in the fifth opened a cut below Thurman’s right eye.

After the fifth, One Time returned to his corner a bloody pulp. His face was a red mask. His head was down. His body language suggested his confidence was slipping.

With 1:31 left in the sixth, Thurman landed a straight right, though he didn’t get enough of Pacquiao’s chin.

In the seventh, sensing the fight was falling out of his reach, Thurman came out more aggressive. With 1:07 left in the round, Thurman nailed Pacquiao with a straight right to the face, followed by a left hook.

With less than a minute left in the eighth, Pacquiao came charging back. But it was Thurman who nudged Pacquiao a few times with a pair of overhand rights.

Going into the ninth, Thurman closed to within striking distance of Pacquiao. In the first minute of the ninth, a Thurman right to the body scored. Thurman also seemed to reach a comfort zone. He was moving far better in the ninth, moving away from Pacquiao and pinning him against the ropes in the last :30 of the round.

Thurman landed a fight-high 26 punches in the ninth.

Pacquiao had Thurman in trouble in the 10th. With 1:19 left in the round, Pacquiao slugged a crouching Thurman with a left to the body. Thurman appeared disoriented. One time retreated, taking his mouthpiece out.

Pacquiao clearly won the 10th.

In the first minute of the 11th, Pacquiao was chasing the retreating Thurman. With 1:13 left in the round, Thurman hit Pacquiao square in the face with a straight right. It backed Pacquiao to the ropes, but Pac-Man didn’t stay there long. He fought his way back, and may have won the round.

Pacquiao crushed Thurman with a straight left with 1:33 left in the last round. With :19 left in the fight, Thurman crunched Pacquaio with a head-snapping right.

“I knew it was too close,” Thurman said. “He got the knockdown so he had momentum in round one.

“I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe. I felt like he was getting a little bit tired, but he did have experience in the ring. My conditioning and my output were just behind Manny Pacquiao’s. I would love the rematch.

“You get blessings and lessons. Tonight, was a blessing and a lesson. Thank you everybody, and thank you Manny Pacquiao.

I had an ‘0’ and I wasn’t afraid to let it go. If you can beat me, beat me. Manny Pacquiao beat me tonight.

Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/ since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.



Latest Issue Cover