Bill Tibbs reflects on the Pacquiao-Thurman fight
40 is the new 20 – just ask Manny!!
Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, eight-division (and now newly crowned WBA welterweight world champion) Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO’s) won a split decision victory over Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-1, 22 KO’s).
After 12-rounds the right man won by a SD score (114-113 for Thurman, 115-112 for Pacquiao, and 115-112 for Pacquiao). However, in reality, while Thurman did work hard to close the gap in the second half of the fight, it is hard to see how any judge could have scored that fight a victory for Clearwater, Florida’s Thurman.
Pacquiao, closing in on age 41, refused to act his age throughout training and the entire 36 minutes of the bout and was a constant buzz saw of action and counter punches. And, on the times that Thurman did connect on solid headshots, the legendary Pacquiao shook off the punches showing little or no effect.
While Pacquiao isn’t the fighter of 5 or 10 years ago, (how could he be?), his performance drew rave reviews form all ringside commentators who were in awe of his work rate and skill level after 24-years and 71 fights in the game.
All in all, it was a win-win for all involved as Pacquiao put in another tremendous performance to extend his legendary career. Thurman, while taking his first loss, looked good and will indeed be back. And, most importantly, for the fans, a highly anticipated fight lived up to its expectations.
After the fight, in post-fight interviews, both fighters were pleased with the fight and were positive looking forward. While obviously Thurman would have liked to come out with the win, he is confident he will come back a better fighter.
Thurman, who drew cheer from the crowd for his respectful and classy post-fight interview, was analytical after his first defeat.
“I felt I tested him and myself. The judges saw it their way and now Manny Pacquiao is the champion,” Thurman stated. “I was focused on putting pressure but he was quite conservative. I really thought I was putting pressure on him but my numbers were not up to par”, said Thurman who gave a very honest assessment of his performance. “There was so much going on and in that moment I knew it would be difficult to get the judges on my side. I was obviously hurt in that fight. That’s boxing and, obviously, he was well prepared”, he said.
And, while Thurman was disappointed in the loss, he knows he will be back in the ring in big fights against the divisions best before long.
“He started with the knockdown in the first and then the body shot in the end was enough to convince the judges. I thought I would be able to do some countering and pressure him. Some of the things I wanted to do I did. Put I came up short in the numbers game”, he said. “It was a blessing and a lesson to have a tremendous fight. Me showing my grit. Of course, I wanted to win the fight and I fell short. I do know that I’m a true champion. I will be back to the top in the sport of boxing. Keith Thurman brings out the best in the welterweight division,” Thurman concluded.
Pacquiao, no stranger to big fights, seemed pleased with his performance and was looking to return again, but not until 2020. Like Thurman, Pacquiao was classy in victory and was very complimentary of his opponent.
“I’m sure everyone is happy with my performance. My opponent, he is young and a heavy-handed man. He can fight. His journey does not end tonight. He has a great future. Your journey is not over. This guy is a warrior. I’m blessed for being a winner tonight”, said the Philippine congressman.
While every fighter past the age of 35 is probably on borrowed time in a tough sport like boxing, Manny certainly didn’t look old, in fact he looked fresh and young. Obviously, he is fighting on a fight-by-fight basis at this late stage of his career but he said he would be back.
“I can still fight and give a good fight. The ability that I have, God gave me this ability. I’m here to inspire the fans.”