Before they met in the squared circle, Keith “One Time” Thurman made intense promises of “crucifying” Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao into retirement. On Saturday night, however, it was instead as if the eight-division world champion would experience a resurrection and have a second coming, delivering an impressive split-decision win over the longest-reigning welterweight champion to crown himself as the new World Boxing Association “Super” Welterweight Champion of the World.
At 40 years of age, Pacquiao displayed his signature speed, timing and explosiveness overwhelming a Thurman 10 years his junior. Unable to utilize his reach and height advantage to maintain his distance and bully the much smaller Pacquiao, Thurman fell behind in two of the judges’ scorecards 115-112, while the other one favored him 114-113.
“It was fun,” said Pacquiao post-fight. “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 action started early in the fight when after appearing in control, Thurman was sent to the canvas from a left body shot followed by a straight right hand to the jaw from “Pac-Man” with 25 seconds left of the opening round. The sell-out crowd of 14,356 fans roared in ecstasy at the sight of the then-undefeated fighter tasting the canvas for the first time in his career as the Filipino southpaw stood over him ready to continue his vicious assault.
In the middle rounds, Thurman had success momentaneously smothering the future Hall of Famer and accumulating momentum as the older Pacquiao slowed down and reduced the pressure he inflicted in the earlier rounds. Though the Florida welterweight survived and came to land heavy leather of his own, The senator was always one step ahead and dominated the pace for the entirety of the bout. Pacquiao hurt Thurman once again in the 10th assault, connecting a tremendous blow to the body causing him to hunch over and dance along the ropes in hopes of avoiding more punishment.
Visibly in pain, Thurman took out his mouthpiece immediately after the tremendous body shot, which he later explained was to facilitate his breathing while he managed to recuperate. Perhaps his bravest moment in the fight, Thurman showed heart and grit never taking a knee and even coming out more aggressively in the following round.
Through efforts of giving Pacquiao a taste of his own medicine and hopes on sleeping him as Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez had done in that same venue 7 years earlier, Thurman launched every punch with bad intentions, but noticeably cautious of counters from the many angles of Pacquiao.
“I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe,” said Thurman in his post-fight interview. “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.”
Though CompuBox showed Thurma out-landed Pacquiao 210 punches to 195, Pacquiao was, as predicted, the busier one throwing 686 punches to 571 from Thurman. Landing the crisper, more accurate punches along with scoring the early-round knockdown secured Pacquiao the victory and a possible shot at the winner of Errol Spence vs. Shawn Porter who unify their welterweight titles on Sept. 28.
Humble in defeat, Thurman didn’t become an excuse generator or challenged the decision the way Adrien Broner did in his January appearance against Pacquiao. While the inactivity may have very well been a contributing factor to his first defeat, the young fighter promised to go back to the gym and focus on a successful return.
“You get blessings and lessons,” said Thurman. “Tonight was a blessing and a lesson. Thank you everybody, and thank you, Manny Pacquiao.”
Just like in the main event, fans witnessed an early knockdown in the co-main event which featured Cuban contender Yordenis Ugas making his way to yet another WBC title shot by handing Omar Figueroa the first loss of his career and dropping him in the early rounds to establish his dominance. Though the fight went the distance, Ugas rose to the occasion as the clear winner with 119-107 across all the judges’ scorecards.
“I’m extremely happy to be in this position to fight for the WBC title again,” said Ugas. “I will be ready for the winner of Errol Spence Jr. vs. Shawn Porter.”
In the undercard, former junior welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets accomplished a brutal knockout against late-replacement opponent Jayar Inson in the second round of their welterweight matchup. Lipinets was originally scheduled to fight John Molina Jr., who pulled out of the fight on Friday due to an inconvenient last-minute back injury.
“When I first heard the news about Molina, I knew that I wanted to still fight on a show of this magnitude,” said Lipinets. “As far as fighting a southpaw, I’ve had so many amateur fights in my kickboxing career that I had no problem adjusting. It was just a matter of time. I also have sparred with great southpaws like Victor Ortiz throughout my career, so I was comfortable with the change in fighter.”
The pay-per-view opening bout featured undefeated former Mexican champion Luis Nery deliver a ninth-round knockout against former bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic.
“I wanted to get him out early,” said Nery. “But this showed that I do have the experience to go into the later rounds and still take out my opponent. I showed that I have good defense and can make adjustments.”
Though we’ve reached the middle of the boxing year with outstanding cards across different promotional companies and streaming sites, this could easily be argued as the best pay-per-view event of the year with a card stacked with intriguing matchups which undeniably lived up to the hype and served as a reminder pay-per-view can still survive as long as the name Manny Pacquiao actively exist in the world of boxing.