by Nick Giongco
LAS VEGAS – Father Time must have applauded somewhere at the MGM Grand.
It was a vintage Manny Pacquiao who showed up Saturday night and loudmouthed Keith Thurman was silenced and reduced to being a footnote in history.
Before 14,356 fans, Pacquiao hacked out a 12-round split decision, highlighted by a stunning first round knockdown, to annex Thurman’s super World Boxing Association welterweight crown to his regular title.
Pacquiao (62-7-2) dropped his previously unbeaten opponent with a combination late in the first round, and the Pacman dominated the opening rounds with a combination of flair and power that recalled the incredible prime of the only eight-division champion in boxing history.
Dave Moretti scored it 115-112 for Pacquiao while Glenn Feldman saw it 114-113 for Thurman and Tim Cheatham’s tally of 115-112 also for Pacquiao was the clincher.
Pacquiao joined an elite list of topnotch fighters who continued to defy age. George Foreman won the heavyweight championship at 45 while Bernard Hopkins claimed the light heavyweight title at 48.
Pacquiao banked heavily on a first-round knockdown he scored using a left-right combination that sent Thurman crashing to the floor.
He immediately got up and beat the count of Robert Hoyle as the majority of those in the arena erupted in cheers.
Pacquiao easily won the first four rounds and it appeared that Thurman was not going to last the fight after the Filipino inflicted a heavy bombardment in the fifth round.
Thurman walked back to his corner when the bell sounded like a beaten man, his nose dripping crimson and his movement slow and shaky.
As the audience eagerly awaited an execution, Thurman boxed beautifully instead and even won the remaining rounds except for the tenth when Pacquiao hurt him badly with a left to the body.
Thurman stood his ground as Pacquiao went in for the kill but the Florida native weathered the storm and went on to win the 11th and 12th rounds as Pacquiao slowed down.
There was an effort by Pacquiao to score a last-second stoppage but Thurman kept him at bay the rest of the way.
“It was fun. My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong,” said Pacquiao, who absorbed countless hits to the face from Thurman’s piston-like left jab and solid right straights.
“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,” said the 40-year-old Pacquiao, who boosted his record to 62-7-2 with 39 KOs.
“Thurman is heavy-handed and I applaud himbut Kieth Thurman’s journey is not over. He has a lot of future,” added Pacquiao.
Thurman, who was dealt his first loss, dropped to 29-1 with 22 KOs, didn’t protest the decision and even acknowledged that Pacquiao was the better man.
“It was a great fight. I feel like I tested him and myself. I wish I could have given more. It is what it is. The judges saw it their way and congratulations to Manny Pacquiao,” said Thurman, who is ten years younger. “I fell short but this fight was a blessing and lesson for us to do more.”
“I was beaten tonight and that’s the sport of boxing. I am not going nowhere and Ill be back,” he added.
If Pacquiao had won trouble-free, he would have boarded a private plane bound for Manila so he can attend President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address scheduled Monday afternoon.
But based on the outcome of the bruising battle, Pacquiao was advised not to proceed so he can rest all day Sunday.