Manny Pacquiao Beats Back Father Time, Defeats Keith Thurman for Biggest Win of His Fabled Boxing Career

By Gordon Marino
John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty

Father time took one on the chin tonight as the 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 knockouts) won a split decision tonight over previously undefeated 30-year-old Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-1, 22 knockouts). In defeating Thurman, Pacquiao grabbed the WBA welterweight title belt, becoming the first fighter in his forties to win the 147-pound crown.

Judges Tim Cheatham and Dave Moretti scored the fight (115-112) for Pacquiao, while Judge Glenn Feldman had it 114-113 for Thurman

A scintillating contest, it was Pacquiao’s fleet footwork combined with long combinations and lateral movement that were responsible for what might have been be the biggest win of his remarkable career.

During the week before the fight, Thurman boasted that he bet on himself to knock Pacquiao out in either the first, second, or seventh round. But it was Thurman who found himself horizontal near the end of the first frame when Pacquiao charged in and nailed the Clearwater native with a left to the body and a right hook to the head. It was only the second time in his career that Thurman had kissed the canvas.

Pacquiao’s in-and-out movement and his ability to come in on angles and deliver a wide array of crushing blows flummoxed Thurman during the first half of the contest. However, Thurman collected himself in the second half, mobilized more aggression and started forcing Pacquiao to fight backing up.

Manny Pacquiao stands over Keith Thurman after sending him to the canvas during the first round of their WBA super world welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 20, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty

In the days before they met, Thurman joked that on Saturday night he would have a chance to hit a senator. And hit Senator Pacquiao he did. In the later rounds, Thurman repeatedly landed his vaunted right hand, but he was seldom able to get full extension on it and he failed to bring a left hook behind his right. When the Filipino icon went to the ropes, squared up and assumed a high guard, Thurman was successful at cracking Pacquiao to the body

As the fight unfurled, it seemed as though Thurman was turning the tide and Pacquiao had lost his fountain of youth. But then, Pacquiao, who can close the distance between himself and his opponent as fast as anyone in boxing togs, would charge in, landing concussive combinations. In the tenth round, Pacquiao drilled Thurman with a left to the body that nearly put Thurman down and certainly took some of the wind out of his sails. But the gritty Thurman was back on the attack in the 12th round.

In terms of sheer numbers, Thurman landed more punches; however, after the fight, he confessed, “Manny Pacquiao is a truly great, legendary champion…I wish I had a little more output…My conditioning was a little behind Manny Pacquiao’s.”

Often with a hint of a smile, Thurman ran his mouth before the bout. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, remarked that the trash talk helped motivate his man.

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Pacquiao, who seldom responds to pre-fight banter, said, “I want to teach him a lesson…like a professor.” And that he did.

However, after the scores were tallied and the decision announced, both combatants had nothing but kind words and respect for one another.

Pacquiao remarked, “I did my best, he did his best…I’m sure the fans are very happy…I want to clap for my opponent…this guy can fight—this guy is a warrior. His journey is not over.” 

Many commentators have labelled Pacquiao a freak of nature. There is something to that assessment. Years ago, I was talking with his conditioning coach and he revealed, “Get Manny when he is going to sleep and he has a resting pulse rate of around 44 but when he is working out he can get it up to 205 and keep it there for a couple of minutes.” To be sure, Pacquiao is a physical outlier but there is more to historic success than natural gifts.

Manny Pacquiao embraces Keith Thurman after beating Thurman in a WBA welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 20, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Steve Marcus/Getty

Pacquiao has been a professional fighter for 24 years. He is a veteran of 29 world title fights, and his composure, ability to read his opponents and to know when to press and when to hang back are an essential part of his fistic arsenal.

With a roster like Terrence Crawford, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Manny Pacquiao, and Keith Thurman, the welterweight division has replaced the heavies as the premier weight class in boxing today. Word has it that Pacquiao, who will by then be 41, will toe the line with the winner of the September 28th Spence vs. Porter showdown.

Then again, Floyd “Money” Mayweather sometimes seems as though he is getting bored. He was on hand last night and who knows what was going on in his head behind those high-end sunglasses.

But for now, Senator Pacquiao is rushing back to the Philippines to work on the national budget. If his work in Congress is anything like his work last night at the MGM Grand, the budget will be in good condition.

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