By Tom Donelson / Author, Member Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA)
Tom Brady, though past the age of 40, can still sling a football for the Patriots and may still be the best quarterback in the NFL, and a 40 year old Manny Pacquiao showed that he can still win a tough fight against an undefeated younger opponent. This was a close fight in which Keith Thurman reversed his usual M.O. of being a fast starter and often finding himself in pitched battles over the second half of fights. Part of the reason for that was Pacquiao, who came out smoking, moved side to side while landing his jab which set up a right-hand hook that sent Thurman down in the first round.
Pacquiao dominated the early rounds and I had him winning the first three. Thurman’s jab was ineffectual throughout the bout and that is one of his key weapons. By winning the early rounds, Pacquiao had a nice lead on the scorecards going into the second half. In the fifth round, the Pac-Man nailed Thurman with vicious body shots.
From the sixth, the momentum seemed to change as Thurman connected on power shots. In the ninth round, Thurman forced Pacquiao briefly onto the ropes but Pacquiao landed a vicious left to Thurman’s body at the two-minute mark of the tenth round that hurt Thurman and forced him to retreat. This disrupted Thurman’s momentum and allowed Pacquiao to regain control of the fight. Both fighters landed a flurry of punches in the final round but Pacquiao won the round and clinched his victory.
Compubox numbers showed the closeness as Thurman landed a few more punches and nearly 90% of his punches were power shots. He was also more accurate and his 190 plus power shots were more than any other fighter has landed on Pacquiao; but Pacquiao showed a variety of punches including the jabs which he landed consistently throughout the bout. He threw more punches and showed himself in excellent shape as he withstood the Thurman onslaught over the second half of the fight. Thurman has been an effective jabber but Pacquiao neutralized his jab.
I scored this 115-112 for Pacquiao and two of the judges agreed. While a case could be made for the third judge’s 114-113 score in favor of Thurman, most observers agreed with the two judges and yours truly, that Pacquiao won. Thurman did not dispute the decision, so even Thurman acknowledged that he didn’t win the fight.
The Welterweight division is loaded at the top and the elite fighters are very close to each other in ability; this fight was no different. Over the past few years, Garcia, Porter, Spence Jr., Thurman, and now Pacquiao have been involved in close decisions in key championship bouts. With the exception of Spence defeating Brook in England with an eleventh-round knockout, these other fights with the top elite welterweights ended up going the distance.
Garcia, Porter, Spence Jr., Crawford, Thurman, and Pacquiao make up a deep elite core of fighters that are close to each other in ability. While Spence Jr. and Crawford are recognized as the best, much of that is due to both fighters being undefeated. The other top fighters can certainly beat either one of them. Thurman’s place in the division is unsettled but he will get another shot at the title. He is too good of a fighter not to. Pacquiao is going to wait until 2020 to fight again but for now, he will be working as a Senator in the Philippines.
When Porter fights Spence Jr., in a IBF/WBC unification bout, this will start the process of setting up other big fights in the division. What Pacquiao did … fighting at this level against top-flight competition at the age of 40 … is incredible. It wasn’t that long ago, when he lost to Jeff Horn, that many were wondering if Pacquiao hit the end of the road as a fighter. The critics were wrong.