LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division world champion and a living legend, proved Saturday that he's still worthy of pound-for-pound greatness at 40 years of age. He showcased his explosiveness and used a first-round knockdown to secure a split-decision win over Keith Thurman and become the WBA (Super) welterweight champion in front of sellout crowd of 14,356 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) said during the build toward the bout that he wanted to teach Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs, one no-contest) a lesson for suggesting that he would "crucify" the Filipino senator. Pacquiao did that, but he also had to endure a resolute Thurman, who refused to wilt under the pressure of Pacquiao's attack.
“I'm not that kind of boxer who talks a lot; we were just promoting the fight," Pacquiao said. "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."
Both fighters sought to gain respect in a wild first round that saw them exchange heavy leather. Thurman, though, made a mistake and pulled back with his hands down, which led to a hard right hand by Pacquiao that sent "One Time" crashing to the canvas. With the crowd firmly behind him, Pacquiao looked for the kill. As the rounds progressed, Thurman slowly fought his way back by keeping his poise and landing hard counter hooks behind a firm jab. In the end, Pacquiao's explosiveness proved to be the difference; Thurman would find success and then be met with a rush of Pacquiao punches.
“I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe," said Thurman. "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."
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. ringside, Pacquiao kept hope alive for a return bout with the retired fighter. Perhaps inspired by Mayweather's presence, Pacquiao countinued to assault Thurman and refuse to give the younger fighter room to breathe.
Thurman held firm despite being busted up and again fought back, stealing the middle rounds when Pacquiao slowed down his attack. The 10th round sealed his fate, however; a hook to the body hurt Thurman badly and nearly put him away.
Thurman survived another salvo and went to a measured war in the championship rounds. He continued to land his powerful hook, but Pacquiao simply would not be denied as the two battled until the final bell.
Pacquiao earned the decision with a pair of 115-112 scores in his favor, while a third scorecard went to Thurman 114-113.
Pacquiao's options are plentiful after this victory. He could wait and unify against the winner of the Sept. 28 clash between WBC champion Shawn Porter and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr., or he could lure Mayweather out of retirement for one more blockbuster dance.
“I think (I will fight) next year," said Pacquiao. "I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision."
"I hope to be at that (Spence-Porter) fight on Sept. 28," he added.
Here's how it all went down.
(All times Eastern)
Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman results, updates
Manny Pacquiao edges Keith Thurman by split decision, claims WBA (Super) welterweight title
Result: A hellacious battle between boxing's living legend and the sport's future ends with Paquiao taking a split-decision victory with scores of 115-112, 115-112 and 113-114. A fantastic fight in which the 40-year-old Pacquiao's activity and early knockdown sealed the result. He's back and he's a bad man!
Round 12 (12:57 a.m.): Both fighters are looking to rally, but a tremenous right hand by Thurman catches Pacquiao clean. Not sure how Manny stood up to it. But it gives Thurman the round as they wail on each other until the final bell. The knockdown in the first round was the difference. 10-9, Thurman (115-112, Pacquiao)
Round 11 (12:53 a.m.): Thurman shows great resolve and catches Manny with a hard uppercut. He's fought his way back into the fight once again but needs a knockout to win. 10-9, Thurman (106-102, Pacquiao)
Round 10 (12:48 a.m.): Pacquiao tore into Thurman's body with a shot that nearly crumbled "One Time." Somehow, Thurman weathered the storm, but he was in big trouble. 10-9, Pacquiao (97-92, Pacquiao)
Round 9 (12:46 a.m.): Thurman's poise is excellent, and he crushes Manny with a well-timed counter. Pacquiao tries to rumble back, but he's tired. This is getting interesting. 10-9, Thurman (87-83, Pacquiao)
Round 8 (12:40 a.m.): Both fighters are wearing the damage on their face, but Thurman has found a groove. Nevertheless, an outbust from Pacquiao gives him the round, but be careful. Thurman is poised and is putting in great work in a tough round to score. 10-9, Pacquiao (78-73, Pacquiao)
Round 7 (12:36 a.m.): Thurman has timed Pacquiao and rips off multiple combinations, finding a home for the right hand. Pacquiao crushes him with an uppercut, but Thurman continues to pile on. 10-9, Thurman (68-64, Pacquiao)
Round 6 (12:32 a.m.): Thurman's best round. He's lumped up, but he lands some really hard right hands when Pacquiao tries to advance. Pacquiao didn't get off like he did in previous rounds, and Thurman's jab and hook give him his first round. 10-9, Thurman (59-54, Pacquiao)
Round 5 (12:28 a.m.): Thurman was having a great round until the final minute when Pacquiao walked him into a right hand that seemingly broke his nose and dazed him. Thurman is fighting much better but continues to get clipped. 10-9, Pacquiao (50-44, Pacquiao)
Round 4 (12:24 a.m.): An interesting round where Thurman found a home for the counter and worked to the body, but the Pacquiao explosions of offense are carving up Thurman. Too much Manny. 10-9, Pacquiao (40-35, Pacquiao)
Round 3 (12:20 a.m.): A better round for Thurman as Pacquiao takes his foot off the gas. But Thurman still struggles to find a home. He lands a hard counter right, but Pacquiao storms in with another combination. And another. A closer round but the fight still belongs to Pacquiao. 10-9, Pacquiao (30-26, Pacquiao)
Round 2 (12:16 a.m.): Pacquiao is a whirlwind that is demolishing Thurman. Pacquiao lands a wicked combination and fires a right hand down the middle. Thurman is wobbled and can't seem to find a return punch. Another Pacquiao storm closes out the round, but this is getting dangerous. 10-9, Pacquiao (20-17, Pacquiao)
Round 1 (12:12 a.m.): An all-out war to start the fight. Thurman gets Pacquiao's respect with a right hand but makes the mistake of pulling back with his hands down and gets dropped by a right hand. 10-8, Pacquiao
11:58 p.m.: Pacquiao arrives to a massive ovation. As always, "Eye of the Tiger" is pumping from the speakers. Will the living legend prove that he's still one of the best in the world? We're about to find out.
11:56 p.m.: Main event time! Keith Thurman is heading to the ring to a chorus of boos.
Yordenis Ugas easily outpoints Omar Figueroa in WBC title eliminator
Result: It wasn't pretty, but it was effective. Ugas was simply too crafty for Figueroa, who couldn't figure out a Plan B. Right from the beginning, Ugas was picking off Figueroa's advances and throttling him with combinations. It was either that, or Ugas would make it ugly by tying up Figueroa repeatedly whenever his opponent would attempt to rush in. Ugas was a big underdog heading into the fight but staked his claim as a force to be reckoned with in the division. A clean sweep with scores of 119-107 across the board.
11:32 p.m.: Through 10 rounds, Figueroa has nothing for Ugas but heart. He keeps coming forward, and Ugas is slick enough to either tie him up or take a step back and fire a counter. At times, Ugas will sit on his punches and crack his opponent with a combination. If only Ugas had significant knockout power ...
11:22 p.m.: Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s arrival has everybody in the arena talking. Is he interested in a Pacquiao rematch should the Filipino get past Keith Thurman tonight?
11:18 p.m.: Ugas is in control in the sixth round but he was docked a point for holding. Will it make a difference? Probably not. It's not a pretty fight as the two are clinching a lot.
11:06 p.m.: After three rounds it's all Ugas. Figueroa can only fight one way, and Ugas is absolutely dismantling him. He has an uppercut that can't miss and he's repeatedly countered everything Figueroa has to offer. An exchange toward the end of the third round saw Ugas land some hard hooks on Figueroa. This could get rough if Figueroa is unable to land a punch to gain Ugas' respect.
10:58 p.m.: Ugas is known for his slick style but is using Figueroa's aggression against him. A hard right hand down the middle sends Figueroa stumbling into the ropes for a knockdown in the first round. I think we've got a fight, people.
10:40 p.m.: Co-main event up next. Omar Figueroa vs. Yordenis Ugas. In his last fight, Ugas pushed Shawn Porter to the limit and lost a narrow decision. Figueroa has always had a ton of promise; will he realize his potential tonight?
Sergey Lipinets makes short work of late replacement Javar Inson
Result: To the surprise of no one, Lipinets destroyed Inson via second-round TKO. Inson was in way over his head and ate a vicious overhand left that short-circuited him immediately. Somehow, he managed to get to his feet. The lights were on but nobody was home. The time of stoppage was 57 seconds of the round. Lipinets could find himself in the mix for an important welterweight fight in the near future.
10:31 p.m.: Lipinets did what he was supposed to do against a late replacement and connected with an overhand left that caught Inson flush on the chin and sent him face first to the canvas. He made it to his feet but his brains were scrambled. The end. Second-round knockout.
10:22 p.m.: Up next, we have Sergey Lipinets facing late replacement Javar Inson. Lipinets' original opponent, John Molina, had to pull out Friday because of a back injury. Inson steps in on short notice, but he's going to have a lot to prove with such a big step up in competition.
Luis Nery delivers brutal body shot to KO Juan Carlos Payano
Result: Payano made a mistake of staying in the pocket as he was keeping the fight competitive. Nery made him pay with one devastating left hook to the body that immediately sank the Dominican. He tried to get up but was unable to as the count reached 10 and Nery deposited knockout No. 24 into his account at the 1:43 mark of the ninth round.
9:58 p.m.: Just when it looked like Payano was batling back into the fight, Nery detonated a left hook to the body that rearranged Payano's intestines. Payano went down in a heap and yelling in pain. He tried to get to his feet but he was done.
9:42 p.m.: The momentum is shifting to Nery as Rounds 4 and 5 saw the Mexican rock Payano on several occasions with huge power shots. Payano just hasn't done enough to demand respect from Nery and is going to have a tough time until he does.
9:35 p.m.: Payano has done a great job boxing Nery and not allowing the heavy-handed Mexican to storm through him. Nery is boxing well and making slight adjustments in an effort to catch Payano with that big right hand. Will he be able to do it?
9:16 p.m.: The Pacquiao-Thurman pay-per-view kicks off with Luis Nery (29-0, 23 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Payano (21-2, nine KOs). As always, Nery struggled to make weight and had to lose a pound after initially coming in overweight. His power is undeniable, though, and it will be interesting to see if the light-punching Payano can keep the Mexican off of him.
Caleb Plant defends title with scintillating third-round TKO of Mike Lee
Result: Plant promised to put a beating on Lee, and he looked phenomenal as he ransacked his opponent with three total knockdowns. Time of stoppage was 1:29. It looks like his next bout will be a unification fight against the winner of Anthony Dirrell vs. David Benavidez.
8:19 p.m.: A scintillating sequence in the third: Plant crushed Lee with a right hook that deposited him to the canvas. Lee rose and literally ran right into a check hook that happened so quickly that referee Robert Byrd mistakenly called it a push instead of a knockdown. It wouldn't matter because Plant continued to put a beating on Lee, sending him down again, and the fight was soon halted.
8:13 p.m.: Plant wasted little time imposing his will and looked incredibly sharp in the first round. He unloaded on Lee and dropped him with a wicked left hook. Kids, don't go to the bathroom, this won't be long.
8 p.m.: Up next is Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) defending his IBF super middleweight title against Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs). These two don't like each other, so expect some fireworks.
Efe Ajagba tested in unanimous decision over Ali Eren Demirezen
Result: Ajagba won a wide decision with scores of 97-93, 99-91 and 99-91, but the fight was much, much closer than that. Nevertheless, Demirezen was the right opponent for Ajagba, who will now have something to take back to Ronnie Shields to improve upon in his next fight.
7:56 p.m.: A great fight between Demirezen and Ajagba. Both landed big shots but their respective chins held up. Ajagba was a little more accurate and was excellent firing the jab. He should come away with a narrow decision, but it was one hell of test for Ajagba. Will Demirezen pull off the upset?
7:46 p.m.: Demirezen's amateur pedigree has proven to be a handful for Ajagba as we enter the ninth round. Demirezen has made Ajagba box, move backward and try to counter. Ajagba has done well, but he's not exactly running away with the fight. These final two rounds could determine the winner.
7:32 p.m.: Well, it's the middle rounds and Demirezen is not only still here, but he's giving Ajagba all he can handle. He's landed some heavy leather that has gotten a rise out of the crowd, but Ajagba has boxed well and shown that he can set things up rather than loading for one big shot.
7:20 p.m.: We are getting things started with Efe Ajagba vs. Ali Eren Demirezen. Ajagba (10-0, nine KOs) is the guy who made Curtis Harper make an early exit before a punch was even thrown. He has menacing power and looks to make an example out of the undefeated Demirezen (11-0, 10 KOs).
Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight card
- Welterweights: Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KOs) vs. (c) Keith Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs, 1 no-contest)
- Welterweights: Yordenis Ugás (23-4, 11 KOs) vs. Omar Figueroa Jr. (28-0-1, 19 KOs)
- Welterweights: Sergey Lipinets (15-1, 11 KOs) vs. Jayar Inson (18-2, 12 KOs)
- Bantamweights: Luis Nery (29-0, 23 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Payano (21-2, 9 KOs)
- Super middleweights; (c) Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) vs. Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs)
- Heavyweights: Efe Ajagba (10-0, 9 KOs) vs. Ali Eren Demirezen (11-0, 10 KOs)
- Welterweights: Emmanuel Medina (16-0, 9 KOs) vs. Peter Dobson (10-0, 6 KOs)
- Welterweights: Abel Ramos (24-3-2, 18 KOs) vs. Jimmy Williams (16-2-1, 5 KOs)
- Flyweights: Genisis Libranza (18-1, 10 KOs) vs. Carlos Maldonado (11-3, 7 KOs)
- Featherweights: John Leo Dato (11-0-1, 7 KOs) vs. Juan Antonio Lopez (13-6, 5 KOs)