The welterweight division, 147 pounds, the division of Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and a pantheon of other lightning like fighters has a new champion.
He’s 40 years old.
We’ve seen this sort of thing before but not quite.
We’ve seen George Foreman become a champion in his forties.
We’ve seen Bernard Hopkins become a champion in his forties, and compete in in his fifties.
Yet, both were most successful fighting at a slower pace.
Heavyweights like Foreman aren’t exactly known for speed, and Hopkins fought best at a more relaxed rate.
How does Manny Pacquaio still have his speed at his age? How did Manny Pacquiao become the oldest welterweight champion in boxing history?
In front of over 14,000 fans chanting “Manny, Manny,” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada we saw boxing’s only eight division world champion, at 40, storm out and knock down a 30 year old undefeated champion in the first round.
While the scorecards suggest a close fight, and Keith Thurman did have his strengths, making Pacquaio miss frequently, but he was never in any serious danger, and never behind.
Thurman quickly beat referee Kenny Bayless’s count in the first round after getting dropped but after then he was playing catch-up the entire match.
That even though he was the more accurate puncher according to CompuBox, Thurman’s punches seemed to bounce off Pacquaio with little effect while Thurman himself was hurt at several points, the tenth round most significantly.
Thurman also lost the jab count on a rout landing only 18 jabs to Pacquaio’s 82.
Thurman would try to use his size advantage to force Pacquiao to the ropes where Manny has always been his weakest.
Keith had a great round in the 6th and 7th round and an excellent 9th, landing 26 punches on “Pacman.”
Yet every trap Thurman was trying to set Pacquaio escaped or was able to back him off.
While the judges were seemingly impressed with Thurman giving him one winning card, it was a good competetive fight that made the 115-112 (2x) scores for Pacquaio and 114-113 for Thurman seem somewhat plausible and acceptable knowing they got this one right.
The talented Thurman suffered his first career loss.
Clearly everything that has brought Manny Pacquaio to boxing stardom is still there.
The speed, reflexes, timing, stamina, and even power, he proved last night he can still compete at the elite level, and he also says he will fight on.
Perhaps a rematch with Thurman or a unification match with the winner of the newly announced Shawn Porter-Errol Spence jr. matchup in September.
A match with WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford is also possible but extremely unlikely considering promotional differences.
Pacquaio remains one of the sport’s most entertaining and enchanting stars who brings both money and limelight wherever he goes and he will have no shortage of fighters lining up for their chance to dethrone a legend.
It’s still a bit odd that this is 2019 and this still can be written, considering what his concerns are outside of boxing. He’s also a Senator in his native Philippines and is a reservist in the military there.
The post fight press conference had him stating that after those duties had been fulfilled he would fight again, most likely next year.
He as a prideful fighter might seek a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, who defeated him in a dreary match in 2015.
The “fight of the century” which seemed like a century to watch, yet that’s seems a very remote possibility.
Mayweather seems happy to come out retirement only to make millions beating up people who have never professionally boxed, while Manny once again etched into the stones of boxing history.
In some way, that has to be a victory in of itself against his old rival.
The most perplexing thing about this whole thing is obviously, what everyone is eager to know and certainly not fearful to ask is when is Pacquaio finally finished fighting?
Pacquaio answered many versions of this lobbied at him in the post-fight press conference. “Your question is when am I gong to retire. I can still fight. I can give a good fight and entertain the fans.”
People who ask about boxing, to me personally anyways, I tell them the biggest names currently; Spence, Joshua, Fury, Canelo, Wilder, Golovkin, Lomachenko, and it’s always the same vexing look and confession, “I’ve never heard of them.”
Pacquaio is, and I think sadly, the last guy whose name can be said and people who follow the sport casually or less will go:
“You’re seeing PacMan?!”
Mayweather had this. Klitschko had this. They’re gone now.
I’m dreaming that it changes one day, but for now I’ll just enjoy it.
The 5 foot 6 inch tower that is Manny Pacquaio is still here to stay and isn’t going to crumble anytime soon.
Photo credit: MP Promotions