SPORTS: Pacquiao gains WBA welterweight belt after Thurman's first defeat

A first round knockdown set the tone for Manny Pacquiao as he out-pointed American boxer Keith Thurman in their highly anticipated WBA welterweight showdown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday in Manila).

At 40-years-old, the "Pacman" still displayed tremendous speed, punching power, and a tough chin en route to claiming a split decision over Thurman, a man 10 years younger.

One judge scored the bout 114-113 for Thurman, but the two other judges saw it in Pacquiao's favor, 115-112, giving the Filipino the victory – and the WBA welterweight championship in what was his 28th world title fight.

"He did his best, and I did my best, so the people are happy," said Pacquiao, who had his name chanted by the partisan MGM crowd all night long.

"Thurman… he did his best, he's not an easy opponent. He's a good boxer, he's strong, and I'm just blessed tonight," he added.

Pacquiao improved his record to 62 wins, with 7 losses and 2 draws. Thurman, meanwhile, lost for the first time in his professional career to drop to 29-1.

It was an action-packed bout right from the opening bell, with both fighters immediately showing their aggression. While Thurman landed some dangerous punches with his right, it was Pacquiao who served notice of his intentions towards the closing stretch of the first round.

A left hand to the body followed by a right hand to head dropped Thurman with 20 seconds left in Round 1, causing the MGM Grand crowd to wild in anticipation of an early knockout. Thurman survived, however, and made it to the second.

Pacquiao would control the next couple of rounds, breaking through Thurman's guard with his jab before unleashing his right hand. A right counter punch towards the end of the fifth round opened up a cut on Thurman's left cheek, and the American had to cover up as Pacquiao teed off on him.

Thurman got his rhythm in the middle of the fight, and was at his best in the seventh round when he landed several clean punches – including a straight right hand that snapped Pacquiao's head back. The Filipino boxer simply smiled through Thurman's efforts, however, and landed an uppercut in the closing seconds that wobbled Thurman again.

Pacquiao had Thurman in trouble in the tenth round, when he landed a massive shot to the American's liver with his left. Thurman bent over, and then backed up for most of the round as Pacquiao stalked him around the ring.

Thurman would survive to make it to the 11th round, and showed renewed aggression in the final two rounds in an effort to catch up on the scorecards. Pacquiao, however, had an answer for every Thurman punch and the two exchanged blows until the final bell.
"He's not an easy opponent," Pacquiao said immediately of Thurman, who spent the build-up to the fight vowing to "retire" and "crucify" the Filipino icon. "He's a good boxer."

Statistics showed that Pacquiao was the busier fighter, throwing 686 punches over 12 rounds. He landed 195 of them, including 113 power punches.

Thurman, however, was the more accurate boxer. He landed 210 of 571 punches for a 36.8% rate, including 192 power punches.

The American, after talking trash for most of fight week, was gracious in his defeat.

"He got the knockdown, so he had momentum in round 1," said Thurman. "Manny Pacquiao is truly a great, great, legendary champion. The Senator . . . got the victory over me."

"My conditioning and my output was just behind Manny Pacquiao," he added. "But it was a great night of boxing, and I would love a rematch."

If a rematch happens, it may not be until 2020.

"My next fight will probably be next year," said Pacquiao. "I'm busy after this fight."

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