Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao rolled back the years to become the oldest welterweight champion in boxing history with a thrilling split decision victory over WBA champion Keith Thurman on Saturday.
The 40-year-old Pacquiao, 10 years older than the previously undefeated Thurman, delivered a vintage performance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to leave the sell-out crowd of 14,356 roaring its approval.
Pacquiao floored Thurman with an electrifying combination in the first round and remained on the front foot throughout a pulsating 12-round duel.
Although the bloodied Thurman rallied in the later rounds to narrow Pacquiao’s lead, the judges scored it in the Filipino’s favour. Two judges scored it 115-112 for Pacquiao with the third scoring it 114-113 for Thurman.
A jubilant Pacquiao punched the air as the arena erupted after the victory was confirmed.
“It was fun,” Pacquiao said afterwards. “My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong.”
Thurman had riled Pacquiao in the build-up to the fight by vowing to “crucify” his deeply religious opponent, and later promising to send the Filipino icon into retirement.
Pacquiao, who improved to 62-7-2 with 39 knockouts, was gracious in victory.
“I’m not that kind of boxer who talks a lot; we were just promoting the fight,” he said.
“He’s a good boxer and he’s strong. I was just blessed tonight.”
Pacquiao, who earned an estimated $20 million from Saturday’s fight, is now a major player in the competitive welterweight division once again after capturing Thurman’s WBA welterweight ‘super’ champion belt.
The eight-division world champion said he will now return to the Philippines to resume his work as a senator before deciding on his next move inside the ring.
“I think I will fight next year,” he said. “I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision.”