LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 20, 2019 – Manny Pacquiao can still sell out the MGM Grand Garden Arena 24 years into his storied career. In front of 14,356 boxing fans and a smattering of boxing royalty and sports celebrities, the Fighting Pride of the Philippines put one of his most exciting fights in years, winning a thrilling split decision over Keith Thurman of Florida.
Judges scores were 115-112 for Pacquiao (Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham), and 114-113 for Thurman (Glenn Feldman). Ringside Seat also had it scored 115-112 for Pacquiao. Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) is now the WBA Super World Welterweight World Champion, taking the title from Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) and handing him the first loss of his professional career.
“It was fun,” said Pacquiao of his win. “My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong.” Asked whether the pre-fight trash talk motivated him, Pacquiao said it wasn’t a factor.
“I’m not that kind of boxer who talks a lot; we were just promoting the fight. 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,” said Pacquiao.
“I knew it was too close,” said Thurman. “He got the knockdown, so he had momentum in round one. I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe. 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 felt he was getting tired in the later rounds. He knows how to utilize his defense, that was a surprise to me,” said Thurman. “He has also been the more active fighter the last two years, and that made the difference,” admitted Thurman. “But it was a great fight. I tested him, and I wish I’d given him more” said the gracious Thurman.
Pacquiao thanked his fans cheering him on. “I’m sure they were happy tonight because they saw a good fight. Even though Thurman lost, he did his best. He’s not an easy opponent. He’s a good boxer and he’s strong. I was just blessed tonight.
“I’m always thinking about my best, every night. My concern is, I don;t want to disappoint my fans. That’s why in training camp, I always punish myself,” said the champion.
“This was a beautiful night of boxing,” said Thurman.
Pacquiao turns back the clock
Watching Pacquiao perform at age 40, it seemed he had turned back the clock a decade, and perhaps even swapped a generation with the 30-year-old Thurman. The tone of the fight was set from the opening bell as Pacquiao bounced on his toes, flying with his fists at Thurman. It caught Thurman with the last bit of ring rust showing after a two-year break from the ring. With a swift, strong right hook to the head, Pacquiao knocked Thurman to his backside as the final minute of round one. The crowd went wild.
From this point of the fight on, Thurman had to dig himself out of a hole. His game plan took a serious blow in the first round. Until the midway point of the fight, Thurman had moments of success, but he spent too much of each round out of range. Pacquiao fought with speed, scoring with hard left hooks. His footwork and the ability to punch from angles looked like vintage PacMan. Even a slowed down Manny Pacquiao is still faster than most opponents, including Keith Thurman. Pacquiao caused Thurman to hesitate. The fight was progressing on Pacquiao’s terms.
Thurman hangs tough, regroups and makes it close
But to his credit, Keith Thurman didn’t let it frustrate him and take him out of the fight. Thurman is a thinking man, and he started thinking for himself. As he did, Pacquiao’s furious work rate started to slow a little, the one small bit of evident of Pacquiao’s age.
In the seventh round and behind on the scorecards, Thurman put together three good rounds in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, scoring with right and left hooks. Pacquiao showed a good chin and toughness weathering the punches. Thurman was starting to work his way back into the fight.
In the tenth round, Pacquiao roared back to life, scoring hard shots to the body and hurting Thurman with a left hook, causing him to buckle at the waist and knees. But Thurman didn’t hit the canvas. Instead, he kept clear as Pacquiao pursued him around the ring with the crowd urging him to finish Thurman off. In survival mode, Thurman made it to the bell.
In the 11th round, Thurman returned the favor and buzzed Pacquiao with a good straight right. The partisan fans in the arena cheering for The Fighting Pride of the Philippines didn’t perceive how close the fight was on the scorecards. Neither man could play it safe in the final round, least of all Thurman. Pacquiao sealed the fight with two excellent left hooks, the punches telling the story of the fight, and two of the three judges gave the final round to Pacquiao and the win.
‘Blessings and lessons’
For now, Pacquiao will make a quick return to the Philippines for an important appearance as Senator Manny Pacquiao on Monday. As for his plans in the ring, “I think (I will fight) next year. I will go back to the Philippines and work, and then make a decision,” said the Fighting Senator. He plans a quick break for a trip to Los Angeles on September 28 to watch the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Shawn Porter fight announced early in the day. It’s likely the winner will fight Pacquiao next year.
“You get blessings and lessons. Tonight was a blessing and a lesson. Thank you everybody, and thank you Manny Pacquiao,” said Thurman.
Yordenis Ugas dominates Omar Figueroa in decision win
Undefeated former world champion Omar “El Panterita” Figueroa Jr. of Texas (28-1-1, 19 KOs) bit off more than he could chew against an offensive machine in Yordenis Ugás of Cuba (24-4, 11 KOs) in their WBC welterweight title eliminator. Ugas won a decisive decision victory by scores of 119-107 on all three cards.
Ugas scored a knockdown in the first round on a nifty short right hook that force Figuera to stumble back and put a glove down. Ugas continued to take it to a tough Figueroa throughout the fight. Ugas was fast, accurate, and busy. Past the middle rounds with a knockdown in hand for Ugas, Figueroa’s corner should have considered stopping the fight. But Figueroa says he trained himself for the fight, and didn’t have anyone experienced im the corner to make the call.
Figueroa might consider trying to fight at 140 pounds, and he should get a tough-love trainer. He can’t skate by on sheer talent alone as his 30s approach, especially if he stays in the competitive welterweight division.
Sergey Lipinets makes light work of Jayar Insor
Former world champion Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan (16-1, 12 KOs) faced a last minute opponent in Javar Inson of the Philippines (18-2, 12 KOs), replacing the injuryed John Molina. Inson did his best to seize the opportunity. He wasn’t in the ring merely for a paycheck. But Lipinets has too many skills.
Once Lipinets sized up the southpaw in the first round, it took him less than a minute into the second round to land a sensational left hook counterpunch to a missed Inson right hook, and Inson dropped face first to the canvas. Inson struggled up to his feat, but referee Jay Nady had seen enough. The official time was 57 seconds of round two.
Inson said, “I got hit and I slipped, that made it look worse. When I stood up I thought I was fine and tried to raise my hands and show the referee … I’ll be back and ready to put on a good performance.”
“When I first heard the news about (John) Molina, I knew that I wanted to still fight on a show of this magnitude,”said Lipinets. “As far as fighting a southpaw, I’ve had so many amateur fights in my kickboxing career that I had no problem adjusting. It was just a matter of time. I also spar with great southpaws like Victor Ortiz throughout my career, so I was comfortable with the change in fighter.”
Trainer Joe Goossen said, “You never know what to expect. You train for one style and then you get another. But I’ll certainly take the results, a second-round knockout. I really love that. We were warming up on that particular thing in the locker room so he was looking for it. A great fighter always executes what you ask him to do and he’s a great fighter. I expect him to be champion again one day, that’s for sure.”
Lipinets’ only loss came at the hands of Mikey Garcia at 140 pounds. Now fighting at welterweight, “Samurai” Lipinets is a formdable opponent for anyone.
Luis Nery stops Juan Carlos Payano in nine rounds
Undefeated bantamweight and former world champion Luis “Pantera” Nery took some time but got back into championship form with a ninth round knockout of Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic.
Nery, of Tijuana, Mexico (30-0, 24 KOs) was stripped of his title for failing to make weight, and he came in heavy at 118.5 for his flyweight fight against Payano. (21-3, 9 KOs). This may account for his slow start in the fight. Payano deployed a good game plan, crowding Nery and making him uncomfortable.
Nery scores 11th straight knockout
But when Nery got his footing by the fourth round, Nery started pushing Payano away and firing off combinations, scoring to both the body and head of Payano. But Payano is willing to take a shot to land a shot. After a spirited seventh round trading shots, the crowd finally got fired up.
Nery finally hit his stride, landing quality punches on Payano. He continued to take them well until a perfectly placed left hook just under the rib cage dropped Payano to the canvas, and his evening was over. The fight ended at 1:43 of the round giving Nery his 11th consecutive knockout.
“He was a very complicated fighter at the beginning, he’s a veteran, so I had to try to adapt to his style to see how I could get in,” said Nery. “In the fifth or sixth round, I started gaining control of the fight and then that left hook came to the body which was devastating.” Nery said he saw the opening, “and then that’s when the left hook came and it was over.”
Nery said he felt he was getting into a rhythm as the fight progressed, but had to work hard to get to Payano. “The longer it went, the better I felt. I put my punches together well once I got going … This showed that I do have the experience to go into the later rounds and still take out my opponent. I showed that I have good defense and can make adjustments.”
Payano: Prior rib injury factored into loss
Payano, who looked far better against Nery than in his devastating first round lost to Naoya Inoue in the World Boxing Super Series, said, “I’m a warrior and I wanted to keep going and fight back. My coach wanted me to stay behind my jab a little more.
“During the exchanges it was Nery’s second shot that was getting in. We corrected the issue but then that body shot came in from nowhere and hit me in a rib that I had broken years ago against Rau’shee Warren.” Payano said he’ll have his previous rib injury checked by doctors, “but once I’m healthy, we’re going to keep working. I got caught with a great shot, but I was definitely in the fight before the knockout.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, based in San Diego, California, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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