By Mark Eisner: Manny Pacquiao sent Keith Thurman skittering down to his first career defeat in beating him by a 12 round split decision on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thurman had said before the fight that he was going to retire the 40-year-old Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs), and made fun of his arms. The press row saw Pacquiao as the winner.

Thurman made it obvious when he was hurt by Pacquiao

What was noticeable about the fight was that Pacquiao had Thurman hurt three times in the contest. When Thurman was hurt, he got on his bike each time, and it made it look even more obvious. When Pacquiao was hit hard by Thurman, he went on the attack to hit him back. Pacquiao didn’t try and get away. The way Manny reacted to getting hit hard was far different than how Thurman dealt with it. As the younger and bigger fighter, it looked bad for the 30-year-old Thurman to be moving from Pacquiao when hurt. In the future, Thurman needs to do a better job of disguising it when his opponents hurt him with shots.

Tonight, Pacquiao got the last laugh in beating Thurman (29-1, 21 KOs) by an impressive decision to win his WBA Super World welterweight title on Fox Sports pay-per-view.

Pacquiao surprised Thurman with the high energy that he started the fight with in the first round. Thurman, 30, was back-pedaling in the opening round when Pacquiao caught him with a perfectly timed right to the head that sent him down on the canvas in the closing seconds of the round. Thurman didn’t look hurt. It was more of a case of Manny catching him with a shot that nailed him when he was in a bad position.

“I was on my back foot, he was leaping in, and he continued to punch and he caught me in an awkward moment and down I went,” said Thurman. My balance wasn’t there and he caught me at the right moment and down I went.”

Later in the fight, Pacquiao landed a body shot in the 10th round that hurt Thurman. The shot took the wind out of Thurman’s sails, and put him on the defensive. At the time, Thurman was doing a good job of getting himself back into the fight with his powerful shots.

Pacquiao’s early pressure was key

Pacquiao continued to apply pressure to Thurman in round two, and nailed him with some powerful shots. This looked like the Pacquiao from 10 years ago. He landed some big shots, and was dominating the younger 30-year-old Thurman at that point in the contest. Thurman didn’t want to stand his ground, and fight with Pacquiao at that point of the contest. That was a mistake on Thurman’s part, because he gave away those early rounds to Manny by failing to be aggressive enough.

In round three, Pacquiao landed big punches to the head of Thurman, and they clearly impressed the judges. This was when Pacquiao was fighting with a lot of energy. It wasn’t until the second half of the fight that Pacquiao gassed.  He was fighting in a similar manner as he did in his loss to Jeff Horn in 2017. But Thurman couldn’t take full advantage of Manny fading, because he was too cautious. Thurman didn’t want to put himself in the line of fire of Manny’s big shots.

Pacquiao to attend Spence vs. Porter fight on September 28

“I think (I will fight) next year, and I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision,” said Pacquiao. “I hope to be at that (Errol Spence Jr.- Shawn Porter) fight on Sept. 28.”

It’s a good sign that Pacquiao is planning on attending the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Shawn Porter fight on September 28, because that means that he’s thinking of facing the winner of that fight. Spence wants Pacquiao t fight him after he faces Porter. It looks like Pacquiao hasn’t entirely made up his mind whether he’ll return to the ring to fight the winner of that fight. Amir Khan told the boxing media last week that he and Pacquiao have both signed a contract for November 9 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

If Pacquiao takes the fight with Khan on that date, it’ll obviously be a huge disappointment to many fans. There’s a lot of money for Pacquiao to make fighting Khan in Saudi Arabia, and very little threat. That’s a match that’s a winnable one for Pacquiao.  It’ll anger a lot of fans if Manny takes the fight with Khan rather than the winner of the Spence vs. Porter fight. the fans would rather see Pacquiao fight almost any of the other top welterweights over a fight with Khan.

Thurman with advantage in punch stats

Pacquiao connected on 195 of 686 shots for a connect percentage of 28. For his part, Thurman landed 210 of 571 shots for a 37 percent connect percentage. The punch stats didn’t tell the whole story, however, because Pacquiao won the contest by the scores 115-112, 115-112 for Manny, and 114-113 for Thurman. It’s a good thing for Pacquiao that fights are decided on punch stats, considering that he came in second in that department.

“It was fun,” Pacquiao said after the fight. “My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong. 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.”

Thurman went overboard a little in trying his best to hype the fight with Manny. The best thing Thurman could do was go for the throat to shock the boxing public with his trash talk, and he clearly accomplished his goal. We won’t know how many pay-per-view buys the fight generated for a while yet, but there was a ton of interest in the match. There’s a very good chance the Pacquiao-Thurman could surpass the pay-per-view numbers for the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia fight numbers from last March.

“He is a fast fighter and smaller fighters normally throw volume punches,” said Thurman. “Pacquiao really does have that hand speed. He jumps in and out with that quickness.”

Thurman’s hand speed isn’t the same as it once was

Thurman used to have incredibly fast hands, but he’s lost some speed since his two-year layoff from 2017 to 2019. Further, Thurman got married, and he got heavy during his time out of the ring. Trying to come back from a long layoff, and jugging married life, it’s obviously been a difficult process for Thurman. He wasn’t able to find his old hand speed tonight, and that played a factor in Manny beating him. Pacquiao was just too fast.