By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Keith Thurman came to a post-fight press conference late Saturday night looking like he had been beaten up.
The former WBA welterweight champion’s face was bruised, marked up and swollen following his grueling fight with Manny Pacquiao. He was knocked down during the first round, bled badly from his nose in the fifth round and withstood a painful body shot in 10th round.
Pacquiao looked better, but he made it clear that he, too, had been brutalized on his way to winning a split decision at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The newly crowned champion revealed that he hasn’t been hit as hard as Thurman hit him since he fought Antonio Margarito in November 2010.
Mexico’s Margarito stood five inches taller than the Philippines’ Pacquiao in their 12-round, 154-pound title fight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The 30-year-old Thurman, of Clearwater, Florida, is only about an inch taller than the 40-year-old Pacquiao and he out-weighed Pacquiao in the ring by fewer pounds than Margarito.
“He’s very tough,” Pacquiao said. “He’s young. I can say he’s heavy-handed, man, not like other opponents that I faced before. This guy, he can fight. He has a lot of – you know, his journey [does] not end tonight. He has a lot of future to fight.”
Pacquaio particularly was impressed by Thurman’s willingness to trade with him and his opponent’s obvious fighting spirit.
“This guy is a warrior,” Pacquiao said. “I can say that because I’ve fought a lot of opponents and this guy is heavy-handed, man. It’s the kind of opponent you cannot underestimate.”
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) has fought 11 different foes since he out-pointed Margarito to win the then-vacant WBC super welterweight title. Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Pacquiao unconscious in December 2012, yet he can’t remember someone hitting him harder than Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC) since he met Margarito.
“Keith hits like Margarito,” Pacquiao said. “Margarito’s heavy-handed, but I think it’s because he was too big for me. So, that’s why I feel like [Margarito’s] heavy-handed.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.