By Keith Idec (photo by Ryan Hafey)
LAS VEGAS – Keith Thurman might’ve suffered his first professional loss Saturday night, but the former WBA welterweight champion is certain he provided proof of just how much more elite-level boxing he has left in him.
A determined Thurman turned in an admirable, courageous showing in losing a split decision to Manny Pacquiao at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The 30-year-old Thurman overcame a first-round knockdown, a right hand that badly bloodied his nose in the fifth round and a left to his body during the middle of the 10th round that tested his resolve.
For Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC), it was a redemptive performance in his first fight against a top opponent since he edged Danny Garcia by split decision in their welterweight title unification fight in March 2017.
Detractors doubted Thurman’s passion for boxing before he battled Pacquiao. They wondered whether elbow and hand injuries had taken too much of a toll, mentally and physically, on the Clearwater, Florida, native.
“I promised you guys that this would be one of the most exciting fights of the summer,” Thurman said during the post-fight press conference. “You know, my two-year layoff, I truly missed the sport of boxing. You guys have no idea. And just me showing my grit, my wherewithal, just really trying to make sure that I could put together some of the best fights. Of course, I wanted to win the fight. I fell short, but it was a blessing and a lesson because we’ve gotta do a little bit more. We’ve gotta get our numbers back up. You know, I do know that I’m a true champion. Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman has always been a true champion.
“I will be back at the top of the sport of boxing. And, you know, I mean, you’ve gotta go with the flow. You’ve gotta take the punches as they come. And you get knocked down, you’ve gotta lift yourself back up. That’s what champions do. So, like I said, we’re not going nowhere. We’ll be back. Like I promised you guys, Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman brings the best fights in the welterweight division, man. Fight me, baby. Fight me.”
Thurman handled his first defeat with class as well, even though one judge, Glenn Feldman, scored their competitive, entertaining encounter for him (114-113). Two judges, Tim Cheatham and Dave Moretti, scored their 12-rounder for the 40-year-old Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) by the same score (115-112).
“Tonight was a great night of boxing,” Thurman said. “You know, the opening rounds didn’t start off the way that I wanted ‘em to. Pacquiao had a lot of momentum from the knockdown. I ended up paying attention to the rounds. By the time we hit the seventh, I was like, ‘Damn, we’re in the seventh already?’ The fight just really flew by. As my original trainer [Ben Getty] said, smart fighters win, dumb fighters lose. There was just some adjustments that I didn’t make, that I could’ve made.
“Obviously, he caught me with my hands down in the first round. I was aware of Manny Pacquiao’s springiness. I was aware that I should’ve done my head movement. But being aware and doing what you need to do are two different things in the ring. So, like I always said, I got an 0 and I’m not afraid to let it go. If you can beat me, beat me. I was beaten tonight, and that’s the sport of boxing, baby. But your boy Keith ‘One Time’ is here and I’m not going nowhere, and I’ll be back.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.