Boxing: Manny Pacquiao claims WBA welterweight crown over Keith Thurman

LAS VEGAS (AFP, REUTERS) – Twenty-four years after first climbing into a professional boxing ring, Manny Pacquiao defied the march of time on Saturday night (July 19) when he put an end to Keith Thurman’s undefeated rein to claim the World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight crown.

The Filipino rolled back the years with a vintage display to defeat reigning WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman by split decision in a thrilling 12-round battle.

Pacquiao, 40, floored Thurman in the first round and never eased up to bring a sell-out crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to its feet. Two judges scored it 115-112 in favour of Pacquiao with the third scoring it 114-113 in favour of Thurman.

It was arguably his most challenging assignment since losing to undefeated Floyd Mayweather in 2015’s money-spinning “Fight of the Century”.

Pacquiao, who has managed to successfully juggle a political career as a senator in the Philippines while continuing to box at a high level, looked sharp in his last outing in January – an unanimous decision win against American Adrien Broner.

But the eight-division world champion faced an altogether higher-calibre opponent in the shape of Thurman, renowned as one of the hardest punchers in the division with 22 knockouts in 30 fights.

Thurman (29-0-1) had viewed the bout as an attempt to build his legacy, and had bluntly vowed to send Pacquiao into retirement.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to destroy a legend,” Thurman had declared, before placing his opponent in the boxing pantheon alongside some of the sport’s greatest practitioners. “It’s as if I’m fighting Sugar Ray Robinson or Roberto Duran.

“This is Manny Pacquiao. It’s a tremendous feeling, and it’s going to feel even greater when my hand is raised at the end of the night.”

But it was the American who was made to eat his words at the end of the night.

This weekend’s fight will reportedly add another US$20 million (S$27.1 million) to Pacquiao’s career earnings which are estimated at US$200 million.

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