Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Manny Pacquiao proves age is just a number after stunning win over Keith Thurman

What next for the Filipino superstar, whose Hall of Fame career added another chapter after his fine display in Las Vegas

Aged 40, against an undefeated champion 10 years his junior, Manny Pacquiao pushed back the ravages of time to prove an already extraordinary career still has a few more rounds to run yet.

At an MGM Grand Garden Arena long familiar to the Filipino’s fortitude and finesse, he displayed both to dominate Keith Thurman and become the WBA world welterweight champion.

That one judge inexplicably gave the nod to the American, who by the conclusion was bloodied and bruised, should not detract from Pacquiao’s prowess. Age, as he maintained through a typically protracted build-up, really feels just a number right now.

Pacquiao’s digits are supremely impressive all round. A 71st professional bout brought about his 62nd pro victory, a 25th former or current world champion feeling his wrath and this one failing to cope, a world title captured two decades after his first. Of all those who have ever taken to the ring, only George Foreman can lay claim to that particular feat.

For perspective, Thurman was six years old when Pacquiao made his professional debut; nine when he seized a first world title. That arrived at flyweight in 1998, introducing a young boxer of next-level talent and tenacity. It carried Pacquiao to where he sits now: the sport’s only eight-division world champion, its reigning Fighter of the Decade. He will soon reside in its Hall of Fame, too.

Thrust in front of the bigger Thurman, Pacquiao’s fabled footwork continually created angles, his speed - still there - notching a first-round knockdown, even if it did not truly stun his opponent. That came, amid trademark flurries and flashes, through the meat of match-up, when Thurman struggled to breathe through his bloodied nose, or in the 10th, when a heavy body shot bent him over in pain.

To his credit, Thurman searched for a knockout to rescue his unblemished record, but Pacquiao finished the fresher. Sometimes, experience can be as potent as the pace and the power.

In the end, Thurman was left to pay homage to a deserved victor, praising Pacquiao for dishing out “blessings and lessons”. It was a nod to his deeply religious rival, to his renowned philanthropy and to his work now as an elected senator of the Philippines.

For that is what will occupy Pacquiao from the remainder of 2019. He was to depart Las Vegas immediately following his latest triumph, a private jet primed to carry him back to his homeland and to his position in politics.

“Back to the Philippines,” he said afterwards. “Back to work.”

With it, he ruled out a return to the ring this year. What 2020 will bring, no one knows, although Pacquiao wishes for a shot at Errol Spence Jr, should the IBF champion come through unscathed, as expected, against Shawn Porter in September. Currently ranked No 1 in the division, Spence would represent another step up in class. Like Thurman before this, he too is undefeated.

Having vanquished “One Time”, and two contests into a three-fight contract with Premier Boxing Champions, perhaps Pacquiao will go one more time and then call a day to that already extraordinary career.

Patently, he has little else to accomplish. Those closest to him have spoken about a desire to become the first world champion to also reign as a country's president. That seems a stretch, even for a man who has made an existence out of stretching the boundaries.

Pacquiao will be 41 when he next boxes competitively; Spence most likely 30, or close to it. But one thing is for sure: Pacquiao will once more push back against time, intent on proving us all wrong.

He has done it and done it, and done it some more. A true phenomenon, Thurman was yet another example of his gifts and his gumption.

Updated: July 21, 2019 12:01 PM

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