By: Sean Crose
“I’ve always said I’m not afraid to let my 0 go, if you can beat me — beat me. @Manny Pacquiao beat me tonight. Hats off to the Senator on a great performance. #OneTime #PacThurman”
With that single tweet, former WBA world welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman admitted outright that he was bested by the legendary and aging Manny Pacquiao on Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although Pacquiao was the betting favorite walking into the bout, the consensus around the serious boxing world (those who exist in or regularly report on it) seemed to be that Thurman was too young, too strong, and too big for the 40 year old Pacquiao to get the better of. The senator from the Philippians proved everyone wrong.
Employing angles, speed, and impressive power, Pacquiao literally beat the defending champion up. Not that Thurman wasn’t in the fight. Although it looked like it might be a quick evening after Pacquiao introduced Thurman to the mat late in the first round, Thurman got his act together in the middle rounds, and gave the iconic Pacquiao a true run until the Filipino icon landed a thunderous body blow late in the fight, a shot that figuratively put the nail in the coffin. Although Thurman won the match on one of the judge’s cards (welcome to Las Vegas), Pacquiao was able to carry the night with a split decision victory.
Thurman was gracious in defeat right off the bat, and has continued to be. This stands in stark contrast to the role Thurman was playing in the leadup to the bout. Usually known as a free spirit of sorts, Thurman decided to embrace the role of heavy when it came to Pacquiao. Perhaps he was simply trying to hype the fight. Perhaps he truly didn’t think Pacquiao was all that great a fighter. Or perhaps he was trying to get inside Pacquiao’s head. If the last possibility mentioned here is what motivated Thurman pre-fight, it backfired on the man explosively. Saying you’re going to “crucify” a devout Christian may get in that individual’s head. If that individual knows how to funnel anger or frustration into effective aggression, however, you may find yourself in some trouble.
Thurman had said he was going to knock Pacquiao out, that Pacquiao had “T-Rex arms,” that he was going to retire him. Now people are writing off Thurman as a serious fighter. This is ridiculous, of course. Thurman is a world class talent who performed well and bravely, despite being clearly bested on Saturday. So long as he wasn’t too damaged by Pacquiao this past weekend, a successful career may still await. No matter what happens, no one will be able to argue that Thurman hasn’t acted like a mature adult since Pacquiao took his title. “Of course, I wanted to win the fight,” the Floridian said after the match. “I fell short, but it was a blessing and a lesson because we’ve gotta do a little bit more.”