It was a sensational performance for the Filipino living legend, Manny Pacquiao, as he tattooed the first-ever loss on the otherwise unblemished record of the younger, bigger, stronger Keith Thurman last Sunday in Las Vegas. Many boxing pundits from all over the globe – me included – had feared a career-ending loss to Thurman. But no, the greatness that is Manny Pacquiao simply would not cooperate with Father Time and his oft-proven law. Yup, the one that proclaims that the young should prevail over the old; the one that says ‘out with the old, in with the new’; or even the scary one that goes ‘corrected copy, destroy all others’.
The Manny Pacquiao that showed up last Sunday was certainly impressive. He definitely looked younger, faster, hungrier, and was armed with a reinvigorated killer instinct. And this showed in the very first round when he nailed Thurman with a picture-perfect 1-2 combination leading to a spectacular knockdown. Right in the very first canto! More stunned than hurt, Thurman would come out of that round with more respect for Manny’s power and speed.
That knockdown was all that mattered. And it would set the tone for the rest of the evening. Having been bushwhacked in that fateful first round, Keith would lose precious momentum, giving Manny so much leeway in setting the pace for the rest of the fight. There would be intense drama in the frenetic dance of death between the two protagonists, but the pace would now be dictated by that freak knockdown that would haunt Keith for the rest of the evening.
Manny’s fight plan was just what I had hoped for. Dominate early. (That knockdown in the first round would be key.) Set the pace. Pick your battles. Play in-and-out, touch-and-go. Cruise through the middle rounds. Make sure there was enough gas left for the final stretch. Then finish strong. (Please read: Pacquiao – Thurman: Who You Got?)
Manny moved like the Pacman of old, with his dazzling speed, his uncanny angles, his blinding laterals. He was aggressive, he was at times relentless, he was cunning, he was oh-so exciting. The body shot he administered in the 11th round was another big surprise, as his past KOs have almost always been through powerful headshots with a sharpshooter’s lethal accuracy. This indeed was vintage Pacquiao… with a twist.
But Manny didn’t finish the fight unscathed either. Keith was by far the most worthy opponent Manny has ever had in the past few years. He was as big and strong as Antonio Margarito. And he dished out as much punishment as he himself absorbed. He had a strong showing in the middle rounds, as Manny eased up a bit, in a bid to preserve some stamina for the final rounds. But by and large, Manny had the fight under control.
Manny proved me wrong by showing up really prepared for this fight. Gone was the slow start which gave Jeff Horn the confidence to go toe-to-toe with him in that blunder in Australia. Gone too was the lack of focus, which mixed Senate duties with his fight training. Gone was the plodding, the occasional lack of timing, that tired feeling. Back was the old spring in the legs, the cat-like pounce, the Ali shuffle that mesmerized the crowd. This latest version of Manny definitely looked 10 years younger. And he was, once again, a beauty to behold.
To Manny, the Pambansang Kamao, the country’s pride and joy, the world’s only 8-division boxing titleholder and boxing world’s most eminent citizen today, mabuhay ka! Know that we all love you and root for you. Sometimes we worry for you, knowing how much pain you’ve suffered throughout your career just to give us something to cheer about. And we sometimes do think that perhaps it might be time for you to hang up your gloves for good. This is not to say that we do not care for you. Rather, it is precisely because we care that we want to express our concern over your future well-being.
Only you can determine when enough is enough, Manny. Until then, we pray for your continued success, and please do take care of your health.
For a closer look, just click on the pics.