BOXING FEATURED

One for the Ageless: Manny Pacquiao Defeats Thurman for World Title

By David Greisman

 

Manny Pacquiao Adds Another to His Legacy, Beating Thurman by Split Decision

 

Manny Pacquiao is clearly past his prime, not at all what he used to be. But that’s not a fair measure of what he’s still capable of.

 

Pacquiao is one of the best fighters ever to lace up a pair of gloves, a nonstop bundle of energy whose speed, power and movement helped him conquer larger opponents and capture world titles in eight divisions.

The Manny Pacquiao of today — 40 years old, nearly 25 years as a pro, with more than 70 bouts and countless training camps and sparring sessions — has faded, but he’s faded to a point where he’s still very good. That much was clear on Saturday night in Las Vegas, when Pacquiao added yet another accomplishment to a career full of them.

It wasn’t one for the ages, but it was definitely one for the ageless.

 

Pacquiao beat Keith Thurman by split decision, defeating an undefeated world titleholder who was one of the top three or four 147-pounders in a very deep and talented division. Pacquiao did what other, younger talents couldn’t.

 

Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia had fallen short against Thurman. Pacquiao dropped Thurman in the first round, built up a lead with his signature combinations and angles, showed a good chin and steel resolve as Thurman came back in the middle rounds, then hurt Thurman badly in the 10th round. Two rounds later, Pacquiao raised his gloves high in the air.

The result was a split decision, but the outcome was clear. Thurman didn’t dispute, didn’t try to plead his case. He recognized that Manny Pacquiao deserved the victory.

 

“My conditioning, my output was just behind Manny Pacquiao’s tonight,” Thurman said afterward.

 

Thurman credited Pacquiao. Thurman also deserves credit. He performed well at times. He was just outperformed.

That was the case from Round 1, when Thurman landed left hooks and lead right hands, only to have Pacquiao jump in with a combination. Thurman moved back to avoid the punches but couldn’t avoid them all. He got cracked by a right hand, hit the canvas and let out a smile.

 

“He really does have that hand speed. He jumps in and out with quickness,” Thurman said. “As I was on my back foot, he was leaping in, he continued to punch. He caught me at an awkward moment, and down I went.”

Pacquiao outlanded Thurman in the second, ending the round with an Ali Shuffle to pump himself up, bring a rise from the crowd, and taunt his younger opponent. The third round was slower and closer, and Thurman began to make things more competitive in the fourth. Pacquiao at one point let out a flurry, sending out a right hook to the body, a left upstairs and returning down. Thurman retaliated with a hook, then sent out a handful of shots as he got Pacquiao on the ropes.

Thurman was willing to engage. It was the right choice, even if it came at a cost. He couldn’t become demoralized like so many of Pacquiao’s past opponents. Blood began to pour from his nose in Round 5. Thurman staggered back to his corner at the end of the round. And yet he came out aggressive again in Round 6. It wasn’t reckless. He was pushing the pace, and Pacquiao, as good as he still is at 40, can no longer fight a full three minutes of all 12 rounds.

 

Pacquiao’s output diminished for a few of the middle rounds. Thurman began to land his power punches with more accuracy and more frequently. He began to catch up on the scorecards. The momentum wouldn’t remain his, however. Pacquiao soon regained control.

 

That moment came about halfway through Round 10, when Pacquiao landed a body shot that sent Thurman in desperate retreat.

“The body shot was a terrific body shot,” Thurman said. “I even took my mouthpiece out of my mouth just so I could breathe a little deeper.”

 

That round gave Pacquiao a comfortable enough margin on two of the three judges’ scorecards. He could’ve lost the next two rounds and still won. All three judges gave Round 11 to Thurman. Two of the three saw the last round as belonging to Pacquiao.

 

The final scores: 115-112 from Tim Cheatham and Dave Moretti, who saw seven rounds to Pacquiao and five for Thurman, minus an extra point for the knockdown. Glenn Feldman gave two additional rounds to Thurman and had him slightly ahead, 114-113.

 

Pacquiao is now 62-7-2 with 39 KOs. He picked up Thurman’s world title in the process. And he remains in the mix at the top of the welterweight division. Now that he’s signed with Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions, that could mean a fight with the winner of Errol Spence’s upcoming pay-per-view bout against Shawn Porter, or bouts against the likes of Garcia.

 

Then there’s still the question of whether Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather will have a rematch. There’d be more than enough money involved to bring Mayweather back out of retirement again.

Those are the two tracks for Pacquiao to take. He can test himself against the best of what 147 now has to offer — including fights against fast, talented boxers like Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, fights in which even Pacquiao would need to acknowledge that he’s the underdog. Or he can send himself into retirement, win or lose, with a Mayweather sequel.

 

It’s a fight that means little. Both men’s legacies are secure. Yet it would be lucrative, a golden parachute for Pacquiao, a fighter who is one of the best ever to lace up a pair of gloves — but who still has to hang up those gloves someday.

 

Thurman, meanwhile, is now 29-1 with 22 KOs. This first loss shouldn’t be too much of a setback. He can heal his wounds and get back in there with his fellow welterweight contenders, earning a chance to get another shot at the top. That’d be ideal. Thurman’s been maddeningly inactive in recent years, due in part to injuries, fighting just once in 2016, once in 2017, and not at all in 2018.

He’s said before, and he repeated after the Pacquiao fight, that he was never afraid to take a loss. Thurman showed what he had in him when he bounced back from the first-round knockdown. Now he’ll need to show what else he has in him by bouncing back from his first defeat.

 

Teofimo Lopez Passes Toughest Test Yet, On Verge of Title Shot

 

Teofimo Lopez was tested in a way he’d never been before over the past two and a half years as he progressed from promising prospect to rising contender. And if he was going to be tested like this, then now was the best time for it to happen.

 

Lopez had made it look relatively easy in his first 13 victories. His power and speed were formidable, his skills impressive. He took out the no-hopers, and he did the same as the opposition got tougher. But nearly every fighter eventually runs into someone who just won’t go down when hit clean, who can dodge shots and box well, and whose own abilities pose a threat.

Lopez’s fight Friday night against Masayoshi Nakatani wasn’t the case of a young prospect or contender overcoming one or two scary moments. Instead, this was Lopez realizing that it was going to take a different approach to win.

And that’s what he did, adjusting to what Nakatani brought to the ring, switching between trying to land power and boxing with poise and patience. Lopez, who had only gone seven rounds once before, was taken the 12-round distance, leaving with a unanimous decision victory that was much more competitive than the scorecards otherwise indicated.

 

Lopez landed occasional flush combinations both as leads and counters in the opening two rounds. Nakatani took them and scored as well, using his height and length to catch Lopez with jabs from outside and dropping in good right hands. His feints kept Lopez aware, and his upper body movement made Lopez’s shots miss their mark.

Lopez landed a good combination early in the fourth, sending out a right cross followed by a left hook. He soon backed Nakatani into a corner and tried that combination again, and Nakatani went down — except it was actually a slip. Lopez’s right hand had landed on Nakatani’s shoulder, and at the same time Nakatani’s foot went out beneath him due to water on the canvas.

 

Sometimes Nakatani was the aggressor, digging in body shots, working behind the jab, keeping Lopez honest with right hands and left hooks, all while Lopez sought to box and counter. Other times Lopez stalked, seeking to pressure Nakatani in the hopes that the pressure and power would eventually break him down.

 

Nakatani never broke down. Lopez worked his way to the deserving win, with the judges seeing it wider than the action indicated but otherwise picking the right man. Two of the scores were 118-110, or 10 rounds to two, while the third judge had it 119-109, somehow giving Lopez 11 rounds and Nakatani only one.

 

Some might be quick to criticize Lopez as having been exposed. Nakatani was undefeated but otherwise unheralded, a contender from Japan fighting from the first time in the United States. That relative anonymity involving fighters from other parts of the world can lead to uneducated expectations. They don’t know Nakatani. They expect Lopez to blow him away. They judge Lopez poorly when he doesn’t.

 

Lopez was in against someone good. He figured out how to win. He won, and it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll continue to improve. This shouldn’t be a sign that we’ve seen his limit. He’s only been a pro since the end of 2016. He’s about to turn 22 years old. And he’s been draining his growing body down to 135 pounds.

Despite all of that, he realized that it was better to pace himself once he recognized that Nakatani wasn’t going to be easy to hit and wasn’t going to be easy to hurt. Lopez threw 510 shots over the course of the fight, according to CompuBox, about 42 per round. He landed 166 in total, about 14 per round. He was otherwise accurate with power punches, saving them for moments when he was more certain he could land, going 129 of 283, a 46 percent connect rate, an average of about 11 landed per round out of every 24 thrown.

 

And he tried to negate Nakatani, who was kept to 124 of 562 in total, a 22 percent connect rate, and just 69 of 301 power shots.

Lopez moves to 14-0 with 11 KOs. If he stays at lightweight, he’ll be in line for a title shot with Richard Commey, a fight that is dangerous and winnable for both men — all the more reason why it was good for Lopez to learn from fighting Nakatani, then take those lessons to the gym and prepare himself for the next challenge.

 

Nakatani is now 18-1 with 12 KOs. He lost for the first time, losing out at a chance for a title shot, but he also proved to be better than many believed.

 

Tureano Johnson Batters Jason Quigley, Stops Him After Nine Rounds

 

Jason Quigley turned pro with great fanfare, forgoing the 2016 Olympics and entering the paid ranks two years earlier, signing with Golden Boy Promotions in 2014.

 

They groomed him, guided him, developed him into an undefeated prospect with 16 wins. But it was time to step him up, and Quigley got put in tough against boxing’s version of a lie detector test — Tureano Johnson.

 

Johnson is a nonstop pressure fighter with heavy hands and a solid chin. He’d lost just twice before, getting stopped in the final round in a war with Curtis Stevens in 2014 and by middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko in 2017.

This was a crossroads fight. Either Quigley would get a good win and head on to bigger things, or he’d fall short and recognize that his future might not be as bright as he’d once hoped. Either Johnson would save his career, or he’d slide into a perpetual B-side.

Johnson emerged the victor last Thursday, battering Quigley for nine rounds until Quigley’s trainer had seen enough.

 

The fight began with Johnson exhibiting his usual pressure, while Quigley landed single shots as Johnson approached. Quigley began to go to the body in Round 2, attempting to slow Johnson down. He also tied up in close to get a breather, and he’d land and then move to try to avoid Johnson’s onslaught.

He could only avoid Johnson for so long. Early in Round 3, Johnson maneuvered Quigley into the corner and mauled him with uppercuts and hooks. From here on out, Quigley was almost always stuck inside or at mid-range, exchanging punches with Johnson. He showed heart and guts, but this was Johnson’s fight, and Johnson had him outgunned. The punishment and the pace started to take their toll.

 

By Round 5, Johnson was leading the action even when Quigley had better position. It was Johnson against the ropes at one point, and yet it was Johnson landing heavier shots while Quigley looked weary. Johnson hurt Quigley early in Round 6 and continued to bludgeon him, banging away in spurts. He was in control. He didn’t need to force the stoppage.

 

But Johnson’s trainer, Andre Rozier, recognized that Quigley was on his way out. He urged Johnson to use Round 9 to finish the job. Johnson responded by kicking into a higher gear, landing several right hands while Quigley could do little but try to duck the shots. He flurried with Quigley on the ropes. He dug to Quigley’s body to bring his hands down. One body shot crumpled Quigley as the round came to an end.

 

Quigley’s trainer, Brendan Ingle, took a close look at his fighter after the round. The ringside physician checked in as well and told Quigley he was taking a lot of punches, but that he’d be allowed to continue. Ingle decided that wasn’t necessary; he protected his fighter and stopped the bout.

 

It was an important win for Johnson, now 21-2-1 with 15 KOs. He is 35, which means that time is running out for him to perform at the level necessary to compete with the best 160-pounders. It didn’t help that a fight with David Lemieux last year was canceled at the last minute when Lemieux couldn’t make weight.

 

“I want a Charlo. I want a Canelo. I want a Danny [Jacobs]. I want a Sergiy [Derevyanchenko]. I want all of them,” Johnson said afterward.

 

He deserves it. Johnson doesn’t have flash. He doesn’t have world-class speed or one-shot power. But he has grit and tenacity and professionalism. He has heavy hands and a fan-friendly style. He is a worthy opponent who should get one more chance to try himself, whether in a title shot or against a top contender.

 

As for Quigley, he’s now 16-1 with 12 KOs and may need to reconsider his goals. He may not belong in there with the upper tier of middleweights. But he could still make a decent living at a lower level. He’s an Irish fighter who’d competed almost exclusively in the United States. There’s money to be made with domestic opponents and the European boxing scene.

 

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