With the all time great boxing icon Manny Pacquiao set to face Yordenis Ugas in a WBA welterweight championship fight I decided to revisit his last performance. I missed this fight when it happened live as I am less tolerant of buying pay-per-view fights and I had struggled to find quality uploads of this online. Kudos to PBC for putting this fight up on YouTube in full length ahead of the fight this weekend. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s clash is not the fight we wanted but it is a pretty good substitute. I remember heading into this fight with Pacquiao and Thurman not really being sure what to expect. Thurman was the man at welterweight after Floyd Mayweather retired as he unified titles in beating Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. After those fights he had a layoff, got married and was nearly knocked out by Josesito Lopez. However, he was still in his physical prime or at least very close and Pacquiao though on a good run after the Mayweather loss was forty years old and was showing signs of slowing down. This turned out to be a major victory for Pacquiao who secured the WBA welterweight title and proved the doubters wrong while giving a middle finger to father time. In this post I will lay out my thoughts after sitting down to watch all twelve rounds of this interesting and entertaining fight.
Tale of two fights:
This fight had interesting ebbs and flows but was mostly marked by two very different halves. Much like a big football game that is a blowout at halftime before a big comeback, Thurman lost the first five rounds on my card and was on the canvas in the opening round. After the initial five rounds I had Thurman claw his way back in winning five of the last seven rounds and pulling it close on my scorecard. Pacquiao was his usual self with his quick combinations and movement to create angles. He was able to drive Thurman back and score back after Thurman scored anything clean. Even when Thurman had success in rounds three and five Pacquiao would answer back and close the rounds strong. Thurman’s nose began to drip blood in the fourth round and his mouth began to hang open early in the fight as his breathing was likely effected. Thurman struggled with the pace early but Pacquiao faded a little after the midway point. Manny began to breathe out of his mouth in round nine and his punch rate dipped as the fight slowed to a pace that favored Thurman. Pacquiao still landed flashy punches and had Thurman in all kinds of trouble in the tenth round. Manny landed a hard left hand to the body and Keith put his mouth guard into his glove to try and catch some wind and he seemed like he was one or two good body blows away from needing to take a knee.
The Pacquiao jab:
Pacquiao employed his jab to great effect throughout this bout both as a set up punch and as a hard offensive weapon. His knockdown was set up by multiple flicking jabs to the head with a left hand cross to the body to shift Thurman’s defense in order to score the right hook to the head. Manny also threw a jab/hook hybrid type of punch throughout and scored effectively with it at the start of the third round. Though I do not like to quote punch statistics Manny was effectively leading Thurman by a massive margin in this category and he made great use of his jab as the shorter fighter. His jab is used as a great way to cut off distance, mask his power punches, and shift his hips to create leverage on his next punch. He generates so much explosive power off the front foot behind his jab.
A more cagey Manny:
Pacquiao fought a little out of character in this fight as he went inside more with Thurman than he usually does. Well known for not getting his back put on the ropes, Pacquiao also backed up to the ropes and waved in Thurman a few times to create exchanges. Inside Manny would plant his feet and dig more conventionally with his punches than just darting in and out like we are accustomed to seeing. He stood in there and dug the right hook to the body, threw his left uppercut while planted and not charging or backing away. He also let his left hand go as a sweeping hook around the guard or even as an overhand which he rarely does. These were some wrinkles that I saw in his approach that I’m not sure if they were strategic to this fight or just a matter of him adjusting to his age.
Despite him winning the fight on my card and maintaining control for long stretches he showed some cracks in his armor. I bring these up with the upcoming fight in mind, about twenty-four hours away at this point. His gas tank let him down a little in this fight and considering how hard he works and his reputation to throw punches and move it was not a great sign. Most fighters can not keep up with Pacquiao but his endurance and activity is a large part of what made him the great fighter he is. He slowed down a lot in the second half and went long stretches of rounds without much activity and Thurman filled the empty space with his own work. There were some moments when Thurman landed some clean bombs to the body and early in the tenth he came out and hit Manny with a few power shots that got him stuck in the ropes. I am not saying Manny was in any danger of being KO’d but if Thurman forced the issue he may have done some real damage. In the eleventh round Thurman countered Pacquiao with a straight right hand with a lot of leverage that turned his whole face. It reminded me a lot of the punch that knocked him out against Marquez in their final encounter.
Why Pacquiao Won:
Pacquiao won this fight with his unbelievable level of experience and ring smarts. His unorthodox style is very difficult to prepare for and Thurman just could not find a way to mitigate Pacquiao’s strengths in the first half of the fight. Manny has a knack to land back whenever an opponent scores something eye catching on him. He always fires back and gets the last say in exchanges. Only Mayweather was really able to shut him down completely and guys like Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales beat him meeting fire with fire and going to war. Not many fighters are designed to go to the trenches with Pacquiao and win that type of fight. Thurman was able to exchange with Pacquiao but he often got overwhelmed with activity and saw his best moments get drowned out by Pacquiao’s ability to land combinations from different angles. I had this fight 114-113 Pacquiao or 7-5 in rounds but I will say the knockdown really edged this out. I thought Keith was in charge throughout the opening round when he was floored in a flash knockdown. Take away that brief moment on the canvas and I actually had this fight a draw!