Sports

Manny Pacquiao captures WBA crown in split vote

Filipino downs Thurman to become oldest welterweight champion in history

Philippine legend Manny Pacquiao rolled back the years to become the oldest welterweight champion in boxing history with a thrilling split-decision victory over WBA champion Keith Thurman yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The 40-year-old Pacquiao, 10 years older than the previously undefeated Thurman, delivered a vintage performance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to leave the sell-out crowd of 14,356 roaring its approval.

Pacquiao floored Thurman with an electrifying combination in the first round and remained on the front foot throughout a pulsating 12-round duel.

Although the bloodied Thurman rallied in the later rounds to narrow Pacquiao's lead, the judges scored it in the Filipino's favour. Two judges scored it 115-112 for Pacquiao with the third scoring it 114-113 for Thurman.

A jubilant Pacquiao, who improved to 62-7-2 with 39 knockouts, punched the air as the arena erupted after the victory was confirmed.

"It was fun. My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong... I was just blessed tonight," he said.

Pacquiao, who earned an estimated US$20 million (S$27.2m) from yesterday's fight, said he will now return to the Philippines to resume his work as a senator before deciding on his next move inside the ring.

"I will fight next year. I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision," the eight-division world champion said.

Thurman, meanwhile, had few complaints in defeat, embracing Pacquiao after the final bell in recognition of an epic contest.

"I knew it was too close," the American said.

"He got the knockdown, so he had momentum in round one.

"This was a beautiful night of boxing. I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe to toe. I felt like he was getting a little bit tired, but he did have experience in the ring. I would love the re-match."

Fans in the Philippines yesterday roared their approval and rose to their feet imitating the punches of Pacquiao as they declared that their idol was still a boxing force at the age of 40.

"It was wow, wow, wow! He is amazing. He showed himself a true Filipino, a hero," 51-year-old Raquel Sanders said.

The excitement also lit up the online world with fans in the social media-obsessed nation using the hashtag #StillA40rce.

"Senator Pacquiao proved that age is just a number and (he) still can make another legend," said Twitter user @rinrin-irene.

Pacquiao is considered a national hero by many as his athletic feats have put the Philippines on the boxing map.

His rags-to-riches rise from high school dropout to millionaire champion is a source of inspiration in a nation mired in poverty. In Pacquiao's heyday, authorities said his fights stopped traffic and crime.

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman hailed his ally's victory.

"Our pound-for-pound King did not show any signs of intimidation as he embodied what a Filipino spirit is all about - a fighter," Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Philippine boxing chief Ed Picson said only Pacquiao could decide on his future.

"His place in world boxing as a legend is secure... He has nothing more to prove," said Picson. - AFP

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