40-year-old Manny Pacquiao scored an impressive win over Keith Thurman on Saturday night, winning the WBA welterweight championship in a split decision victory.

Manny Pacquiao Keith Thurman
Manny Pacquiao (right) scored a split decision victory over Keith Thurman to win the WBA welterweight championship on Saturday night. (Image: John Locher/AP)

The three judges were divided on who won the fight, with two scoring it 115-112 in favor of Pacquiao, while the third had Thurman narrowly ahead by a 114-113 score.

Early Knockdown Sets the Tone

But while some split decision finishes are controversial, most observers at ringside appeared to think Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) deserved to win the fight. While the bout was competitive at times, the eight-division world champion had the better of the exchanges far more often, and put his stamp on the fight right from the start.

In the very first round, Pacquiao scored a knockdown, and while Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) wasn’t in danger of being knocked out – he smiled while he was on the ground – continued pressure from Pacquiao in the early rounds made it seem as though the fight might not go the distance.

But Thurman showed that he was more than a paper champion in the middle rounds. He arguably took control of the fight, and while he wasn’t dominant, he was able to land several shots that hurt Pacquiao, even if he was never close to putting the Filipino legend on the canvas.

In the end, however, most agreed that Pacquiao had done more than enough to win the fight. Despite his age, he was the quicker and more active fighter on the night, with the 30-year-old Thurman’s inactivity apparently still leaving him a bit too rusty to deal with a world-class opponent – even one in the twilight of his career.

The victory made Pacquiao the oldest person to hold a major welterweight title in the history of boxing.

“He’s a good boxer, he’s strong,” Pacquiao said of his opponent in a post-fight interview. “I was blessed tonight.”

What’s Next for Pacquiao

Pacquiao had come into the fight as a slight favorite over Thurman, despite the fact that the American was undefeated and considered a legitimate top welterweight – even if not the actual best fighter in the weight class.

Afterwards, Thurman said he regretted aspects of his performance, and that he’d welcome a rematch somewhere down the line.

“I knew it was just too close. He got the knockdown so he had momentum in Round 1,” Thurman said after the fight. “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. My conditioning, my output was just behind Manny Pacquiao.”

What’s next for Pacquiao remains an open question, though there are two obvious paths he could take going forward. The first would be to continue to pick and choose fights whenever possible, fighting good opponents that he and his team feel are good matchups for the aging star. That could even include a rematch with the currently retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., a bout that would certainly produce a huge payday for the two legends.

However, Pacquiao could also potentially fight one of the two remaining undefeated champions in the division. More likely would be a bout against the winner of a September fight between IBF Errol Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KOs), and WBC champion Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs). Also looming is Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs), the WBO champion who is considered by many to be the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world.