Opening Bell: Pacquiao a living legend
LAS VEGAS -- Manny Pacquiao, already one of the greatest fighters to ever put on gloves, added yet another remarkable chapter to his legendary career by beating Keith Thurman and taking his welterweight world title on Saturday night.
Pacquiao, 40, hasn't made it this far -- world titles in eight weight classes (a record), three-time fighter of the year and 2000s fighter of the decade -- because of defensive wizardry. No, Pacquiao has been in numerous wars, and while Father Time will eventually prevail, Pacquiao has managed to stave him off for the time being with his well-deserved split decision win (115-112, 115-112 from judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham, 114-113 Thurman by Don Trella). Pacquiao knocked Thurman down in the first round with a clean right hand and outfought an undefeated man 10 years his junior in a rousing fight of the year candidate.
Putting it in perspective, this was a former flyweight world champion a decade beyond his previous biggest wins, now in his 40s, taking it to a bigger, stronger, younger man who has a tremendous résumé.
It was a remarkable achievement for Pacquiao, especially when you consider that many thought he would retire after he was brutally knocked out face-first by Juan Manuel Marquez in their epic fourth fight in 2012.
There were more calls for Pacquiao's retirement after he got robbed badly in a 2017 decision loss to Jeff Horn (a fight he still looked awful in) that cost him a welterweight world title. But since a year off after that fight and his return last July, Pacquiao has looked reborn with three wins in the past 12 months -- a knockout of powerful Lucas Matthysse, an easy decision over Adrien Broner in January, and the classic victory over Thurman.
Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) was all class in defeat, and showed respect for his elder.
"Like I always said -- I got an 'O,' I'm not afraid to let it go, if you can beat me, beat me.' I was beaten tonight and that's the sport of boxing, baby," Thurman said at the postfight news conference, his face bruised and swollen from the intense combat. "Everything that Manny Pacquiao always has been, he has a lot of it still left in him."
Incredibly, after 71 professional fights -- and 486 rounds! -- Pacquiao, boxing while also serving as a senator in the Philippines, is still racking up massive victories. The one on Saturday night at the electric MGM Grand Garden Arena ranks up there with any of the most glorious triumphs of his career.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs), wearing dark sunglasses at the news conference to hide the damage from the grueling fight, said it was as big a victory as any he has had.
"I think I can rank this like the (Antonio) Margarito fight, (Oscar) De La Hoya fight, (the second Erik) Morales fight, (the second and third) Marquez fight, (first Marco Antonio) Barrera fight. You saw tonight what we did in the ring. My opponent was very tough. Strong also. First time I encounter an opponent heavy-handed like Keith Thurman."
Pacquiao didn't even mention other huge wins such as against Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton or two against Timothy Bradley Jr. -- that's how many big ones the living legend has had.
"The magnitude of this win, I feel, is as big as any win he ever had because he was able to take on an undefeated champion in Keith Thurman, who was 10 years younger, and Senator proved at 40 he could do it at the highest level with hand and foot speed," said Sean Gibbons, the president of MP Promotions and one of Pacquiao's closest advisers. "He opened the decade with a couple of the biggest wins of his career against Hatton and Cotto (in 2009) and in 2019, a decade later, he gets arguably one of his top three wins ever."
Pacquiao lost his biggest fight, the all-time summit meeting in 2015 against Floyd Mayweather (who was ringside as one of the promoters of the card), but Gibbons drew a distinction between the two greats.
"History will speak for itself on Manny Pacquiao's accomplishments," Gibbons said. "Floyd can keep his 50-0 record all day long. The Senator's 62-7 is more impressive because he always was willing to take on the biggest and best challenges. He fought everyone and anyone and fought them in their prime. He never said no. Manny Pacquiao fought everyone. Floyd cherry-picked. The Senator never cherry-picked."
Pacquiao now has two wins post-40, against Broner and Thurman, as he does his best imitation of past 40-plus stars like George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins.
If Pacquiao decided to walk away after this victory it would be the perfect ending, but that is unlikely. Pacquiao spoke often during the lead-up to his fight about his passion for boxing, and with other big fights and big money still out there, he'll likely be back.
Freddie Roach, his Hall of Fame trainer, addressed that.
"I think it was a great win. We fought a good fight. We had a great training camp. I thought he did really well in the fight and we won a close decision." Roach said. "Could you say goodbye after this fight? Neither fighter has anything to prove. They proved so much tonight. Let's all take a rest right now and then we'll decide what we'll do later on. But for right now we're just going to have a good rest."
It is one that is well deserved for Pacquiao, the living legend.
Lopez's growing pains
Lightweight Teofimo Lopez Jr., the 2018 ESPN prospect of the year, encountered his first adversity as a professional in the form of Masayoshi Nakatani on Friday night in the ESPN+ main event in Oxon Hill, Maryland -- and it will likely make him a better fighter.
While Lopez deservedly won the eliminator 119-109, 118-110 twice, this was a tough, tough fight for Lopez, who went past seven rounds for the first time. The 5-foot-8 Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs), 21, of Las Vegas, was bothered by the height of the nearly 6-foot Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs), 30, of Japan, who marked up Lopez's face and nailed him with several right hands. Lopez was philosophical about his toughest fight so far.
"They wanted to see me go the distance. I did 12 rounds," he said. "I just need little tuneups. It's part of the process. I'm thankful right now. It was my first main event. It was 12 rounds. Am I proud of it? No, but I'm proud that I showed everyone I could go 12 rounds."
The next step: The victory earned Lopez a mandatory shot at 135-pound titleholder Richard Commey, who will be next, likely in November. That is likely to be another very tough fight.
KO of the weekend: Chaney KO1 Caudle
Timothy Bradley does not think Teofimo Lopez is ready for a title fight after he "got exposed" vs. Masayoshi Nakatani.
On the Lopez-Nakatani card, heavyweight Cassius Chaney scored such a first-round knockout of Joel Caudle that went viral and won't soon be forgotten. Chaney (16-0, 10 KOs), 32, of New London, Connecticut, was landing right hands with abandon in the opening round. When he got blasted with a right uppercut and another right hand, Caudle (8-3-2, 5 KOs), 29, of Raleigh, North Carolina, staggered so badly that the his momentum sent him flying headfirst between the second and third ring ropes and out of the ring and onto the floor.
Amazingly, Caudle collected himself quickly, got up, walked around to the ring steps and climbed back into the ring well inside the allotted 20 seconds a ring-ejected fighter is allowed. Seconds later, however, Chaney landed another right hand that wobbled Caudle, and referee Dave Braslow stopped it at 1 minute, 52 seconds.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at London
Heavyweight Dillian Whyte (26-1, 18 KOs) W12 Oscar Rivas (26-1, 18 KOs), wins a vacant interim title, scores: 116-111, 115-112 (twice).
Whyte, 31, of England, has been waiting for a title shot for nearly two years, and he's continued to fight top opponents. Ultimately, this fight was switched from a title eliminator to being for a vacant interim title, which Whyte won to put himself in the mandatory position for the belt held by Deontay Wilder. Whyte was in control of the fight when Rivas, 32, a Colombia native fighting out of Montreal, dropped him with a big uppercut in the ninth round. Whyte survived the knockdown and a heavy follow-up attack and earned the decision.
Heavyweight Dereck Chisora (31-9, 22 KOs) KO2 Artur Szpilka (22-4, 15 KOs).
Former world title challenger Chisora, 35, of England, won his second fight in a row since his exciting 11th-round knockout loss to Whyte in December, as he eviscerated former title challenger Szpilka, 30, of Poland. In the second round, a huge right hand to the jaw stiffened Szpilka along the ropes and Chisora followed with two body shots, another right to the head, a left and another massive right that snapped Szpilka's head back and sent him slithering down the ropes to the mat as referee Mark Lyson was attempting to intervene at 1 minute, 1 second. Just a sick knockout.