Manny Pacquiao is still feeling the adrenaline from his thrilling 12-round battle with Keith Thurman, from which he emerged victorious and with the WBA “super” welterweight belt in tow.
Less than 24 hours after grinding out a split-decision win over the dangerous Thurman, a rested Pacquiao — still sporting puffy face — was back to his animated self.
According to his right-hand man, international matchmaker Sean Gibbons, Pacquiao was back to cracking jokes and even shadowboxed at his suite to the delight of those around him, as if he hadn’t gone to war with Thurman.
Having faced a fading former champion in Lucas Matthysse and an unwilling dance partner in Adrien Broner in his last two fights, Pacquiao felt reinvigorated in taking on fighter who, this time, stood in front of him and was willing to engage.
Against the 30-year-old Thurman, the Filipino icon was able to summon his vintage form — the whirling dervish of a fighter whose volume-punching and blinding hand and foot speed have been a nightmare for those in the opposite corner.
“Yun ang real fight (Now that’s a real fight),” Pacquiao said from his luxurious Skylofts suite at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Sunday (Monday, Manila time).
Pacquiao knocked Thurman down in the first round and traded blows with the previously unbeaten throughout their well-attended fight. In the process, he absorbed a significant amount of punishment, something he said he hadn’t felt since his showdown with a much-bigger Antonio Margarito in 2010.
“Malakas din, heavy-handed (He’s strong),” he said of the brash Thurman, now his humbled admirer.
In jest, the fighting senator described his reaction the moment he sent Thurman down with a combination in the closing seconds of the opening round.
“Nagalit yung bigote ko eh,” he quipped.
After dominating Thurman for the first five rounds of their fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena — bloodying the defending champion’s nose in the process — Pacquiao slowed down. That allowed Thurman to counter him with solid one-twos to narrow the gap.
“I relaxed. I wanted to time him, but he took advantage and scored,” he recalled.
Despite Thurman’s spirited rally, the Clearwater, Florida-based fighter still came up short. In the 10th round, he went on survival mode after Pacquiao caught him with a vicious right hook to the body.
But Pacquiao said it was his speed and footwork that did the most damage.
“You see, I’m faster than him. I side-stepped around him like Muhammad Ali,” continued Pacquiao, who boarded his private from Las Vegas to Manila later than planned, allowing him to rest longer.
After a grueling assignment, Pacquiao is convinced to just sit the rest of the year out.
He thinks he might even become Fighter of the Year, and likewise sees his duel with Thurman as the year’s best.
Pacquiao is planning to return to the ring either in February or March next year. The opponent? Still up in the air.
It’s too early to tell.
But by the time Pacquiao sets foot on the ring again, he’ll be 41 years old.
“Ang sarap, no? (Feels good, right?)” he said.