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Manny Pacquiao defies Father Time with another signature victory

Updated July 21, 2019 - 12:04 am

It has a face, that part about the key to longevity being an ability to reinvent yourself.

The reflection is that of Manny Pacquiao.

There is no such thing as a straight line for what Pacquiao has done, or is amazingly doing, making a mockery of the idea that with age comes a natural decline in the skill of a professional athlete.

It’s a hall of fame road of twists and turns and now yet another signature victory.

He’s 40. It’s not all about hair loss and a snail’s metabolism for him.

Pacquiao on Saturday night was as relentless and quick as a decade ago, handing Keith Thurman his first professional loss in split-decision fashion before an announced sellout crowd of 14,356 at the MGM Grand Garden.

First things first. The fact that judge Glenn Feldman had the fight 114-113 for Thurman is a mere sidebar to a ridiculously astounding main storyline of Pacquiao’s brilliance, because the time has long passed when we should ever blink with surprise at how those hired to score the action ultimately do.

Feldman saw things few others did. He’s just the latest.

That the other two judges — Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham — had it 115-112 for Pacquiao might have even been a tad close.

I had it 116-111. The winner was obvious, as Pacquiao knocked Thurman down in the first round and off he went toward improving what is now a 62-7-2 record.

“I knew it was close,” said Thurman, who now is 29-1 and lost his WBA welterweight belt in the process. “It was a beautiful night of boxing. He’s a legend, a truly great champion. He got the victory.

“I wish that I had a little more because I thought he was getting tired. But he had the experience and conditioning over me. I was just behind Manny Pacquiao. I would love a rematch.

“This night was a blessing and a lesson.”

Look, 40 and elite in boxing is hardly an unreasonable combination. Archie Moore. Bernard Hopkins. The guy who named all of his kids George.

Roberto Duran even won 18 fights after turning 40, even as a “dad bod” comfortably possessed his frame. Larry Holmes kept his jab after 40.

But few in sports have reached such an age while navigating the sort of reclamation journey of Pacquiao, or did you suddenly forget about that disastrous loss to Jeff Horn about two years ago?

How the Pacquiao of that unanimous decision defeat — most then assumed he would trade his gloves in for good and focus on his life as a senator in his native Philippines — stood across from and dismantled Thurman on Saturday defies logic.

But that’s the thing about Pacquiao. He has never seemed all that interested in following any sort of typical timeline, the only eight-division champion of the world who lost major sponsorships and many fans across the globe with anti-gay statements rooted in his religious beliefs.

Twenty-five years later, he just keeps going. Even had he lost Saturday to a fighter 10 years his younger, a champion in Thurman who is 2 inches taller and has a longer reach, the odds would have still favored Pacquiao continuing to seek out opponents and climb into rings.

“(Thurman) is a great competitor, boxer, fighter,” he said. “I did my best. I am sure the fans are happy because they saw a good fight. He is not easy to fight. I just think that I was the best.”

What’s next?

I suppose there is nowhere Pacquiao can’t go now. Moore is unquestionably the gold standard for fighters north of 40, going 26-2-2 with 16 knockouts.

Maybe we knew Pacquiao wasn’t really done when, in July of last year, he knocked down Lucas Matthysse in the third, fifth and seventh rounds, ultimately scoring a TKO victory for the WBA welterweight title.

Maybe we should have known then that 40 wasn’t going to deliver him its typical decline.

His plan now is to attend the highly anticipated fight between welterweight titleholders Errol Spence Jr. (IBF) and Shawn Porter (WBC) on Sept. 28 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Does he want the winner?

“I think (I will fight) next year,” Pacquiao said. “I will go back to the Philippines and work and then make a decision.”

The world awaits.

Longevity has rarely appeared so amazing.

More boxing: Follow at reviewjournal.com/boxing and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

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Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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