SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Manny proves age is just a number

Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.

Manny Pacquaio outworked, outsmarted and outslugged Keith Thurman on Saturday night in Las Vegas to claim the WBA Welterweight Super Title and re-announce his presence to the rest of the division. Pacquiao looked like his old self, especially early in the fight, to win a clear but competitive decision over Thurman, who entered the ring ten years Pacquiao's younger. Ringside judges scored the fight 114-113 for Thurman and 115-112 (twice) for Pacquiao. SportsMap.com also scored the bout 115-112 in favor of Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who now splits his time between boxing and senatorial duties in the Philippines, looked like vintage Manny in the early going, landing a right hook near the end of the first round that sent Thurman sprawling to the canvas. Thurman was up quickly and didn't appear to be badly hurt by the knockdown. Pacquiao continued the quick start by landing the harder, more damaging punches throughout the first half of the fight. Pacquiao routinely initiated the action by pressuring Thurman with flurries of combinations. The knockdown, paired with Pacquiao's early success gave him an advantage on the scorecards he would never relinquish.

Thurman began to feel Pacquiao out as the fight moved into the middle rounds, timing Pacquiao's volume combinations with well placed counters. While Thurman snapped Pacquiao's head back at times, he never rose beyond competitive and never seemed to take the fight back over from Pacquiao, who laid claim to it following the knockdown.

If there was any doubt the 40 year old could finish off the victory, it was removed in round ten, when Pacquiao badly hurt Thurman with a body shot. The blow left Thurman covering up to the body and leaving his head vulnerable to combinations for the remainder of the round. Thurman bounced back with a nice round 11 but the damage was done. Entering the final stanza Thurman needed a knockout. But once again it was Pacquiao who landed the heavier work.

Thurman was gracious in defeat, saying he felt the fight was close but acknowledged that he had lost. It was the first defeat in Thurman's career. He expressed interest in making a rematch.

By winning Pacquiao once again has claim to being a top-3 welterweight in the world, along with PBC stablemate Errol Spence as well as Terence Crawford. A unification bout with Spence, the IBF welterweight champion, would be easy to make. However it won't be made in the immediate future. Spence is set to fight WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter in September. Spence would be a heavy favorite over Pacquiao. Because of this fact, paired with Pacquiao's marketability, a fight between the two would likely only be made it what would be Pacquiao's last fight. After Saturday's performance Pacquiao's career doesn't appear to be anywhere close to finish, so I would expect Manny to be back in the ring in the fall against the mandatory challenger for his WBA title.

UGAS DOMINATES FIGUEROA

On the undercard Cuban national Yordenis Ugas has no trouble defeating Omar Figueroa, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-107 (three times.) SportsMap.com also scored the fight 119-107 for Ugas.

Ugas won every minute of every round, beating Figueroa at his own game. Figueroa, content to fight on the inside, was a step behind the quicker, more technically skilled Ugas. He was repeatedly countered with uppercuts up the middle, and never made any adjustments that led observers to believe Figueroa could solve Ugas. The fight makes Ugas the mandatory challenger for the WBC welterweight title. Ugas fought Porter for the WBC title earlier in the year and lost a controversial decision.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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