By Greg Beacham

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao knocked down Keith Thurman in the first round and persevered for an exciting split-decision victory Saturday night, adding a third straight win to his career resurgence after turning 40 years old.

Pacquiao (62-7-2) dropped his previously unbeaten opponent with a combination late in the first round, and the Pac-Man dominated the opening rounds with a combination of flair and power that recalled the incredible prime of the only eight-division champion in boxing history.

Thurman (29-1) showed remarkable tenacity in rallying through the middle rounds, repeatedly testing Pacquiao’s chin with big shots. Neither fighter managed another knockdown, but they pushed relentlessly in front of a sellout crowd at the MGM Grand Garden that repeatedly chanted the Filipino senator’s name from the moment he reached the ring.

“It was fun,” Pacquiao said. “My opponent is a good fighter and boxer. He was strong. … I think he did his best, and I did my best. I think we made the fans happy tonight because it was a good fight.”

Two judges scored the bout 115-112 for Pacquiao, while Glenn Feldman scored it 114-113 for Thurman. The Associated Press also scored it 115-112 for Pacquiao.

Pacquiao appeared to be declining as recently as two years ago, when he lost a listless decision to Jeff Horn. But while his political career flourished, Pacquiao returned to the ring a year ago and put together solid back-to-back victories over Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner.

Thurman represented another major step up in competition to rejoin the welterweight elite — and Pacquiao bolted out of the gate to show he was worthy of this matchup between two fighters who owned versions of the WBA welterweight title.

“I knew it was close,” Thurman said. “He had the momentum because he got the knockdown in Round 1. … I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe-to-toe. My conditioning, my output was just behind Manny Pacquiao’s tonight. Tonight was a blessing and a lesson.”

Thurman called for a rematch, and the crowd vocally approved.

On the undercard, Cuban welterweight Yordenis Ugas battered previously unbeaten Omar Figueroa Jr. for a decision victory featuring three identical 119-107 scorecards. Caleb Plant also defended his IBF super middleweight title with a dominant third-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Mike Lee.

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