Manny Pacquiao snatched the WBA strap from Keith Thurman on points in Las Vegas on Saturday night with an incredible performance that catapulted the Filipino back to the top of the welterweight division at 40 years of age. Controversy was narrowly avoided when Pacquiao got the nod by split decision 115-112, 115-112, 113-114, with one judge inexplicably awarding honours to Thurman. In reality, the previously unbeaten Thurman was given a boxing lesson by the veteran, who improved his record to 62 wins, seven losses and two draws as he reclaimed a world title six months after his previous win against Adrien Broner. After the fight, a gracious Thurman (29-1, one no contest) all but admitted he had been outclassed by Pacquiao. The Filipino stunned observers at the MGM Grand when he began the bout like a hurricane and had the 30-year-old Thurman on his back in the opening round after a pinpoint right hook landed flush on the American. “He got the knockdown so he had momentum in round one,” Thurman said after the fight. “Manny Pacquiao is a truly great and legendary champion. I wish I had a little bit more output to go toe-to-toe. I felt he was getting a little bit tired towards the end. “It was a great night of boxing, and I would love the rematch. Tonight was a blessing and a lesson.” Pacquiao maintained a ferocious pace for much of the fight, scotching any suggestion that his advanced years had slowed him down. “He was not an easy opponent, he’s a good fighter and a good boxer,” Pacquiao said. “He did his best and I did my best and the people are happy. I really love the fans, thank you so much for coming here. I’m sure you’re happy tonight because you saw a good fight. “He’s a good boxer and is strong. I think I was just blessed tonight.” The post-fight interview predictably led to a question about the “fighting senator’s” next move, especially with Floyd Mayweather Jnr sitting ringside and surely impressed by what unfolded in front of him. “My next fight will probably be next year. After this fight, I will go back to work in the Philippines (in the senate),” he said without giving any hint as to who he wants next. The fallout from this performance will inevitably lead to calls for a second instalment of the Mayweather-Pacquiao match-up, which grabbed global attention four years ago. But “Money” has offered no suggestion that he is interested in a formal return to the ring. On Saturday, Pacquiao showed he, at least, is still able to hang with the world’s best and began at a furious clip and kept up the tempo through the first half of the fight. Around the midway point, possibly with the realisation that he was losing badly on the scorecards, Thurman picked up the pace and began to press the issue. But by then, the Filipino was well in flight and was able to weather almost everything the American threw at him. Indeed, at the midway point of an eventful round 10, Pacquiao had Thurman in big trouble again after a crushing body shot landed flush in his liver and the Florida man was forced to take evasive action and grab hold of Pacquiao to navigate the final minute of the round. When it went to the judges’ scorecards, almost everyone in the arena was of the opinion that Pacquiao had done enough to land a unanimous decision victory. Except, seemingly, the one judge who ruled the fight narrowly in Thurman’s favour.