Manny Pacquiao cruised to a unanimous decision. | Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
LAS VEGAS -- In the nearly two years since they first engaged in hand-to-hand combat, Manny Pacquiao -- and a legion of boxing followers -- maintained that he was robbed against Timothy Bradley. “Pac-Man” out-boxed and out-slugged Bradley back in June 2012 in the MGM Grand, though two of the three ringside judges saw it differently. Saturday night, in a near carbon copy of their first encounter, the judges got it right.
Bradley began the rematch by boxing beautifully, keeping a perfect distance and sticking his left jab in the Filipino’s face. He wasn’t landing too many clean, hard shots, but his offense was keeping Pacquiao honest and unable to find the rhythm he enjoys. But for what Bradley said was a foot injury early in the contest, the Palm Springs resident switched his approach up and it cost him.
Instead of jabbing effectively and making Pacquiao miss, Bradley opted to back up and goad his foe into traps, but he mainly threw one punch at a time. Pacquiao, in turn, began moving side to side and in and out and putting together blurry combos. When he opened up his arsenal, Pacquiao grew more effective and seized total control of the bout.
Like their initial encounter, there were scattered bursts of all-out war, though they rarely lasted more than a few seconds. Bradley found himself pinned along the ropes or trapped in a corner and when he did, he continuously dared the eight-division champion to bomb away. Bradley was able to dodge and block the overwhelming majority of the onslaught, but what cost him dearly in the outcome was that he hardly made Pacquiao pay for the numerous punches he missed.
Bradley was able to get back into what allowed him to win the early rounds late in the fight, but his lack of sheer punching power prevented him from mounting any sort of miraculous comeback. The American landed his fair share of power shots down the stretch, but when Pac-Man walked right through the attacks, he was able to answer everything in short order.
The two clashed heads with about 20 seconds left in the fight and the incidental infraction opened up a gash above Pacquiao’s left eye. He was allowed to continue but with 15 seconds in the contest, time was essentially out for Bradley. He tried like hell to shock the world, but his offense came up hitting only air.
“Pacquiao fought a great fight,” Bradley said afterward. “His team, his corner, had a great game plan and they used it perfectly. I take my hat off to Pacquiao. He’s a great fighter and he did what he had to do. He’s a tough fighter.”
In the end, Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) was awarded a unanimous decision via tallies of 116-112 (twice) and 118-110 to snatch back the WBO welterweight title that Bradley wrested from him in 2012. All three virtual Sherdog.com scorers also had it for Pacquiao (Sloan: 115-113, Mike Fridley: 116:112, Gary Randall: 118-111). Bradley, for his efforts, fell for the first time as a pro; he now stands at 31-1 with 12 KOs.
“I’m very happy for the win,” Pacquiao said after the tussle. “I felt good, I felt strong … Bradley is a great opponent but I was the better man tonight.”
Pacquiao didn’t elaborate who he wants to take on next, saying that he leaves those decisions into the hands of Top Rank CEO Bob Arum.
Leading up to the contest, it was penciled in that the winner of Saturday’s fight would square off against the victor of the ballyhooed showdown between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado in a few weeks. Top Rank officials were slightly non-committal to that outcome immediately following the match before the post-fight press conference.