He was bouncing again on his toes and the soles of his feet, popping up and down like a kangaroo. Manny Pacquiao was slamming his gloves together again, too, another tell that the vintage “Pac-Man” had arrived Saturday night in his third fight against Timothy Bradley, at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
What Pacquiao really saw on the opposite side of the ring wasn’t Tim Bradley, but retribution. The lopsided loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. still gnaws at him. It’s the last glimpse the boxing public got to see and it resonated. It infuriated “Pac-Man.” It wasn’t a full representation of himself. He had to make amends.
Coming off the second-longest layoff of his career, working on a surgically repaired right rotator cuff, the 37-year-old Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) dominated Bradley (33-2-1, 13 KOs), winning the vacant WBO welterweight title by a unanimous decision. Judges Dave Moretti, Burt A. Clements and Steve Weisfeld all scored it the same, 116-110, for Pacquiao.
There was no disputing it.
Pacquiao landed 122 of 439 (27.8%) total punches, of which 30-238 (12.6%) were jabs and 92 of 201 (45.8%) were power shots. Bradley landed 99-302 total shots (32.8%), 12 of 84 jabs (14.3%) and 87 of 218 (39.9%) power shots.
Is this it for Pacquiao? He claims it is. Not many believe him.
“This was fight different than the last two fights because I was more careful this time,” Pacquiao said. “I gave a good fight, and Bradley is a top boxer. I waited for the counter hook and my shoulder really didn’t bother me. I have a commitment to my family that I’m going to retire after this. We don’t know. Maybe I’ll enjoy being a retired man. Thank you to all of the fans in boxing, especially all of the Filipino people. Bradley is a good boxer, and is a champion. It wasn’t easy tonight.”
Pacquiao was juggling with a lot entering this fight. Much of it self-imposed. He’s running for a senate seat in the Philippines, dealing with the fallout of controversial statements he made in mid-February that same-sex couples were “worse than animals,” during his campaign run.
Pac-Man maintained that was his last fight. It’s a little hard to believe after how incredible he looked.
“I don’t even remember (about the knockdowns),” Bradley said. “The first one was more off balance. The second one, he caught me good with that one. Manny is very quick and very explosive, and he uses his experience against me. He deserved to win tonight. He did a good job. I have to go back to the drawing board. I’m going to take a little break. I can still fight. I was in there with a special man, Manny Pacquiao.”
A Pacquiao right hook dropped Bradley in the seventh. “Desert Storm” wasn’t terribly hurt by the flash knockdown as he was discouraged. He returned to his corner and new trainer Teddy Atlas with his head down, becoming aware that he really couldn’t do anything the Filipino dynamo. Bradley came back in the eighth and jolted Pacquiao with a left hook, sending him reeling against the ropes. Bradley landed 13-of-18 punches in the round, and for a brief time, it looked like Bradley could inch his way back into contention. The problem for Bradley is that he started too late.
That seemed to wake up Pacquiao for the ninth. A reinvigorated Pac-Man starched Bradley with a left square on the face, sending him sprawling on the canvas. Pacquiao hadn’t knocked down the sturdy Bradley once in the first 24 rounds they fought. But through nine, he downed Bradley twice.
In the fifth, the two put on a show. They went back and forth at each other. Pac-Man staggered Bradley with a blind overhand left, and he wound up hitting Bradley 20 times, to Bradley’s nine connects. It was the round in which Pacquiao began finding his rhythm. He closed and engaged, feeling pleased he had someone who was willing to trade punches with him.
But by the midway point of the fight, Pacquiao seemed to be rejuvenated. His energy level was growing with each passing round. Sherdog.com had Pacquiao ahead 5-1 after six.
Pacquiao started putting combinations together in the third. Pac-Man also went from the chased, to the chaser. There was an interesting right shoulder shrug Pacquiao made, opening speculation as to whether or not the surgically repaired shoulder was holding up.
In the second round, Bradley began with a left hook, though it was Pacquiao that freed his hands. Pac-Man hit Bradley with a great left hand to the face, and after two rounds, it appeared to be even early. Pacquiao negated Bradley’s jab with his gloves, and the quickness he didn’t exhibit against Floyd Mayweather Jr., he found in the second round against Bradley.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.