Vintage Pacquiao puts Bradley in his place
Veteran avenges controversial defeat to same foe to regain WBO welterweight title
Manny Pacquiao (red gloves) lands a left on Timothy Bradley during their WBO world welterweight title bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Photograph: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports
Boxing breathed a huge sigh of relief when one of its biggest attractions resisted the trappings of time, and the judges, in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
After 12 rounds of intense warfare, the eight-weight world champion was ruled the unanimous winner, two scores of 116-112 and one of 118-110 confirming his supremacy.
“I just lost to the best fighter in the world,” said Bradley, while nursing his first defeat.
“Manny fought his heart out and the better man won tonight.”
In June 2012, at the same MGM Grand, two of the three judges disagreed with an overwhelming majority of observers and branded Bradley the winner.
Savage derision greeted the American’s exit from the ring. The disdain spread, death threats were issued to his family and his reputation was in tatters. Both men had a lot to prove.
Watching Pacquiao these days is not like it used to be when he was the undisputed king of his trade. Not so long ago we thought he was superhuman and his slayings were guilty pleasures. For this bout a loss was just as likely as a win and as he made his way to the battleground, hearts rattled like alarm clocks.
But, after this showing, we can still enjoy Pacquiao’s time.
After a quiet opener, the duo exchanged fire in the second. Bradley started the round quickly, trying to force the enemy back. The Filipinio exploded, landing a left through the middle. As Pacquiao tried to enliven the old killer within, Bradley responded with a volley of his own. It was absorbing action.
The action intensified in the third. The crowd favourite blazed, hacking with straight lefts as he went. But Bradley’s shield was sturdy, he peeked from behind it, plotting his own attack. By the end of the round the underdog had his hands by his side, inviting the ageing warrior to take a swipe.
Already braver than he had been in the first fight, Bradley dipped beneath a Pacquiao lead and arced a right that landed with a thud in the fourth. Briefly, Manny was in trouble.
“My corner screamed that he was hurt,” Bradley explained. “I could see he had been stunned but he recovered quickly because he was in tremendous shape.”
The American’s machismo increased. At the close of the sixth he refused to defend himself, instead choosing to dive beneath Pacquiao’s rabid mitts and taunt the menace that hurtled at him.
“We were not expecting Bradley to be that aggressive, to look for a home run with every shot,” Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach revealed. “But it took an effect in the end and I feel he wore himself out.”
That desire to sit in the eye of the storm was indeed ill-judged. Through the middle rounds he enjoyed the punishment less and less, his legs were not as willing to bounce, his arms not as busy. He confirmed he fought with the second half of the fight with an injury to his calf but refused to use it as an excuse.
“I fought like that because it was the only way I was going to win the fight,” he said. “I didn’t know if I could win close rounds by out-boxing him because he’s fast and experienced, so I was trying to knock him out. I wasn’t winded in the second half but I’m not going to make any excuses. I do not want to talk about my calf at all. Pacquiao deserved his victory.”
The Palm Springs resident looked hurt in the ninth as his tormentor swarmed. Bradley summoned the reserve, and rallied slightly in the 11th, but could not match Pacquiao’s output. The two rivals let it all hang out in the final session, each seemingly determined to take the matter of victory into their own hands. Bradley ate a booming left-right before retaliating, yet his efforts were too little, too late.
At the end, there was no doubt about who had won – and this time, the judges agreed.
“I take defeat tonight but the war is not over,” said Bradley. “I fought courageously, I did everything I had to but it wasn’t enough. But the war is not over, I’ve just got to go to the gym and get better. I will be champion again.”
Predictably, the talk turned to the prospect of Pacquiao taking on Floyd Mayweather – a long-desired contest between the sport’s biggest stars.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, was furious the MGM Grand hyped Mayweather’s May 3rd showdown with Marcos Maidana, hosted by rivals Golden Boy, so heavily during Manny’s fight week. The 82-year-old has vowed never to stage a fight at the hotel again.
It seemed to make a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight even more unlikely but the veteran insisted that was not the case.
“We are prepared to sit down at a table with Floyd.”