2:24 AM EDT, April 13, 2014
LAS VEGAS -- The old guy prevailed. Manny Pacquiao's boxing journey, at age 35, will continue.
In a show of incredible speed, willpower and condition, he took a unanimous decision over the man who had shocked him two years ago and taken a controversial decision, the quick-hitting Timothy Bradley of Palm Springs.
This time, in front of 15,601 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, there could be no doubt. The congressman from the Philippines province of Sarangani, the boxer who had held eight world championships and was the new WBO welterweight titlist after this one, had met the challenge.
Two of the judges had it 116-112, eight rounds to four, and the third had it 118-110.
Pacquiao's catchphrase all along in the pre-fight hype, where much discussion had been about the possibility of his retiring full-time to politics if he turned in less than a stellar performance or lost again to Bradley, had been, "We shall see if my journey continues."
It seems it will.
The victory was decisive, impressive.
His approach was the same as the one that has taken him now to a 56-5-2 record. That is, ding, dart and disappear. Bradley, like most fighters who face Pacquiao, swung and missed a lot. Pacquiao may be 35 — Bradley is 30 — but he seems not to have lost a millisecond of quickness.
Bradley said afterward that he had injured his
right calf in the first round and couldn't do much after that, having a balance problem.
"He deserved to win, " Bradley said. "I have no excuses."
That seemed to contradict the calf injury.
Bradley had entered the fight unbeaten at 31-0.
The first round of feeling out each other quickly became a brawl in the second, when Pacquiao landed several big shots. That pace continued in the third, somewhat amazingly with the postmatch news that Bradley had hurt his leg in the first.
Pacquiao's opening pace seemed to catch up with him in the fourth, and Bradley got to him for solid shots at least three times. The rounds Bradley got from the judges came at this point in the fight.
In the fifth, Bradley connected more again and the fight got closer. Then Bradley ended the round by uncharacteristically hotdogging the last 10 seconds, arms at his side.
At this point, Pacquiao, who praised Bradley as being a better fighter now than in the first match, said he and his corner began to understand that Bradley was going for the "home run punch."
Bradley hotdogged again at the end of the sixth, and it became stranger and stranger as it became clearer and clearer that Pacquiao was winning the match.
The weirdness by Bradley continued in the seventh.
Again, Pacquiao appeared to score more and move better. But Bradley ended the round taunting Pacquiao again to come and get him. Twice Pacquiao did, peppering Bradley with eight- and nine-punch combinations.
In the eighth round, Bradley showboated more and it appeared the strategy from his corner was now to see if Pacquiao would punch himself out.
In the ninth, Bradley's right eye seemed to be swelling, the norm for most fighters against the lefty Pacquiao. At this point, it looked as if Bradley needed to win the last three rounds to have a chance.
By the 10th, Bradley looked spent and Pacquiao, clearly somewhat tired himself, kept firing away. Most ringside observers had it 98-91 at this point for Pacquiao, leaving Bradley's only chance a knockout.
The 12th and final round was more of the same, and appeared to be merely window dressing.
By the time the fight started at 9:21 Pacific time, well after midnight in the East — when anybody who had paid the $60 to see it on pay-per-view may have fallen asleep — the place was electric. Grammy award winner Ashanti's rendition of the national anthem had massive adrenaline flowing in the massive arena.
The late start was par for the course. The last important boxing match to start on time was probably Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling in 1938. The world runs by a clock. Boxing runs on boxing time.
Pacquiao paraded in to the sounds of "The Eye of the Tiger." Most tigers, of course, would have been sound asleep in the den by now.
As the reigning champion, Bradley walked in last and did so to some heavy rock music. Like Pacquiao, he looked composed and ready and undistracted by all the promotion's introductory noise and glitz.
But in the end, the journey continues and it is Pacquiao in the driver's seat.
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