Manny Pacquiao (R) of the Philippines hits undefeated WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley of the U.S. with a right during their title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada April 13, 2014 (Manila time). Photo by Steve Marcus, Reuters
(UPDATE 3) Filipino superstar Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao outpointed Timothy Bradley Jr. over the course of 12 rounds to avenge a controversial loss and hand the American his first-ever career defeat Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (Sunday in Manila).
Pacquiao, the former pound-for-pound king of boxing and eight-division world champion, made sure that there would be no doubts this time as he won a clear decision, 116-112, 116-112, and 118-110, to regain the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title that he lost to the American in June 2012.
“I had to do more (in this fight), it’s very different (from) the first fight,” admitted Pacquiao. “He improved a lot. He showed his toughness. I hit him with solid punches, but he’s still standing.”
Bradley had controversially defeated Pacquiao when they first fought two years ago, claiming a split decision that was widely criticized by boxing analysts and fans.
Most boxing experts expected the rematch to be a toss-up, however, as Bradley had shown great improvement since the 2012 showdown, while the 35-year-old Pacquiao was no longer at his physical prime.
But after a scary moment in the fourth round when Pacquiao was rocked by a Bradley right hand, the “Pacman” seized control of the bout, using his footwork, skills and punching power to outwork Bradley most of the second half of the 12-rounder.
“He’s the better fighter tonight,” conceded Bradley, who lost for the first time in 32 fights and revealed that he fought from the first round on with a right calf injury. “That’s what it is.”
“He has impeccable timing, great footwork. He’s very coordinated and he has tremendous punching power,” added the American. “He stunned me a couple of times, but I held on.”
Pacquiao’s record improved to 56 wins, five losses and two draws, with 38 wins coming by way of knockout.
The first three rounds were close affairs, with both fighters feeling each other out with jabs to start. Pacquiao landed the first significant shots of the fight with straight rights in the opening round, though Bradley was able to counter with shots to the body.
Bradley showed his willingness to exchange punches with the “Pacman,” but absorbed several power shots in the process, especially in the second round. The American fired back in the fourth round, however, landing a right hand on Pacquiao’s face that clearly dazed the Filipino idol.
“He got me in the fourth round, a solid punch, a right hook,” Pacquiao admitted after the fight. “But I listened to my corner, to Freddie Roach. (He told me) hands up, timing, and don’t just counter him.”
Pacquiao was on the defensive end for most of the fourth round as Bradley continued to pressure him, but the “Pacman” rallied in the fifth with eye-catching combinations.
By the sixth round, the Filipino was able to trap Bradley against the ropes and unload punches, finally showing the aggressiveness that he promised to showcase ahead of the fight.
Bradley tried to showboat in the middle rounds, repeatedly shaking his head even as he absorbed punches from Pacquiao while trapped against the ropes. But the repeated punishment clearly took its toll on the American boxer, who no longer moved as well in the final four rounds.
Pacquiao’s best round came in the seventh, when he pinned Bradley to the ropes and unleashed a flurry of punches. Bradley, still showboating, egged him on, and Pacquiao paused for a moment before unloading more shots, including a left hand that clearly stunned the American.
With Pacquiao controlling the pace of the fight, Bradley resorted to swinging wild punches, often missing widely with overhand rights that he said were part of their game plan.
“I was trying to time him over the top,” Bradley explained. “I was trying to throw something over the top while he’s throwing.”
Bradley had some bright moments in the ninth round, landing combinations to Pacquiao’s chin, but his wild punches mostly met air and the “Pacman” kept pushing him against the ropes, leaving the American with no choice but to clinch in order to avoid more punishment.
“I had to throw a lot of punches, too,” Pacquiao said. “He was throwing a lot of punches. I was very careful to throw a lot of punches, because his punches were all over, on the outside. I’m throwing inside punches.”
The bout was briefly stopped towards the end of the final round when a small cut opened up above Pacquiao’s left eye, but the doctors let the bout continue with just seconds to go. Bradley did his best to attack the “Pacman,” but it was for naught.
“I tried, I really tried,” said Bradley. “I wanted that knockout. Manny’s a great fighter, maybe one of the best ever. I lost to one of the best.”
Pacquiao, who had to face repeated questions about his killer instinct and competitive spirit leading up to the rematch, said his victory proved that his career was far from done.
“I proved tonight that my journey in boxing will continue,” said Pacquiao, to the cheers of over 15,000 fans in attendance.
It was Pacquiao’s second consecutive unanimous decision win since his two-fight losing streak in 2012. He was knocked out by great Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez in December of that year after already losing to Bradley.
“I’m very happy, because I wasn’t discouraged by my loss to Marquez. I continued my journey in boxing,” said Pacquiao, who said he will welcome any opponent but left the negotiations again to his promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank.
“My job is to fight in the ring. Any opponent,” he said. “A couple more years. I can still fight.”
Bradley, who was gracious in the face of his first-ever loss, said there was nothing for him to do but continue to work.
“I lost one fight,” Bradley said. “I’m gonna go back to the gym and get better.” -- With reports from Agence France-Presse, Reuters