By Hans Marin
With his legacy at stake and his career on the line, Manny Pacquiao proved that he can still compete by displaying his boxing prowess to outpoint the undefeated Timothy Bradley and reclaim his WBO Welterweight Championship via unanimous decision, 116-112, 116-112, 118-110 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on April 12.
Bradley might have been the busier fighter, throwing more punches against Pacquiao but the latter is more accurate connecting on 198 of the 563 or 35 percent of the total punches he unleashed better than the measly 22 percent or 141 of the 627 punches that Bradley threw.
Pacquiao’s win-loss-draw-ko record went up at 56-5-2 with 38 knockouts after righting one of the biggest perceived wrong decisions in boxing history while Bradley suffered his first loss ever at 31-1-0 with 12 knockouts.
Pacman came into the Pacquiao-Bradley 2 fight roaring for a redemption after suffering a controversial loss via split decision against Timothy Bradley in their first clash.
The outspoken and confident Bradley, on the other hand, has his pride at stake and his unblemished record on the line as he is seeking for vindication, out to prove that he deserves to win after almost all of the boxing analysts and experts believed that Pacquiao won their first fight.
Both boxers have that burning desire and impeccable motivation to seize control of the fight. Balancing all his duties as a boxer while being a congressman, celebrity, pastor, wife and a father, Pacman relied on his experience and the crowd. The Desert Storm on the other hand, relied on his youth and overwhelming confidence.
It became a battle of youth vs. experience with a boxer currently at his prime and a boxer nearing the end of his exceptional career. It’s also a battle of opposites with Pacquiao being the aggressor and Bradley being the counter-puncher always in most of their fights.
Much was expected from the fight that everyone thought it will be a classic. But as it turned out, it really became a classic, a classic Pacquiao win, by outclassing world-class opponents.
Pacquiao’s market appeal
There’s been hype before the Pacquiao-Bradley 2 fight but is not enough to attract 1 million pay-per-views as the fight only got 800,000 pay-per-views. That’s is still a terrific number but it pales in comparison to the 1.15 million average of pay-per-views he got from his seven fights in span of 2008 when he faced Oscar Dela Hoya until 2011. Moreover, this leaves him behind his rival Floyd Mayweather in sales.
Pacquiao’s market value have obviously decreased and although he still has higher number of pay-per-views compare to most boxers, it is not the number usually expected from The Destroyer.
A lot of factors paved way to Manny’s rise to the global icon he is today. After beating world-class, future hall of famer and even much bigger boxers, his market appeal just sky-rocketed. But since losing via knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao’s numbers just dropped because probably, not believing that Pacman still got it.
A convincing win is a must for Pacquiao to increase his value in the market, according to Bob Arum and he did not disappoint.
Killer instinct is still there
Both men were motivated to go for the kill, to go for the knockout to silence the critics.
In the early rounds, Bradley came up more aggressive against Pacman, and he even wobbled Pacquiao twice with right hooks. Unfortunately, Bradley didn’t capitalize on that.
Pacquiao tuned up the tempo of his offense as he even almost knocked down Bradley with vicious combinations if not only he was leaning on the ropes in the seventh round. Since then, the pace slowed up for Bradley, turning into defensive and counterpunching mode.
“I knew I had to do more in this fight than I did in the last fight,” said Pacquiao.
The later rounds proved to be too difficult for Bradley as he was breathing the entire rounds through his mouth, unable to keep up with the hand speed of Pacquiao with his lightning combinations coming from different angles, along with incredible footwork.
The resiliency and composure of Pacman is evident and is on display the whole fight. He might be outboxed in the first half of the fight but he still found a way to literally make Bradley his punching bag.
Although he didn’t get the knockdown that he was craving for, he outclassed Bradley in a way that nobody expected. He just keeps on coming, just pursuing and peppering Bradley while still being cautious. This is a different Manny now than the first time they fought.
The killer instinct is still definitely there for the People’s Champ.
Knockout days are over
“I thought he had the killer instinct. It just didn’t seem like he had the power he usually has,” said Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach.
The killer instinct, the unmatched hand speed and the dance-like footwork, those are still definitely in Pacquiao, no doubt, after seeing how he had masterfully beaten Bradley.
But the legendary trainer said it, he doesn’t have the power anymore that he usually has. With his last knockout victory against Miguel Cotto in 2009, it has been 5 years and Pacquiao had not scored a knockout ever since.
“He still has the real sharp snap on his punches. [But] I believe in the first fight, his punching power was way harder,” said Bradley who is also a testament to the claim.
This is where the age factor comes in as age doesn’t lie. Pacquiao might still have that mental toughness, and the hunger for a knockout win, but physically, he might not have the punching power that he has before.
If the Manny Pacquiao at his prime is the one fighting that Bradley fight, it might not go the distance anymore.
The speed is still there but definitely, the knockout days for Pacquiao are over.
Bradley’s Change of fighting style
To the surprise of everyone, Bradley started the fight being the more aggressive fighter. He keeps coming in and slugging Pacquiao with all his might.
This change of style of Bradley has been effect up to the fourth round at least as he wobbled Pacquiao at that round.
“I tried, I really tried,” Bradley said. “I wanted that knockout. Manny is a great fighter, one of the best in the world. I lost to one of the greatest fighters in boxing. I kept trying to throw something over the top, that was the plan.”
Bradley felt like a knockout is a must for him to do as it will be harder for him to win via points because of the controversy in the first fight. It is also a matter of pride for him to shut his doubters and silence his critics.
With 12 knockouts only in his record, it might have been a bad idea for Bradley. Even if he had shown that he can really brawl against Ruslan Provodnikov, Pacquiao is a different fighter. Nobody can ever keep up with brawling against Pacquiao because of his lightning speed.
Not normally known as a power puncher, Bradley has had a lot of success being the counterpuncher. This is evident in his fight against Pacquiao’s rival Juan Manuel Marquez and against Pacquiao in the later rounds of their first fight.
As said by Coach Freddie Roach, the “one punch home run” mentality of Bradley may have caused him the fight.
But clearly, it can be seen that Pacquiao is the far better boxer of the two, even Bradley admitted it.
This Bradley fight is really a determiner of what will the future still hold for the “Pambansang Kamao.”
In a must win situation or he will retire, he went to prove that there is still something left in him. With an easy win against a world-class fighter at his peak, who will Pacquiao fight next?
A Marquez-Pacquiao 5 is definitely possible. With 2 against 1 win in favor of Pacquiao, Marquez still had the last laugh as he knockout Pacquiao cold in the canvass. But many people think there is still some unfinished business with the two and this will still be a fight that people want to see.
A win by Marquez in his next fight against Mike Alvarado will definitely make waves for their fifth fight as he will be the number 1 contender for the WBO Welterweight Belt. If Mike Alvarado wins, he might also be a potential contender for Pacquiao, but less people will be crazy about it.
Ruslan Provodnikov can also be a contender as he was known to be aggressive and will not literally hold back in fights. He is a punch first type of guy and will make the Provodnikov-Pacquiao fight exciting with the two having similar styles.
It will definitely be a brawl fest. With Provodnikov being the sparring partner of Pacman, he may know the blueprint to beat Pacquiao.
But of course, nobody wants more than the Pacquiao-Mayeather fight to happen. It’s been four years since the fight was brought up but there has been no clear indication if the fight will actually happen.
“The line is open 24 hours. If he’s awake and he wants to fight, the fight will be,” said Pacquiao.
Drug testing and promotion issues are two factors on why this fight just can’t happen. But who would not want to see the two best fighters and welterweights of the decade and even ever to fight to know who the best man really is?
Floyd Mayweather Jr. even said that Pacquiao looked amateurish in his fight against Bradley. This might be a trashtalk that is part of the promotion of their fight, who knows?
It will be a Mike Tyson vs Lennox Lewis type of fight, with both boxers at the twilight also of their careers when they fought each other.
But Mayweather still has to beat Marcos Maidana and if Maidana luckily wins and shock the world, Maidana can also have a shot to fight Pacquiao.
One thing is for sure, we won’t be seeing Pacquiao retiring anytime soon.
“I think I can fight for two more years,” said Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division champion. “I am so happy to be a world champion again.”
The legend of Pacman lives on for sure.