From the ashes of his over-hyped and underwhelming defeat against Floyd Mayweather back in May of last year, Manny Pacquiao rose from the like a phoenix and blazed a trail of fiery brilliance and excitement by defeating Tim Bradley in what is most likely the last fight of his illuminating career.
Pacquiao (57-6-2 38KO) started off against Bradley (33-2-1 13KO) in a fast but also measured pace. Both fighters knew that they had to be first but also not rush in without using the precious nanoseconds to plan their attack and while there wasn’t a lot of action in first three rounds, I felt that Pacquiao won them based on his activity rate. Something about Bradley seemed tense, not like he was in fear of Pacquiao but almost as if he was taking just a half second longer to decide when to strike. At the end of every round there seemed to be a grimace of annoyance on his face frustrated.
After six rounds, I had Pacquiao ahead, giving him the first five rounds and Bradley the sixth based on getting the better of the exchanges at the beginning of the round. Then suddenly and off balanced Bradley was dropped to all fours by a Pacquiao combination that might have been a slip but looked legitimate enough to me. If he needed motivation (I couldn’t hear what Teddy Atlas was telling him in the corner) that might have done it as he came back strongly in the eighth round, winning it on my scorecard.
Just when it looked like Bradley might be able to mount some kind of incredible comeback, Pacquiao unleashed his classic left hand that landed clean on Bradley’s face and dropped him again with such force that it had him rolling in the ring. If this had been professional wrestling, I think my colleagues on The Ring Crew Show might have accused Bradley of selling a bit too hard. But he was indeed hurt and lucky that the round ended when it did.
Now well ahead on my scorecard going into the last round of the fight, it was plain to everyone from the commentary crew on HBO, to Teddy Atlas, to the fat man in the front row who kept waving at the camera every time he saw that he was on the jumbo-tron, that Timothy Bradley would need to pull off the miracle of miracles and deliver one of the greatest Hail Mary knockouts the sport had ever seen. But anyone who follows the sport knows that as good as Bradley is, he just doesn’t have that one punch power that can stop anyone. In fact it almost looked like Bradley would be the one getting knocked out after he found himself tangled between the ropes a few seconds before the final bell rang.
As it was in the second fight and as it should have been in the first, all three judges scored this fight for Pacquiao, this time with matching scores of 116-110. My own score of 117-109 may have been a bit generous but based on how I was seeing it, I don’t think it is unfair either.
After the fight Pacquiao spoke to Max Kellerman and said that he was looking for the knockout in every round and that his shoulder didn’t bother him like it did in the Mayweather fight. Like me, the Kellerman along with Roy Jones and Jim Lampley on commentary were impressed at how despite being 37 and through so many fights, Pacquiao still looked like he enjoyed fighting.
Kellermen mentioned the possibility of Pacquiao fighting Canelo Alvarez and going on to have a rematch with Floyd Mayweather that no one will ever ask for despite that leading up to this fight it had been hinted at heavily that this would be the final fight of Manny’s career. Afterwards at the press conference Pacquiao admitted that he was 50/50 on retirement and needed to see what it felt like.
Bradley was once again very gracious in defeat, not offering any excuses (Outside of dismissing the first knockdown but also admitting that he didn’t remember them) and even making plans to meet up with Pacquiao the following morning. It was unclear if it was just for breakfast or to attend Manny’s bible study.
I can’t criticize Tim Bradley for his performance because despite the one-sided nature of my scorecard, he kept it a very competitive fight even though he clearly lost. At times he seemed to revert back to the Tim Bradley of old, who would get hit and then stand and trade with whoever was giving it to him.
Perhaps the performance against Brandon Rios fooled some people. After all, Rios isn’t close to being half the fighter Manny Pacquiao is in terms of skill and as it was clear, he went into that training camp just to make weight, not get into actual fighting shape. I think that if I had been given the same amount of time in a training camp with Teddy Atlas that I (A barely 150lb nerd from Canada) could have gotten the same result against Rios.
I think that Bradley can still be a force in the welterweight division but that Manny Pacquiao will always be that one dragon he just couldn’t slay.
Going back to Pacquiao, I hope that this is the final fight for the most exciting boxer of his generation. For almost 20 years he’s been doing this and the last thing any of us would want to see is Manny Pacquiao be an all too familiar image in boxing of the former great champion being humbled by a younger, hungrier opponent all because he wanted to show the world once again how great he was when we never needed reminding to begin with.
I hope that Pacquaio can find as much satisfaction in the laughter with his wife and children as he did in the cheers of millions of fans.
I hope that the millions he’s earned throughout his career last long into the lives of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I hope that he can truly help the poor as he helped fans realize that boxing wasn’t a dead sport.
I hope that he can show up at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in six years with his faculties intact and not having any regrets about walking away when he did.
I hope that 10 years from now we can all look back on this night with fondness and say, “If I were a fighter, that’s the way I’d want to end my career.”