With the theatrics of the press conferences, weigh-in and most of the pre-fight hype having run its course of relevance, it's finally time for Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley to settle months of speculation, predictions and analysis inside the ring.
Despite Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) weighing in at a career-heavy 147 pounds yesterday, both he and Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) look to be in sound fighting shape. Speculation about Pacquiao's conditioning and somewhat-tamer musculature have fueled whispers about a possible upset, though compared to Bradley's chiseled physique, anyone can feel inadequate.
As the bell gets set to toll for Round 1 later this evening, the fascination with tonight's matchup only gains momentum, and the intrigue surrounding Bradley's ability to handle Pacquiao's power and dizzying punching angles with his own blend of skilled boxing and intelligent aggression should be answered early.
There is no shortage of analysis and predictions to read that break down this fight from every conceivable angle. Now, however, the time to watch and marvel at these two combatants is upon us, and the fight should have an abundance of drama and bitterly contested rounds.
If you missed the fight's biggest moments, or are just looking for a recap of all the heated action, you've come to the right place. I'll be updating this slideshow throughout the bout.
I wonder if Manny Pacquiao's delay in properly warming up had to do with him coming to terms with the Celtics losing. Seriously, the delay because of this basketball fiasco is ridiculous. Max Kellerman interviews Freddie Roach to inform us that Pacquiao is on a treadmill to stretch out his calves.
Hopefully we'll find out soon how this delay is going to affect Bradley (who is already warmed up). I like Bradley's demeanor and mindset in the pre-fight interviews; his confidence and poise is contagious.
I thought I'd never hear Michael Buffer's "Let's get ready to rumble!" tonight. Alright, here we go!
Both fighters are feeling things out with jabs. Nice body shots by both—Bradley rips a left.
Bradley moving forward with a double jab and decent combinations in spurts. Manny seems content to see what Bradley wants to do. Bradley definitely seems aggressive.
Two straight lefts land for Pacquiao; best punches of the round. Pacquiao stole the round with three straight lefts at the end of the round. The crowd seems into it.
Things are heating up. Bradley is open to Pacquiao's straight left hands. But Bradley is a bulldog in the clinch. You got to love how the mixes it up.
Bradley needs to circle to his left. If he stays in the pocket, Pacquiao will rock him with left hands all night. Pacquiao lands another one and Bradley answers with a wild flurry moving forward.
Bradley is very much in this fight, but Manny landed the more telling blows in this round. Bradley needs to make an adjustment to deal with Manny's straight left-hand punches. He was doubling his jab but needs to get in Manny's chest. Right now he's at the end of Manny's shots.
While Manny isn't landing flashy combinations, the straight left is almost hitting Bradley at will. Bradley, however, seems to be taking the shot well.
Bradley lands a solid right to the body. Kellerman makes a good point about working the body now. Pacquiao pins Bradley on the ropes and forces him back with another left hand.
Good left hook by Bradley but Pacquiao responds with a solid left. Nice flurry and exchange as the round ends. The crowd approves. We have a fight on our hands! A tough round to score, but what might be catching the judges' attention is how Pacquiao backs Bradley up with his shots.
Harold Lederman has it 30-27 for Manny and makes a great point about Bradley not moving his head enough. Robert Byrd warns Bradley for hitting below the belt.
Bradley with a four-punch combination that is mostly blocked. Good left hook to the body from Manny starts a furious exchange. Big shot lands for Manny as Bradley is twisting and turning all over the place to avoid punches. Lots of these punches are missing though.
Bradley's fundamentals are breaking down, but he lands a cracking right just before the bell. Pacquiao's straighter shots are making the difference, but the fight is intriguing and competitive. Still, you could make a case that Pacquiao is decisively winning despite quality spurts from Bradley.
Another good round for Pacquiao as he continues to land straight lefts. It seems that some of my notes for this round got deleted as I updated the article, so instead I will comment on how HBO is scoring the fight.
While HBO has the fight a shutout (thus far) and are crediting Pacquiao for landing the stronger shots, I always wonder about how commentary influences my viewing of a fight. It's easy to see things a certain way when you're essentially instructed how to do so.
That said, the HBO crew is usually on point. Pacquiao is certainly winning the fight, though they should perhaps give Bradley more credit for his bursts of aggression than simply reducing the bout's narrative to this being the case of a good fighter (Bradley) simply running into a great fighter (Pacquiao).
Pacquiao looks like he might be pitching a shutout so far, though the fight has had thrilling moments. Slow start to this round as both men are regrouping.
Bradley lands a nice right hand. Good counter hook by Pacquiao, but still lots of posturing. Bradley lands a counter right hook and seems to be doing well. Pacquiao's flurries are missing until he pins Bradley in the corner and unleashes!
Pacquiao lands a left uppercut and Bradley fires back with a hook. Close round, I think you could make a case for Bradley; still, Pacquiao's flurry at the end might persuade the judges.
Bradley needs to turn it up. Furious exchange and nearly a clash of heads. Bradley is stubbornly exchanging, which is foolish because Manny has a power advantage.
Bradley ducks and Pacquiao unloads. Huge exchange on the ropes as both men have their moments. Two left hands in row land for Manny as they exchange in the center of the ring. Manny's punches are sneaky while Bradley keeps looping his shots.
Good action, but Pacquiao seems to be landing more punches.
Bradley needs to adjust his game plan. He might be better off if he starts to make it ugly. If he mauls Pacquiao, he might be able to negate his power.
Bradley lands a hook after ducking away from a Pacquiao flurry. Great right hook by Manny to punctuate a combination. Bradley comes forward and briefly has Manny on the ropes after eating some shots.
Awkward exchange at the end of the round with wild punches as nothing really lands cleanly. This was a relatively uneventful round in terms of meaningful exchanges. Bradley might be lulling Manny to sleep; the fight's tempo seems to be shifting and they're fighting in bursts.
HBO still scores the fight a shutout (80-72). Manny lands a straight left to start things off. Bradley loses his balance near the ropes but quickly recovers (crowd went wild for a second).
Good fighting in the pocket near the red corner, but Manny gets the better of the exchange with a flush left. Simultaneous hooks land, and Manny's power advantage is evident.
Bradley keeps coming forward with minimal head movement. Lots of punches landing off each fighter's gloves. Pacquiao backs Bradley up with two overhand lefts. Bradley keeps stalking but can't land anything meaningful. Tough round, but you have to give it to Manny.
Pacquiao's work-rate is incredible. Good three-punch combo by Bradley to start the round. Bradley switches to southpaw momentarily, but it seemed mostly for show.
More rumbling about Bradley's injured foot. He seems to be moving well though...his head movement is the real problem. Good left hook from Bradley. Manny answers with a straight left.
The pace of this round is slow, and Bradley's movement has actually started to look sluggish. Still, Bradley has thrown the more effective combinations. Seems like a Bradley round. I guess Manny decided to take the round off.
Replay shows that Bradley rolled his ankle. When Bradley circles to his left, he tends to drift straight back. This allows Manny to step in and land his straight left.
Manny ducks to his left and uses leverage to land a powerful left hook/half uppercut. Bradley is pumping his jab and fighting in spots. Bradley counters well and lands a body shot. Manny answers with a nice flurry and connects with another left.
Bradley rips a hook to the body and lands a right hand, but Manny comes back with a right of his own. Pacquiao landed some good power shots, but this was a close-ish round.
Bradley needs a home run to win this, and he unfortunately doesn't pack the requisite punch. Pacquiao has hooked well off his southpaw jab and begins the round with this combination.
Bradley eats a counter shot and another left hand. Bradley wings some shots, but he seems to be slapping his hooks. Bradley throws a looping right and their heads almost clash. Good uppercut by Bradley, but Pacquiao seems unfazed.
Bradley has shown some crafty movement and solid combinations in the round's minor skirmishes. Pacquiao is coasting a little, and he's somewhat aimlessly stalking Bradley around the ring.
This was an interesting fight, but the winner is obvious. Manny Pacquiao showed tremendous precision with his straight left hand, though Bradley's movement made it hard to land consistently and cleanly. The exchanges themselves were more exciting in terms of seeing flailing arms than flush connects.
Bradley was game and competitive in every round; unfortunately, being competitive and actually winning the rounds are a different story, and it would probably be generous to give Bradley four rounds.
The official scores: 115-113 Pacquiao; 115-113 Bradley; 115-13 Bradley! Bradley by split decision!
Are you kidding me!? This is an absolute shocker. Bradley was competitive and showed class, but this was a terrible call.
I could see giving Bradley some of the later rounds, and the fight had some close frames between the seventh and 10th. Still, the CompuBox numbers were decisively in Pacquiao's favor. Obviously, that doesn't automatically point to who won the fight, but in the case of Pacquiao-Bradley, it was clear that Manny was landing the stronger punches.
I will give Bradley credit for his ring generalship in the championship rounds. While he appeared almost lethargic, it seemed like he was employing a sound strategy of lulling Manny to sleep and then fighting in bursts. Again, I could see people having a persuasive argument for giving some of the later rounds to Bradley.
Ultimately, Pacquiao dictated tempo and landed the clearer, harder punches. Both men showed class after the fight, as expected. I guess we'll see that November 2012 rematch after all...