Even though history will remember Manny Pacquiao's fight against Timothy Bradley on Saturday night as a split-decision loss, Pacquiao did enough to maintain his status as an elite boxer.
In one of the most surprising decisions in the sport's history, Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight title despite dominating the punch count and controlling the pace throughout. He didn't look hampered by any injuries and frequently showcased his trademark quickness.
It was, by far, a more complete performance than he delivered against Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight, in which he picked up the victory. More than anything else, the loss shows the inconsistency of judges and shouldn't be seen as the potential downfall of "Pac-Man."
Give credit to Bradley. Lost in all the controversy was a strong showing by the undefeated American. He didn't land as many shots as Pacquiao, but he was never significantly hurt by any of the champion's shots.
He was able to stand toe-to-toe with "Pac-Man" for 12 rounds to at least give himself a chance to earn a controversial decision. If he gets knocked out, the entire story is different, so Bradley shouldn't feel bad about the biggest win of his skyrocketing career.
Pacquiao shouldn't feel bad, either. He illustrated enough talent to compete with any other boxer on the planet, including Floyd Mayweather, and give himself a good chance to win. That's all he can ask for. Everything else is out of his hands.
At 33, many boxers start to lose a little quickness or power as the fights start to have a cumulative impact on the body. However, that really didn't seem like the case for the eight-division champion on Saturday night.
While he was unable to send Bradley to the mat, it wasn't a lackluster performance that should make anybody wonder if a decline is imminent. If anything, it can be viewed as an encouraging sign that he looked more healthy and focused than in the Marquez bout.
It's also important to remember that the loss was Pacquiao's first in more than seven years. If anybody has earned the benefit of the doubt, it's him. People should at least wait until his next fight before making any judgment about his future.
After all, if he would have scored a convincing unanimous decision victory—which many onlookers thought he did—the story would be his dominance and how nobody could beat him. Judges shouldn't be able to change a boxer's entire image.
Pacquiao remains one of the top two boxers on the planet. It will take a lot more than one decision to change that.