Most seemed to believe that Manny Pacquiao did enough to beat Timothy Bradley during their first meeting in 2012, but Pac-Man removed all doubt on Saturday night as he earned redemption against Desert Storm.
Pacquiao won the WBO Welterweight title in the process, handed Bradley the first loss of his career and proved that he was back in fine form after a rough stretch of fights.
Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole reported the judges' scores:
Boxing fans will always remember the first bout between these two fighters for the controversial finish, but the second fight will be remembered for its back-and-forth pace. Both fighters were active, and neither backed down over the course of the fight.
Bradley, despite being known as a boxer more than a brawler, stood toe-to-toe with Pacquiao throughout the bout. However, Pacquiao's ability to string together punches and keep his opponent at bay won out in the end.
Following Pacquiao's controversial split-decision loss to Bradley two years ago, Pacquiao lost decisively to Juan Manuel Marquez as his longtime rival knocked him out. Pac-Man was able to rebound with a convincing victory over Brandon Rios, but Bradley was the true test.
It was crystal clear how much this fight meant to both Pacquiao and Bradley heading in since they were much more vocal than usual, according to Ryan Songalia of Ring Magazine:
Pacquiao had plenty to say about his previous meeting with Bradley. Pacquiao was the aggressor throughout that fight, and even though it can be argued that Bradley might have stolen some rounds, awarding him the victory was a very tough sell.
Pac-Man was so confident in his performance that he didn't dwell on the decision after it was announced, per Houston Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times.
In the first fight against Tim Bradley, I was over it before I returned to the dressing room. To Freddie Roach and me, and apparently everyone else who watched the fight– except for two– I won the fight. The first thing I said to Freddie when we saw each other in the dressing after the fight was, '(Bradley) ran just like we knew he would.' We never discussed or debated the decision because it was so obvious that I had won the fight and nearly every round.
As bad as the judging seemed to be in that fight, Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com defended the decision to some extent:
Defending the decision is something that Bradley has had to do ever since it was handed down. Although he technically won the fight, he has been battling perception to the contrary. Prior to Saturday's rematch against Pacquiao, Bradley stressed how important it was to win decisively in order to silence the critics, according to Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram:
Absolutely, I have a lot to prove in this fight. And No. 1 is that the first fight was not a fluke. There were a lot of things that happened in the first fight that weren't right. This time I will be 100 percent ready. I have gained a lot of experience from my last two fights on HBO and HBO pay-per-view.
Despite that experience and confidence, Bradley was unable to repeat the winning feat. He now finds himself in a difficult position since the belief is that Pacquiao has now been the better fighter on two occasions.
The argument for a rubber match can certainly be made since each fighter has a victory to his credit, but there may not be much interest in making this a trilogy since Pacquiao has the clear upper hand.
Bradley may be at a crossroads, but this win is a validation for Pacquiao. He seemed to be nearing the end of his career after losing to Bradley initially and following that up with a loss to Marquez, but he has turned things around in a major way.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the first Pacquiao vs. Bradley bout, Bradley is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and Pacquiao blemished his previously undefeated record.
It remains to be seen how much longer the 35-year-old Pacquiao wants to fight, but there is no question that he has plenty left in the tank. There are some interesting potential matchups on the horizon against the likes of Kell Brook, Shawn Porter or even Adrien Broner, but Floyd Mayweather talk will persist until either he or Pacquiao calls it quits.
Pacquiao vs. Mayweather is the one true superfight left out there that fans want to see, but the two camps have never been able to get on the same page. Even if that fight never comes to fruition, it is great to see Pac-Man back on top of his game.
He is one of the all-time greats, and Bradley found that out firsthand on Saturday night.
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