This time, Manny Pacquiao left no doubt.
Pacquiao (56-5-2) and Timothy Bradley (31-1-0) turned in a back-and-forth brawl for the first six rounds that seemed difficult to judge, but the challenger out-classed Desert Storm down the stretch, earning a unanimous victory during Saturday night's rematch at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole provides the final scorecard, while CompuBox's Twitter feed gives a look at the discrepancy in the punch stats:
Judges: 116-112 twice and 118-110 for Pacquiao— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) April 13, 2014
Bradley, who suffered the first loss of his career, had nothing but respect for the new WBO welterweight title during the post-match interviews in the ring, via Real Boxing News' Isaac Estrada:
"I take my hat off to Manny, he's a great fighter. One of the best in the world!" Bradley— Isaac Estrada (@RealBoxingNews) April 13, 2014
Pac-Man returned the compliment while talking about his strategy for the win:
"Good fight. He gave me a good fight. I listen to my corner, hands up, timing." Pacquiao— Isaac Estrada (@RealBoxingNews) April 13, 2014
ESPN's Brian Campbell summed up the new champion's performance, while Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix gave a look at what could be on the horizon:
I thought Pacquiao put forth a pretty consistent effort from start to finish. Never overextended himself in pursuit. Good power.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) April 13, 2014
And get ready: If Juan Manuel Marquez beats Mike Alvarado next month, it's Pacquiao-Marquez 5 in the fall.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Both fighters spent much of the first round mostly just feeling each other out. Bradley landed a big right, but as Iole noted, the total punches were similar after 180 seconds:
Punches in 1: Pacman 7-44, Bradley 7-41— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) April 13, 2014
With Pac-Man presumably losing the opening round, he came out with far more fire in the second, landing a flurry of punches, including a massive left that slightly buckled the legs of the champion. Bradley fought back to close the round, and Jim Lampley, via HBO Boxing's Twitter feed, put it simply:
"We've got a fire fight in round number two." - Jim Lampley #PacBradley 2— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) April 13, 2014
From that point, it was clear we were in for an absolute battle. Bradley connected with some thundering body shots, and Pacquiao would respond with quick feet and a flurry of combos.
By the fourth round, the bout had turned into a scintillating slugfest, with both boxers standing in the middle of the ring and exchanging blows in the high-level brawl.
ESPN's Brian Campbell summed up the action through four rounds:
Wow. Bradley is going for it. Pacquiao firing back. GREAT fight so far.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) April 13, 2014
Things slowed down a little bit in the next couple of rounds, but Roy Jones Jr., via HBO, believed the momentum was swinging towards the Filipino challenger:
"Now Timothy Bradley is slowing down a little bit. Now Manny Pacquiao can get back into his normal rhythm." - @RealRoyJonesJr— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) April 13, 2014
Jones Jr.'s forecast turned out to be spot on. Bradley began to wear down and get away from what was working for him early, letting Pacquiao become the aggressor and start to control the action.
Showtime's Al Bernstein and Campbell gave their simple assessments following another mostly consensus win for Pacquiao in the eighth round:
Bradley is winning the posturing battle, losing the boxing match— Al Bernstein (@AlBernstein) April 13, 2014
Not sure what Bradley is doing here. Pacquiao continues to control these rounds and outland him.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) April 13, 2014
While many seemed split on how the first six rounds unfolded, Bradley's sloppiness continued and Pac-Man began to rack up points on the scorecard.
It started to become clear Bradley would need to do something drastic to change the direction of the fight, as Max Kellerman, via HBO, noted:
A fast-paced final two rounds wasn't enough for Bradley to get back into the match, and Pacquiao walked away with the unanimous victory.
Who should Manny Pacquiao fight next?
After the only official loss of his career, Desert Storm will undoubtedly be looking for a rematch, but with most believing that he was out-fought in both battles against Pacquiao, and his questionable strategy on Saturday night, another shot at Pac-Man may be difficult to come by.
As for Pacquiao, retirement will surely be a major talking point surrounding the 35-year-old. But the new champion proved on Saturday night that he can still box at an elite level.
And you can bet he'll continue to do so.