So much for the "Manny Pacquiao being washed up" narrative.
The 35-year-old won back his WBO welterweight title with a unanimous-decision victory over Timothy Bradley on Saturday night, avenging his 2012 loss. The judges scored it 116-112, 116-112, 118-110, per ESPN's Dan Rafael:
Make no mistake about it; "Pac-Man" needed this victory. Had he lost, he would've almost certainly had a very real discussion about retirement. Between his diminishing power, knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez and hollow win over Brandon Rios, Pacquiao's stock was undoubtedly trending downward heading into the all-important event.
With his convincing win, Pacquiao silenced some of his doubters and proved that his career isn't over just yet.
Nobody's expecting to see the buzz saw that ran through Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto anymore. The Pac-Man you saw on Saturday night is about as good as it's gonna get from here on out. Boxing writer Bryan Armen Graham put it best:
Pacquiao has clearly lost a little off his fastball, but tonight he beat a prime champion widely regarded as a top-five pound-for-pounder.— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) April 13, 2014
Much as in the first fight, Pacquiao had the clear advantage in the final stats, per CompuBox:
He took the fight right to Bradley and withstood the best blows from "Desert Storm" early into the proceedings. Looking back, you get the feeling that Bradley's chance to win was around Rounds 5 or 6. Once Pac-Man got past that threshold, he was in the clear.
As the fight went on, Pacquiao was more and more the fighter in the ascendancy. Bradley tried baiting him into the ropes. Pac-Man obliged to a certain extent, connecting with some major blows and then ducking out before his opponent could return the favor.
In almost every aspect of the fight, Pacquiao earned the advantage.
Keeping things in perspective, however, his trainer, Freddie Roach, used the word "sloppy" to describe his boxer's performance, per Rafael.
"Manny was a little sloppy tonight but I was happy with his performance," he said. "It looked like Bradley was going for a one-punch home run."
As mentioned before, nobody should've gone into Saturday night thinking that Pacquiao was going to roll back the clock five years. Given his age and all the punishment he's taken in the ring, he won't age gracefully. Yet, at this point, he remains a skilled fighter capable of systematically dissecting top opposition like Bradley.
Looking ahead, Pacquiao has at least one or two more big fights left. A fifth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez seems the most logical next step.
God bless him, Top Rank's Bob Arum is doing whatever he can to stoke the dying embers of what's left for the potential superfight with Floyd Mayweather. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix provided a blow-by-blow of Arum's rant:
Arum: "The only people who can make Floyd fight Manny is the public…by boycotting the fight on May 3rd." This is an epic Arum rant.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Arum says he is ready "anytime" to negotiate a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Arum says instead of Maidana, Mayweather should say he is fighting a tuneup fight and sign to fight @MannyPacquiao in the fall.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
As much as Arum may want to see that happen and as much as you never say never with boxing, a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout is as close to never as it can be.
From Mayweather's perspective, the financial incentives aren't really there anymore, and from Pacquiao's perspective, it may not be a good idea to take on an opponent who clearly looks more superior at the moment.
Should the two never step in the ring against one another, it will be one of the sport's biggest disappointments over the last decade or so.
Another bout with Marquez might not be the most enticing fight to bring in fans, either. But look at it this way, though—at least Pacquiao still has a future in the ring at all.