In what many feel should have been the outcome of the first fight between the pair, Manny Pacquiao regained his spot in the boxing spotlight on Saturday evening with a revenge victory over Timothy Bradley.
"Pac-Man" won the rematch by unanimous decision, decisively getting the better of the man who had set him upon his career's darkest path just two years earlier.
SportsCenter confirmed the triumph:
Champion again! Manny Pacquiao beats Timothy Bradley in unanimous decision, winning WBO Welterweight Title. pic.twitter.com/oZ67vyvaK3— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 13, 2014
Timothy Bradley has lost a fight for the first time in his career. He is now 31-1. pic.twitter.com/Y9xpgmZSgQ— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 13, 2014
Now, though, attention will inevitably turn to what happens next—not just for Pacquiao and Bradley, but for the industry as a whole and for all those other superstars who are hoping to move in on the openings that emerged in the fight's aftermath.
For the victor, it's a considerably easier route. Pacquiao has now re-established himself as a top-drawer talent who still offers box office potential, giving his career a new lease of life and firmly doing away with any notion of retirement.
Rappler.com shows just how the fighter feels this win revitalises his worth as a world-class boxer:
But the welterweight division will go through a period of indecision following this result. The newly returned WBO welterweight champion is 35 years of age and enters a period of his career where any remaining fights will be deemed possible make-or-break bouts.
As has been the case for some years now, talk of a fixture opposite Floyd Mayweather Jr. is bound to arise, with speculation around the potential superfight that boxing has always desired beyond the status of flogging a dead horse at this stage.
However, in the build-up to Pacquiao's fight with Bradley, Mayweather Promotions couldn't help adding more fuel to that fire on Saturday with some spicy comments regarding Top Rank, which promoted Pacquiao vs. Bradley.
Mayweather is scheduled to fight against Marcos Maidana, also at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, on May 3. USA Today's Bob Velin quoted Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe as saying:
We put on the biggest events, their fight is not even sold out. You can go online and get tickets anywhere. The difference is that this morning we were over $14 million for the gate. People come to see Floyd Mayweather fight in big events. That's why we do the kind of numbers that we do.
But I'm not here to say anything negative about their event. They're going to have a good event. Both fighters are very, very good and we wish them the best.
It would be folly for one to get his hopes up too high for that possibility, but it would be easier to imagine Pacquiao meeting Juan Manuel Marquez for a fifth time. Pac-Man has a 2-1-1 record in that feud.
The other option is of course Marquez's next opponent Mike Alvarado. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated claims that the winner of that match may get a shot at the Filipino legend:
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
In a way, boxing might have benefited from a Bradley victory on Saturday. At 30, "Desert Storm" is younger than Pacquiao, has more long-term potential and could have been a deserving benefactor of the proverbial torch being passed on in this weight class, but it just wasn't meant to be.
After starting in strong fashion, his potency waned as the fight wore on, and stamina became an issue. The later rounds required a chase from Bradley, but he didn't have enough gas left in the tank for a sufficient pursuit.
Ring Magazine's Ryan Songalia quotes Bradley in the wake of his first professional loss:
Bradley: "I have no excuses tonight, pacquiao was a better man tonight, he showed what he’s made of." #pacbradley— Ryan Songalia (@ryansongalia) April 13, 2014
As a result, the California native will have to return to the drawing board, sizing up his next opponent with the knowledge that should he take a step too far back, it could be the start of a disappointing slump in his career.
Any decisions over the immediate future of the sport will be held off until fans see the outcome of Mayweather's clash with Maidana. Depending on that bout, one might envision any number of combinations regarding that pair, Pacquiao and Bradley—however unlikely some of those meetings may appear.
Ultimately, Pacquiao and Bradley put on a show that was good, if not necessarily great value for entertainment, but both fighters managed to save face in their own ways, keeping some avenues open for what lies ahead.