Manny Pacquiao didn’t need redemption against Timothy Bradley, but he got it anyway.
He out-boxed and out-punched the previously undefeated Bradley to nab the WBO welterweight title.
According to The Associated Press' Greg Beachem, Pacquiao said it came down to making the right adjustments:
I didn't want to get careless. I picked up more steam in the second half when I made adjustments that Freddie gave me in the corner. Bradley was much better than in the first fight we had. He hurt me on the chin.
More importantly, though, Pacquiao proved the first fight against Bradley, the one that almost everyone else in the world thought Pac-Man deserved to win but saw two of the three ringside judges inexplicably give to Bradley nonetheless, was a fluke.
That’s no disrespect to Bradley. It wasn’t his fault in 2012 that two judges, Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, incorrectly gave him the nod.
But he was the beneficiary of it, and someone had to pay for the crime under the penalty of Pacquiao’s punches.
Pacquiao didn’t look his best. The prime Pac-Man, the one who ran roughshod over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, is gone and likely will be forever.
But he is still elite. In fact, he’s good enough to be ranked No. 3 in Bleacher Report’s latest top-25 list.
Now that’s talent. At age 35, Pacquiao is still winning legacy-defining fights. Make no mistake: Bradley was one of the top three fighters in the world before he lost to Pacquiao on Saturday. He had earned it. Maybe not with his gift decision in 2012, but his close win over Juan Manuel Marquez was legit, as were the other 29 fights he’d won previously.
Pacquiao vs. Bradley, the rematch, was similar to the first.
In the beginning, it appeared Bradley believed his best approach was to stand in front of Pacquiao and fight. What was different in the rematch, though, is that it appeared to be a good strategy. Unlike the first fight, Bradley had his way early.
He was able to snap Pacquiao’s head back with a straight left hand in Round 2. It was clear at that moment to everyone watching that Bradley had enough zing in his punches to hurt Pacquiao.
But here’s the thing: The way to beat Pacquiao is decidedly not by standing in front of him and throwing home run shots.
Pacquiao is too fast, strong and skilled for that approach. Where one might point to Marquez’s 2012 knockout win over Pacquiao as a possible refutation, that simply will not do.
Marquez is a great counterpuncher. He uses angles and boxes from a distance. He has an uncanny ability to throw punches that land, but he doesn’t do it by standing in front of people the way Bradley tried against Pacquiao.
Besides, Bradley is no such thing. While he’s very good at many different things inside the ring, he is not really great at any of them. He certainly isn’t the counterpuncher Marquez is.
Instead, the items in his bag of skills have to be used the way a golfer uses different clubs: He picks the right one for the right occasions, or his game suffers.
Bradley picked the wrong one against Pacquiao, and by the middle rounds he was paying for it.
ESPN.com's Brian Campbell questioned Bradley's approach throughout the fight:
Like the first fight, Bradley complained of an injury afterward. Speaking to HBO’s Max Kellerman after the broadcast, he said his lower leg was hurt during the fight.
Surely, it was.
But as was the case in the first fight (Bradley complained of foot issues in 2012), the injuries to his lower extremities have but one constant: Pacquiao.
Fighting Pacquiao in close quarters and daring him to hit you back is akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight. It’s really, really dumb. Bradley’s lower leg injuries were likely a product of getting thrown off balance by sharp Pacquiao punches.
While brave, Bradley looked hopeless by the time the championship rounds came around. Pacquiao beat him to the punch on almost every occasion.
He hit him with jabs, hooks and straight lefts. He caught much of Bradley’s return fire with his gloves and forearms.
And perhaps most importantly to his future, Pacquiao didn’t fight recklessly. Oh sure, he was aggressive. He is always that. It’s why fans love him.
But against Bradley, Pacquiao never moved forward without caution. He was wary of being hit with another Marquez-like bomb, the one that put him face-down on the canvas in 2012.
Pac-Man appears to have learned his lesson.
Even when Bradley decided to make a show of things by putting his hands down or waving Pacquiao into a corner, he never ran into the fray without a plan.
He did the right thing. He varied his punches, their rhythm and power, and he racked up points.
By the end of the fight, Pacquiao was in seek-and-destroy mode. Bradley’s legs were completely gone. Whether it was from the strained calf, Pacquiao’s punches or some combination of both didn’t matter. He was a shipwrecked sailor with no legs for the land.
With just seconds left in Round 12, there was a momentary pause in the action. Bradley had landed a hard accidental headbutt to open a gash on Pacquiao’s face.
The pause, though, was simply prolonging Pacquiao’s victory lap. He finished Round 12 the way most of the rounds had played out.
Pacquiao landed the cleaner, harder blows, and he landed more of them. He controlled the pace of the bout and had Bradley right where he wanted for most of it.
This, of course, was exactly what happened in the first right. Only this time, the three judges at ringside, Michael Pernick, Glenn Trowbridge and Craig Metcalfe, did a competent job of scoring the fight.
Pacquiao was the winner of the second fight just like he was the first, earning his redemption from something he never really should have needed to be redeemed from.
Going forward, he will perhaps seek true redemption. Marquez left Pacquiao face-down back in 2012 and put his career seemingly in shambles. But Pac-Man has risen again from the ashes, something only the greatest fighters do.
Yes, he is among the greatest.
Pacquiao’s legacy is still growing. Despite being past his prime, he outclassed Bradley, an elite boxer who is still at his very best. Next up should be a redemption match against Marquez, a man he’s 2-1-1 against but oh how devastating was that "1."
Who can tell what story fate might weave? Could Pacquiao be the man to hand the world’s best, Floyd Mayweather, his first loss? Would Mayweather even fight him?
The future remains unclear, but the present is as apparent as ever: Pacquiao is again among the world’s best.