The most critical moment of the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley came after it was already over, as fans and sportswriters and the camps of both fighters wondered if, after Pac-Man had clearly dominated Bradley once more, the judges would see things differently.
Unlike two years ago—when Bradley was awarded a rather shocking decision—the judges got it right this time around, with two awarding Pacquiao a 116-112 victory and the other seeing it 118-110. It was unanimous from the judges; it was decisive from Pacquiao; it was a just result.
For the most part, it wasn't in doubt. Pac-Man came out cagey, however, as Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted:
Back and forth first round. Bradley landed the cleaner shots. Pacquiao not as aggressive as I expected him to be coming out.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
But the second round was brilliant, with both fighters exchanging blows and flurries. Pacquiao was slightly better in the round, but it certainly set up an exciting fight from there. The third was just as intense, with Bradley even getting cocky at points and dropping his gloves. But Pac-Man was peppering him, too, as the crowd roared.
The fourth was nearly the moment Bradley stole the fight, however. He landed a huge right to Pac-Man's head and was urged on by his corner to go in for the kill. But Pacquiao managed to clear the cobwebs and recover, and arguably Bradley's best chance to steal the fight was lost.
Bradley's strategy was very much all-or-nothing, as the man who has made a name for his boxing, nimble footwork and concrete chin—but not his powerful punches—decided to play the role of brawler. He often swung wildly, looking for the knockout blow, perhaps conceding early that he wasn't going to out-box Pacquiao and earn a decision on the night.
Things slowed down in the fifth, but in the sixth, Pac-Man appeared to take over the fight. He finished the round with a flurry on Bradley that didn't really hurt Desert Storm but surely helped Pacquiao on the cards.
In the seventh, Pac-Man really lay into Bradley, hitting him with several potent combinations and a big body shot that appeared to temporarily stun Desert Storm. If there was any doubt this was Pac-Man's night should he avoid hitting the canvas, the seventh dispelled it.
Bradley almost invited the punishment, as Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated noted:
Round 7: Bradley beckons Pacquiao in. Took some serious punishment. Kept shaking head.— Greg Bishop (@GregBishopSI) April 13, 2014
Added Mike Wise of The Washington Post:
Pacquiao is just dissecting Bradley, who looks like a palooka instead of a boxer-puncher that he is.— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) April 13, 2014
After a less-than-compelling eighth round, Pacquiao again took the fight to Bradley in the ninth, keeping him off balance and punishing him on the ropes. By the end of this round, it was obvious it was knockout-or-bust for Desert Storm, and both fighters seemed to realize it.
From there, the pace of the fight slowed, with Bradley perhaps tiring and Pacquiao surely approaching the fight a bit more cautiously than he had early on. By the time the final round rolled around, Bradley seemed out of questions to ask of Pac-Man, as Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports tweeted:
NOt a great round by Manny, but Tim landed next to nothing.I have it 8-3 Pacquiao going to the last round. 107-101— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) April 13, 2014
It was a clear victory for Pac-Man, and it was one he really need as he hopes to reinforce his legacy later in his career.
The question will be what is next for these fighters. A rematch is possible, since technically they split the first two matches, though in the minds of most, Pacquiao has proven he is clearly the superior fighter. It's more likely that Pac-Man will face the winner of the May 17 match between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado.
Or maybe, possibly, he'll finally fight Floyd Mayweather? Bob Arum isn't ruling it out, per Mannix:
Arum says he is ready "anytime" to negotiate a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Neither is Pac-Man, as he told Matt Christie of The Guardian, “We are prepared to sit down at a table with Floyd."
Hey, we can always dream, right?