There is no question that Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2) was able to gain some semblance of vengeance against Timothy Bradley (31-1, 1 NC) with a victory on Saturday night, but the new champion’s inability to knock out his challenger is a bad sign for his future.
While Pacquiao showed flashes of being the fighter that took the sport of boxing by storm over the last decade, his inability to consistently push the tempo of the fight and do serious damage indicate that he is a shell of the top athlete he once was.
Whether it’s a knockout still fresh on his mind or Father Time taking his toll, Pac-Man was not the same fighter on Saturday.
After the decision victory on Saturday night, Pacquiao told Dan Rafael of ESPN.com about what he had to do this time to earn the victory and what his challenger brought to the ring:
I knew I had to do more in this fight than I did in the last fight…He gave me a good fight. He's not that easy. I listened to my corner about keeping my hands up and timing. He threw a lot of punches. He threw wide, wide, wide hooks. I got hit one time and said it's not good to be careless.
Pacquiao’s success during the prime of his career (2005-2011) was second to only Floyd Mayweather in the division and the two men appeared to be on a collision course with history on the line.
The dream match was derailed when Bradley won a controversial decision in June of 2012 and Pac-Man followed it up with a devastating knockout loss at the hands of longtime foe Juan Manuel Marquez.
Many boxing experts feared that the loss to Bradley and knockout at the hands of Marquez would change the kind of fighter Pacquiao would be in the ring, and that has certainly been the case. While fans became accustomed to the Filipino star attacking relentlessly throughout a fight, he looked to become complacent and satisfied by winning via decision. The loss to Bradley in the first fight proved he must do more to take the victory and his response was a devastating KO loss.
ESPN’s Nigel Collins talked about how Pac-Man isn’t the same fighter, but he has plenty left in the tank:
Postpone the funeral! Pacquiao, who is only 75-80% of what he was in his prime, can still beat a top P4P guy. That's mighty impressive.— Nigel Collins (@ESPNFNF) April 13, 2014
While there is no questioning the speed in which Pac-Man still possesses—he is one of the fastest men in the sport—the lack of power behind his punches was on full display against Bradley. The defending champion was peppered with shots throughout the fight (Pacquiao landed 198 shots), but Bradley was never truly shaken by the attacks.
Who should Manny Pacquiao fight next?
Pac-Man was landing shots that earlier in his career would have knocked Bradley out. On Saturday, though, the power wasn’t there.
At 35 years old, there is no doubt that the combination of age and experience has taken its toll on Pacquiao. He is not the same fighter that he once was, and that’s bad news for a champion that has never been an elite defensive fighter.
The new WBO champion must improve his counterpunching ability and his prowess fighting on his heels if he wants to continue fighting at an elite level. After showing the inability to knock out Bradley on Saturday and Brandon Rios in his previous fight, boxing fans should expect the rest of Pac-Man’s fights to go the distance.
That won’t be good enough for much longer.
*Stats via BoxRec.com.