Manny Pacquiao’s unanimous-decision win over Timothy Bradley didn’t provide fans with a lot of suspense, but it was certainly never a blowout for Pac-Man, and just a few key factors led to his big win.
The judges were undoubtedly in favor of Pacquiao, with two scoring it 116-112 for the Filipino and a third putting it at 118-110, but this was a careful, thoughtful match for him.
The controversial loss to Bradley last year must’ve made this win especially sweet for Pac-Man, but it was no cakewalk to earn.
Read on to understand the factors that pushed this fight in Pacquiao's favor.
It might seem hard to believe, but Manny Pacquiao is 35 years old, and he’s fighting like it. Gone is the fighter that would take big shot after big shot and stun opponents. After Bradley surprised him in 2012, Pacquiao seems to have used the year off to calm down in the ring.
The go-for-broke, relentless style that embodied the Pacquiao myth for so long – and which backfired spectacularly in a one-punch knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012 – has been replaced by matured caution and discipline. The heightened sense of awareness can only extend the career a fighter that has now absorbed punishment for a total of 399 rounds since turning pro as a 106-pounder in 1995.
Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs) is a great competitor, dogged and durable. A future Hall of Famer in progress, even. But Pacquiao showed he was the worst possible matchup for the Palm Springs, California native: a volume puncher just as fast and better defensively. Not even the judges could botch this one.
It might’ve been a slow, methodical win for Pacquiao, but it was a strategy that was clearly effective. He threw 563 punches and landed 198 of them—good for a rate of 35 percent—wearing Bradley down with his consistency. This style didn’t deliver a big knockout to rouse the masses, but it did help Pacquiao restore his tarnished reputation.
That said, the fight was as much about how Bradley fought as it was about Pac-Man’s style.
If Pacquiao fought with the long view in mind, Bradley presented the complete opposite approach. It seemed as though he wanted to leave no room for the judges to decide this one, appearing to swing for the fences with many of his punches.
In contrast to Pacquiao, Bradley landed just 141 of his 627 punches—a rate of 22 percent.
"It looked to me like Bradley was just going for a one-punch home run," Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach told the Associated Press’ Greg Beacham (via the Huffington Post).
When combined with Pacquiao’s patience, this aggressiveness seemed to play right into Pac-Man’s hands, as ESPN’s Dan Rafael noted:
Bradley had promised to go for a knockout and he did just that, wading into battle even though he is not known for having much power. He has only one knockout since 2007, against a long-faded former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor, but it did not deter him.
Still, that strategy played into Pacquiao's hands because he was so aggressive, bordering on being reckless. Pacquiao let his hands fly throughout the fight and although he couldn't knock Bradley down, he landed dozens of powerful punches and left no doubt that he deserved the victory to reverse the split decision loss he suffered on June 9, 2012.
Bradley had a few good opportunities, but Pacquiao remained too sound fundamentally for his strategy to work.
The fight certainly delivered Pacquiao what he needed: a big comeback win before he takes on a new opponent. But will that opponent be Floyd Mayweather as the entire boxing world hopes? That remains to be seen.
Now that Pacquiao has put the 2012 loss to Bradley behind him, he’s free to finish off his career against whoever he chooses these next couple years.