The second iteration of Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley lived up to the hype while also providing some justice after the controversial first bout. Unlike last time, Pacquiao was able to convince the judges that he won the fight, earning a unanimous decision to reclaim the WBO welterweight title.
The only difference in this fight was the judges got it right this time. Bradley is a warrior. Just not in Mannys league. #PacBradley— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) April 13, 2014
Pacquiao not only handed Bradley his first career loss, but also continued to quiet claims that his devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez was the blow to end his storied career. Now 16 months removed from that fight, Pac-Man has won twice, proving that his political interests have not usurped his boxing career.
The fight itself exhibited a surprising change in strategy from Bradley, who is traditionally a body puncher who wears down his opponent. As SBNation.com's Luke Thomas notes, his constant probing for a knockout actually played straight into Pacquiao's hands:
As the rounds wore on, however, Bradley got away from the combination punching and body work that brought him success early. He still swung for the fences with with wild punches and managed to connect on a few, but it was Pacquiao who stayed more active, even landing more shots in rounds he ostensibly lost to Bradley.
Pacquiao wasn't able or was unwilling to do much body work, but his head hunting paid off. He was able to consistently keep Bradley backing up or pinned against the ropes where he could unleash a flurry of shots. For Pacquiao, the left straight was the bread and butter punch all night.
The reason for Bradley's aggression may have stemmed from a calf injury he suffered in the first round. It was puzzling to see Bradley fight so wildly, and the multiple blows he took ultimately turned the fight in Pacquiao's favor. Bradley acknowledged the injury in the post-fight interview, though it's unclear if it altered his strategy:
Bradley says he suffered a leg injury on his right foot, to his calf. People boo, but it looked like it. He's got socks on.— David Greisman (@fightingwords2) April 13, 2014
Bradley has just one knockout since 2007, and despite a couple jarring blows, Pacquiao took control of the fight in the sixth and seventh rounds. The southpaw was able to back Bradley up against the ropes and hurt him late in the sixth, and added roughly a dozen unanswered punches in the seventh.
It's clear that Pacquiao deserved the win, and though his career is winding down, he seemed reinvigorated in the post-fight interview. Afterwards, he hinted that his boxing career, while clearly in its twilight, still has a few more chapters remaining:
Pacquiao: My journey in boxing will continue.— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) April 13, 2014
Even at age 35, the Filipino star still demonstrated tremendous speed, and his relentless assault evoked memories of his heyday. Indeed, according to ESPN.com's Dan Rafael, Pacquiao felt "reborn" after reclaiming the welterweight belt:
Pacquiao's next fight could be against the winner of the May 17 title elimination bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado. The winner will be Pacquiao's mandatory challenger, but what makes it more likely is that Arum promotes all three of them.
Whatever Pacquiao does next, he said he feels reborn in boxing after a tremendous performance.
'I think I can fight for two more years,' said Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division champion. 'I am so happy to be a world champion again.'
Of course, while a fifth Pacquiao-Marquez fight would be thrilling, Floyd Mayweather continues to loom over as the man everyone wants to see fight Pac-Man. At this point, Mayweather cannot fight anyone else without eliciting significant excitement from the boxing community:
No one wants to see Floyd Mayweather fight anyone other than Manny Pacquiao right now, and that's the bottom line here. Again.— FightNights.com™ (@boxing) April 13, 2014
Regardless, however, Pacquiao-Bradley II vindicated the winner from an unjust result in the first bout. Pacquiao may not be the same fighter he once was, but as an eight-division champion, he continues to add to his historic list of record-breaking accomplishments. At this point, every fight simply adds to his legacy as arguably the premier fighter of his generation.