Manny Pacquiao got a title, vindication and made it clear he's still an elite fighter in his victory this past Saturday over the previously undefeated Timothy Bradley.
He also proved, however, that he is no longer the fear-inducing opponent he once was.
Pacquiao beat Bradley in convincing fashion at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and won via unanimous decision. The fight started off fairly evenly, but Pacquiao dominated the second half of the bout.
As ESPN's Dan Rafael reported, Bradley said he injured his calf in the first round but was also quick to point out he wasn't discrediting Pac-Man:
I have no excuses. Stuff happens. I got nothing to say about it. You can't say nothing against Manny. I lost to one of the best fighters in the world. Manny fought his heart out. I tip my hat to his whole corner, Freddie Roach and his whole team.
Leg injury or not, Bradley was not going to be beating Pacquiao on that night. Pacquiao looked as quick and fast as ever while peppering Bradley with numerous combinations and then disappearing.
Pacquiao was out-boxing an opponent renowned for his boxing skills. For the congressman from the Philippines, this is all wonderful news. The 35-year-old received some measure of revenge against Bradley after Desert Storm was awarded a split-decision victory over Pacquiao in their first meeting two years ago.
It is one of the more infamous decisions in boxing, and most felt Pacquiao won that bout.
On top of this, Pacquiao has his career back on track. After losing to Bradley and then getting knocked out cold by longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao has won two consecutive fights, and he's looked good in both.
He has not, however, looked like the fighter who seemed to have the punching power to knock out a tree. That was a good description of Pacquiao from the pre-2010 era.
Pacquiao was at his zenith leading up to 2010. He added a dangerous right to go with his always-menacing left, and for a couple of years, he was a knockout waiting to happen.
Pacquiao had brutal knockout wins over the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. He was fighting bigger men, and he was decimating them with his power.
All of a sudden, Pacquiao has not had a stoppage since that Cotto fight at the end of 2009. He simply isn't hitting as hard.
Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole reported the Bradley admitted Pacquiao hit him harder in the 2012 fight. Meanwhile, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti, in a quote passed along by Iole, asks a pertinent question.
"He's still a top fighter pound-for-pound, and it's pretty clear the legs are still there," said Moretti, "but obviously, you have to wonder where the punching power has gone."
Against Bradley on Saturday, Pacquiao had opportunities to go for the knockout. Bradley, whether due to his calf injury or to prove his toughness, was eager to trade blows with Pac-Man.
There was a time when Pacquiao would have simply stepped back, launched a straight left at the charging Bradley and floored him. Alas, Pac-Man no longer possess that kind of canvas-licking power.
Pacquiao is still a great fighter, and his boxing has improved. He is, however, half the puncher he once was. Pacquiao is still capable of dominating opponents, but he no longer will send them cowering for protection.
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