Manny Pacquiao's in-ring prowess is slowly declining, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Boxing isn't the kind of sport that provides its biggest stars graceful exits. Most legends only walk away because they've been so soundly beaten they're left with no other choice. It's either retire or live like a vegetable for the rest of your life.
Father Time always wins out sooner or later.
At 35, Pacquiao's best days are clearly behind him. Nobody should have watched his win over Timothy Bradley on Saturday in Las Vegas and expected to see the buzz saw that ran through Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley.
His knockout power simply isn't there. Everyone could see that. His last KO victory was against Cotto back in 2009.
The question that he needed to answer on Saturday was whether he could recognize his biggest flaw and react accordingly. Would he be too brave for his own good, thinking he could end the fight with one punch?
The way in which he beat Bradley demonstrated that Pacquiao isn't just a good brawler; he's a good boxer and more than capable of adjusting his style to compensate for his diminishing power. He outfoxed and outboxed one of the best pound-for-pounders in the world:
Pacquiao has clearly lost a little off his fastball, but tonight he beat a prime champion widely regarded as a top-five pound-for-pounder.— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) April 13, 2014
Even Bradley was forced to acknowledge his opponent's superiority, per Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole.
"Pacquiao was the better man tonight and he showed what he's made of," he said. "The dude still has it. One of the reasons I love Pacquiao so much is he never ducks an opponent."
In Sports Illustrated's most recent edition of the pound-for-pound rankings, Chris Mannix dubbed this edition of the boxer Pacquiao 2.0:
This version of Pacquiao doesn't apply the same relentless pressure, doesn't intimidate opponents with crushing power, doesn't win many fights by knockout. But this Pacquiao can still overwhelm with his activity and is difficult to outpoint. In beating Tim Bradley, Pacquiao proved that, a year and a half removed from a devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, he is still an elite fighter.
While Pacman failed to secure a knockout, he found enough offense to consistently win most of the rounds. He even got stronger late in the fight. Once the fight reached the 10th round, Bradley knew it was pretty much knockout or nothing.
The argument could be made that this was one of Pacquiao's most impressive wins in his illustrious career.
He was clearly surprised by Bradley's change in style, and rather than trying to dispatch his opponent with one punch, he was cautious. Not wanting to repeat the knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao remained patient, avoided Bradley's knockout attempts and scientifically dissected his opponent.
If you're going to praise Floyd Mayweather for his continued potency in the ring, then you have to offer that kind of praise to Pacquiao, too.
At this point in his career, it's unlikely that Pacman is going through some sort of renaissance that will last for years to come. Pacquiao probably has three or four more fights at most before the wheels really start falling off. Once he hits 36 and 37, that's getting to be too old for even a great fighter.
For now, let's just appreciate the greatness that continues to be Manny Pacquiao.