Manny Pacquiao in his prime was a knockout-machine who overwhelmed opponents with a combination of power and speed that could not be matched.
Unfortunately for the southpaw, that version of Pac-Man is in the rearview mirror, but he still proved his status as an elite fighter with his unanimous victory over Timothy Bradley. What’s more, Pacquiao didn’t need a knockout to do so.
Pac-Man hasn’t knocked out an opponent in the ring since 2009 when he handled Miguel Cotto, and his lack of killer instinct (or at least the illusion of a lack of a killer instinct) at this stage of his career was discussed at length before the rematch with Bradley.
In fact, Bradley brought up Pacquiao’s knockout slump before the fight. The southpaw responded and seemed to be focused on ending that streak in his training, via Tim Smith of Give Me Sport:
Everything I am doing in training camp is aimed at proving to him just how wrong he is. I have all the respect for Bradley and what he has accomplished but I have no fear of him. He has inspired me to exceed my previous performances inside the ring. If Bradley wants to meet the fighter who stopped Oscar De la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, he's going to get his wish on April 12.
Pac-Man didn’t get that knockout, but he did win in impressive and unanimous fashion by scores of 116-112 twice and 118-110.
The best aspect of Pacquiao’s victory was his blocking ability and elusiveness. Bradley actually threw more punches and came out of the gates swinging for the knockout, but Pac-Man used his footwork and positioning to avoid the decisive blows. It proved that Pacquiao is a well-rounded fighter who can win with more than just the speed of his punching flurries.
What’s more, Bradley was undefeated at 31-0 before the bout. Pac-Man’s victory over him should not be taken lightly since it is something that nobody else has done.
Bradley has dominated since beating Pac-Man the first time with wins over Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez, who just so happened to knock out Pacquiao, and he had plenty of momentum heading into this fight. Bradley was also likely motivated by the fact that many people view his first win over Pacquiao with something of an asterisk because of the controversial nature of the split decision.
Pac-Man had also been away from the ring for quite some time, so he had to fight through some early rust.
Knockout or not, Pacquiao did more than enough to prove his elite status by outlasting Bradley’s aggressive attacks and controlling the fight from the middle rounds on. He also recovered quickly from a solid blow from Bradley that came in the fourth round.
Now that Pac-Man is back among the sport’s best, the obvious question is what comes next for the WBO welterweight champion. That question takes on even more weight considering the contract extension that he signed with Bob Arum, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
Pacquiao may end up fighting the winner of the Marquez and Mike Alvarado bout that takes place May 17. If Marquez wins, Pac-Man could get another shot at the opponent that knocked him out cold in 2012.
Then there are always the looming questions about a potential matchup with Floyd Mayweather.
While that bout may never actually occur, a win over Mayweather would silence any doubts about Pac-Man’s status as an elite fighter.
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