Photo: Eric Jamison
With his mother at ringside apparently throwing hex after hex at his opponent, Manny Pacquiao gained strange revenge over Timothy Bradley before roughly 15,000 fans at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday night, notching a unanimous decision over twelve bruising rounds and winning the WBO welterweight title in the process. Final scores were 116-112, 118-110, and 116-112.
Two years ago, Pacquiao lost a vexing decision to Bradley that made as much sense as a speech by Sarah Palin. Ironically, Bradley, 30, performed much better against Pacquiao than he did in their first fight. After an up-tempo opening round, Bradley tore after Pacquiao, landing hurtful body shots and winging overhand rights with abandon. Halfway through the fight, however, Bradley seemed weary and confused. By waging a helter-skelter assault, Bradley gave up one of his biggest advantages in the ring: poise. And the professionalism Bradley showed in rising from knockdowns against Ruslan Provodnikov and Kendall Holt was exactly what Bradley needed to keep Pacquiao off-balance. Instead, he looked wired and unfocused.
Between rounds, Joel Diaz, who trains Bradley, could not get him to settle down except for occasional stretches. As a result, Pacquiao alternated between leading with slashing southpaw combinations and countering selectively from the outside as he pleased. From time to time Bradley landed some of his arcing blows, and his work to the body—when he committed to it—was effective, but without a unifying strategy, Bradley was like a man lost in the Canyonlands without a compass.
For Bradley, the biggest win of his career in 2012 did not leave much of an afterglow. In fact, he was so depressed by the outrage at the first decision—and the death threats he received from the psychos who double as boxing fans—that he contemplated suicide. He seemed to enter the ring on Saturday night burdened by emotions he could not control. Bradley, now 31-1 with one no-contest and 13 knockouts, fought with uncharacteristic aggression, taunted Pacquiao, showboated along the ropes, and played to the crowd. Meanwhile, his unbridled energy allowed Pacquiao, who improves to 56-5-2 with 38 knockouts, to pick him apart.
Now Pacquiao will face the winner of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado fight on May 17. If Marquez, the early favorite, wins, then “Dinamita” is set to renew a rivalry with Pacquiao that goes back to the days when Friendster was still a big deal. Marquez has given Pacquiao nothing but trouble in their dramatic series—four thrilling fights since 2004–and the last time they met, Pacquiao saw the dreaded black lights for only the second time in his 20-year career. Marquez left Pacquiao lying on the canvas like a crash test dummy in front of thousands in 2012. Would you ever go back to relive some of the worst moments of your life? For a world-class professional prizefighter, the future and the past are subordinate to the perpetual present of combat. In other words, “Pacman” barely cares. Even at 35, Manny Pacquiao is always in the here and now.
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.