Only true sporting legends can delay the onset of father time. Last night 35 year old Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao proved this once again, defeating Timothy Bradley a man five years his junior in a hotly anticipated WBO Welterweight Title Rematch. Make no mistake about it, Pacquiao is not the same fighter who blasted his way to world titles in a record eight weight divisions, dismantling some of his generation’s most decorated fighters in the process. Nevertheless, his measured and at times dominant display against an unbeaten, high calibre opponent in Bradley screamed “I’m not done yet!”
The narrative heading into Pacquiao vs Bradley II set the scene for a heated, high stakes encounter. The first time the pair stepped into the ring on June 9th 2012, Bradley was awarded a controversial split decision, much to the chagrin of not only the fans in attendance but seemingly everyone and anyone around the sport of Boxing. In the two years between their first and second bouts Pacquiao and Bradley’s fortunes have contrasted massively. Bradley evolved from an unheralded fighter into one of Boxing’s recognised pound for pound best. He showed extraordinary guts and determination in his first outing after the Pacquiao controversy, winning a bruising war against hard hitting Russian Ruslan Provodnikov ; enduring multiple knockdowns on his way to a unanimous decision. Pacman on the other hand tasted yet another defeat, a frightening knockout at the hands of Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez, who to make matters worse, Bradley went on to comprehensively beat a year later. Although he ended his run of consecutive defeats with a win over Brandon Rios in Macau China, Pacquiao’s inability to knock Rios out drew a collective sigh from Boxing’s cognoscenti. Questions began to be raised: had age completely caught up with a man who at his best was the most devastating boxer of his generation? A politician, devoted Christian and family man, had Pacquiao outgrown the sport of boxing? Had the killer extinct that famously saw him leave Ricky Hatton a crumpled mess on the canvas left the Filipino ?
Once the bell rang for a return bout with Bradley these questions were emphatically answered. It became clear Manny may be old but he certainly isn’t finished. Bradley applied pressure on his opponent in the opening rounds of the fight taking up a much more aggressive approach than in their first meeting, making for some exciting back and forth action. As the fight wore on however, Bradley went from measured and effective to inefficient and clumsy (he later cited a calf injury as the reason for slowing down); the Californian missed a number of wild, looping right hands whilst Pacquiao dominated the middle to late rounds with vintage flurries and combination punching. The knockout both fighters promised in the pre-fight pageantry and build up may not have arrived but in the eyes of many, justice was served. As Pacquiao knelt in his corner following the fight, the scorecards read 116-112, 116-112 and 118-110 in his favour- vindication at last. A step slower, but wiser and more tactically astute, Pacquaio may be far from the peak of his powers but he still is a notch above your average prize-fighter.