Manny Pacquiao again belongs among the fight game’s elite.
After consecutive losses that removed him from pound-for-pound consideration, Pacquiao proved his career has regained solid footing. Pacquiao avenged one of his losses in 2012 with a convincing, unanimous-decision victory over Timothy Bradley late Saturday in Las Vegas.
“This fight was important for my career because I proved that my journey in boxing will continue,” Pacquiao said. “That’s what I did [Saturday night].”
A close bout through the first six rounds, Pacquiao turned the match into a runaway with precision punching against a previously unbeaten opponent who abandoned his superior boxing skills and opted for repeated exchanges at close range.
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“The Bradley I fought two years ago was different. He showed his toughness,” Pacquiao said.
And, unlike in the first bout when Pacquiao lost a disputed decision, a new set of judges validated Pacquiao’s performance in the rematch. Michael Pernick and Craig Metcalfe scored the bout for Pacquiao, 116-112, and Glenn Trowbridge also had the Philippines native winning by a wider margin of 118-110.
With the victory, Pacquiao, 35, reclaimed the World Boxing Organization welterweight belt he lost against Bradley in the first fight.
“I have no excuses; Pacquiao was the better man,” Bradley said. “The dude still has it.”
Bradley was effective early, dictating the pace with rights to Pacquiao’s head and body. In the fourth round, Bradley temporarily staggered Pacquiao (56-5-2) with a right to the head.
But Bradley (31-1) switched strategies and preferred to trade shots at a busier rate. Late in the seventh, after Pacquiao scored repeatedly with combinations to the head, Bradley remained on the ropes, taunting his opponent to stay within range.
“He was coming inside and wanted to fight toe-to-toe,” Pacquiao said. “So what it did was create more action.”
The outcry of the first fight’s scoring prompted the light-punching Bradley to fight the second half of Saturday’s bout at a pace more comfortable with Pacquiao’s style.
“That was the only way I could win the fight,” Bradley said. “I knew the rounds would be close. Pacquiao is very experienced. He knows how to land punches and if I don’t knock this guy out I didn’t think I was going to win a close round.”
Now that he has defeated one of his 2012 conquerors, Pacquiao left open the possibility of a fifth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez scored a sixth-round knockout against Pacquiao in 2012, after their first three bouts ended in a draw and two close Pacquiao wins.
Every Pacquiao win also leads to discussing the elusive fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Currently recognized as the top fighter in the sport, Mayweather traded spots with Pacquiao for the pound-for-pound best with Pacquiao’s losses to Bradley and Marquez.
“How many times have we been talking about that and it doesn’t happen,” Pacquiao said. “Like I’ve said, ‘the line is open 24 hours and seven days a week.’ Our lines have been open.”
hopkins back again
Still not ready to hang up the gloves, Bernard Hopkins will make another defense of his sanctioning body light-heavyweight title on Saturday night. Hopkins, who turned 49 in January, will fight Beibut Shumenov in a title-unification bout in Washington.
“To be 49 years old, approaching 50 and knocking on the door of being a senior citizen, it’s a profound statement of my dedication,” said Hopkins, a part-time Miami Beach resident. “Everything I do is history.”
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs) enjoyed a 10-year, 20-fight run as middleweight champion before his move to the light-heavyweight class in 2006. Accomplishments have continued for Hopkins in the light-heavyweights. Hopkins is in his third stint as 175-pound titleholder and will defend his International Boxing Federation belt against Shumenov. A native of Kazakhstan, Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) is the reigning World Boxing Association champ.