Manny’s Still Got IT!

 

 

1397364231000-USP-Boxing-Timothy-Bradley-Jr-vs-Manny-Pacquiao-001 “As he left the ring, Pacquiao must have taken solace in the fact that – deep down – he has nothing left to prove”

The bludgeoning style and relentless pressure. The sharpness in which he cut off the ring. The accuracy of his combinations. None of it was there to access as he had hoped for, but that didn’t matter much last night, as Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2) pulled out a unanimous-decision victory over a much improved Timothy Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs) at the Garden in MGM Grand. Although Pacquiao handed Bradley the first loss of his career, the victory held much deeper meaning. It proved that Pacquiao can still locate necessary reserves on the back end of his career to beat a top-five fighter.

The backstory was evident to even the casual fan. Pacquiao beat Bradley in 2012, didn’t get the official decision, and Bradley felt the brunt of the criticism from the fans. Consequently, the rematch wasn’t warranted until big victories by both fighters in 2013. Yet, by the start of the fight, any questions about the validity of the matchup had quickly disappeared as each fighter momentarily stepped out of their comfort zones to test the veritable waters.

Judging by the magnificent boxing display that Bradley put on in the fourth through sixth rounds, it was clear that he was implementing the gameplan to beat Pacquiao to the punch while employing some excellent defensive skills. In those nine minutes, youth prevailed as Bradley frequently reminded his elder that, at 35, he doesn’t possess the speed or agility to keep up with him. After Bradley wobbled Pacquiao with a huge right hand in the middle of that fourth round, there was a sense that it had quickly become his fight to lose.

But if anyone looked at the arc of Pacquiao’s career, and witnessed the courage that he has displayed in the face of adversity, he wouldn’t be shocked by what happened next. Instead of allowing Bradley to continually land those big looping right counters and occasional leads in the middle of the ring,  Pacquiao forced himself to become the aggressor once again.

 In other words, he reverted back to the style that has defined him.

And in round seven, the boxing community was treated to as vintage a performance of Pacquiao as it has seen in years (and may ever witness again). After forcing Bradley to the ropes with 41 seconds left in the round, Pacquiao shot off a picturesque combination of jabs and right hands that was as revealing as it was flashy. The speed, the power, the confidence: It was a reminder to Pacquiao and his loyal fans that he could still thrill a crowd. Yet, Bradley, who once again earned his warrior mentality, didn’t seem fazed as he stuck around and absorbed another 8-10 punch combination 11 seconds later. The men brawled throughout the round, and, not surprisingly, wouldn’t reach that same fever pitch again. Yet, in one unforgettable moment, Bradley called for Pacquiao to come to him in the corner of the ring. Pacquiao obliged and landed a chopping left to close out the round.

Heading into the tenth, one thing was clear – Bradley had lost the momentum that he had controlled early on, and, even if Pacquiao wasn’t capitalizing at every juncture, he was winning rounds with his pressure and output. Bradley moved back to the jab in the tenth, and began searching for one big punch to close out the show in the eleventh. Although Bradley landed two big right hands in the eleventh – a round he won – it was as if his big opportunity had already passed him by. Whether it was the chaotic pace of the fight or an unwillingness to  He appeared more as a fighter playing catch up, taking his time, and not the one who so abrasively took the lead in the fourth round. That fact was not lost on the judges.

With three seconds remaining, Pacquiao was aware that he had fought the type of fight he had planned for. However, he still came out in the final round looking for the knockout. Two lefts, one which jolted back Bradley’s head, in the first minute of the round, secured victory for Pacquiao. He had done enough to confirm the victory and enhance his legend. But more importantly he showed once again, in a sport with so few heroes, why we so desperately need him to stick around.

And in the process show the young kids coming up that he’s still got it.

 

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