It was very different from their first encounter, but in the end, Manny Pacquiao was able to convince the judges as he defeated Timothy Bradley to become the WBO welterweight champion on Saturday in their rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In their first fight, most observers had Pacquiao winning handily almost through the entire contest. That didn't happen this time as Bradley controlled the action early. The American winged heavy shots and while he was unable to score a knockdown, he kept the Filipino fighter at bay and scored the bigger punches.
As the rounds wore on, however, Bradley got away from the combination punching and body work that brought him success early. He still swung for the fences with with wild punches and managed to connect on a few, but it was Pacquiao who stayed more active, even landing more shots in rounds he ostensibly lost to Bradley.
Pacquiao wasn't able or was unwilling to do much body work, but his head hunting paid off. He was able to consistently keep Bradley backing up or pinned against the ropes where he could unleash a flurry of shots. For Pacquiao, the left straight was the bread and butter punch all night.
The judges scored the contest 116-112, 116-112 and 118-110, awarding Pacquiao the unanimous decision victory. The win brings his record 56-5-2 and Bradley suffers his first professional defeat and moves to 31-1-1.
"He threw a lot of punches and he threw a counter punch, like a wild, wild hook, left and right. I got hit one time," Pacquiao told HBO commentator Max Kellerman after the fight. "Big changes," Pacquiao said of the difference between this fight and the last. "He's better a lot, compared to the first one. He's very tough. He gave me a good fight. It's not that easy.
"He hit me here [cheek]," Pacquiao continued, "but I listened to my corner. Hands up."
As for Bradley, he was gracious in defeat, but told Kellerman he suffered an injury in the course of the bout that affected his performance.
"You can't say nothing against Manny. He's a great fighter. Tremendous fighter. He's the best in the world. Eight-division world champion. I lost to one of the best fighters in the world.No excuses, whatsoever. Manny did his thing, but I suffered a leg injury on my right foot, my calf. I think I pulled calf muscle.
"Manny fought his heart out," Bradley said. "He had a great strategy. I take my hat off to his whole corner and Freddie Roach and his whole team. You know what? I lost to one of the best fighters in the world."
On the rest of the main card, Ray Beltran defeated Arash Usmanee via unanimous decision (118-110, 117-111, 117-111), Jessie Vargas defeated Khabib Allakhverdiev via unanimous decision (115-113, 115-113, 117-111), and Bryan Vasquez defeated Jose Felix, Jr., also by unanimous decision (117-110, 114-113, 114-113).