It wasn't a fight fans clamored for, but the third meeting between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley appeared to exceed expectations.
Perhaps more importantly, it offered something the first two fights didn't as Pacquiao dropped Bradley twice in the fight, ultimately earning a unanimous decision victory at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The judges all scored is 116-110. MMA Fighting scored it 117-110 for Pacquiao.
The bout started early in a back-and-forth manner as Bradley attempted to use a guile, counterpunching and consistent movement to take away Pacquiao's trademark combination of power and speed. 'Desert Storm' effectively landed his power right hand and through the first half of the bout, appeared to be competitive enough to not let the fight slip away.
That all changed after the seventh round,
Against the ropes, Bradley dodged a right, but ate a short left hand that forced the American to plant both gloves on the canvas. Bradley would later say the whipping turn of Pacquiao after the punch brought him down, but referee Tony Weeks counted it as a knockdown.
Bradley would earn a rebound moment in round 8, but by round 9, his fate was sealed. A crushing left hand in the middle of the ring sent the fighter to his rear, almost flipping backwards from the force of the punch.
By rounds 11 and 12 and with the fight firmly in hand, Pacquiao did just enough to avoid Bradley's worst, likely knowing he had the fight sealed.
In the end, Pacquiao prevailed, claiming the vacant WBO welterweight title.
"This fight was different than the last two fights that we had because I'm aggressive this time and careful," Pacquiao told HBO commentator Max Kellerman in the ring post fight.
"Every round I'm looking for a knockout, but, you know, Bradley's a very good boxer. He's top boxer, so he deserve it."
When it came to the question of whether this was Pacquiao's final bout, the Filipino boxer appeared comfortable in his decision to move on from boxing.
"Well, I have a commitment in my family that I'm going to retire after this," Pacquiao said. "Maybe I enjoy being a retired man, serving the people," Pacquiao said of his political ambitions for senate in the Philippines.
As for challenger Bradley - the fighter who beat Pacquiao under controversial conditions in their first meeting in 2012 - he wasn't sure what to make of his loss to all-time great Pacquiao. "I don't even remember, man," Bradley told Kellerman. "I really don't. I don't even remember it."
"He's just very quick, very explosive," Bradley said of Pacquiao. "It's hard to really judge him. He has quick reflexes and he has experience. He used his experience against me, his ability and he won the fight tonight. Congratulations to Manny Pacquiao. Good job."
The win brings Pacquiao's record 58-6-2, while Bradley drops to 33-2-1-1.