LAS VEGAS — When Manny Pacquiao finally arrived at his post-fight press conference at the MGM Grand about two hours after his redemption fight had ended Saturday night, he came with 32 stitches in his left eyebrow and the gait of a man who had met his match.
But the wide grin and look of utter relief said otherwise.
Nearly two years removed from one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, Pacquiao had finally gotten his revenge and the WBO welterweight belt he wanted so badly back from Timothy Bradley. And now he could return to the Philippines in peace and await the birth of his fifth child later this month.
This time, the Filipino politician left no doubt. And no controversy.
Even Bradley had to agree that Pacquiao defeated him in their rematch before 15,601 raucous pro-Pacquiao fans at the MGM’s Grand Garden Arena.
And unlike the first bout, there was no argument from the ringside judges. They gave Pacquiao the unanimous decision — by scores of 116-112 twice and 118-110 — after watching a skillful exhibition of speed, power and footwork from the 35-year-old southpaw.
Nearly two years ago, Bradley won by split decision, which sparked widespread criticism of the judges and an investigation by the Nevada Attorney General’s office.
On this night, Bradley had no answer for Pacquiao and acknowledged as much after the fight.
“I tried, I really tried,” Bradley said. “I really wanted that knockout. Manny is a great fighter, one of the best in the world. I tried throwing something over the top. I knew I had to do more in this fight than the last fight.”
While Bradley threw more punches than Pacquiao (627 to 563), he connected on only 22% of those, with Pacquiao deftly blocking many, and Bradley going for the big shot, swinging wildly and missing more often than not.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said he thought Bradley was going for a one-punch knockout. “He was swinging for the fences,” Roach said.
Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) acknowledged he was going for the knockout throughout the fight to prove he still had the killer instinct. “Yes I tried to finish him several times,” Pacquiao said. “Many times I hit him hard, but he was still there,
“We cannot underestimate Bradley. He’s very tough.”
Bradley said he pulled a calf muscle in the first round and his trainer, Joel Diaz, said, “Once that happened, I knew there was really nothing to work with.”
Bradley did not use it as an excuse and refused to talk about it in the post-fight press conference. “I have no excuses,” said Bradley, who limped into the press conference. “Pacquiao was the better man. The reason I love Pacquiao is that he doesn’t duck anyone.”
Pacquiao said he suffered from leg cramps, which bothered him in the second half of the fight.
Pacquiao, who was guaranteed $20 million, was careful not to get caught by a punch as he did in 2012 against Juan Manuel Marquez that knocked him out cold with one second left in the sixth round. “I didn’t want to get careless,” he said.
But he did suffer a nasty, jagged cut over his left eye from an accidental head butt in the 11th round that took 32 stitches after the fight.
Pacquiao said he could probably fight for another two years and wouldn’t mind a fifth fight with Marquez next. “But it’s up to my promoter Bob Arum.”
That fight could very well happen. Pacquiao is the mandatory for the winner of the May 17 Marquez-Mike Alvarado fight at the L.A. Forum.
The heavily pro-Pacquiao crowd was a pleasant surprise for the new champion. “I was surprised. I felt like I was in the Philippines,” he said. “Even the Mexicans and the Americans were cheering for me.”
Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs), who earned $6 million, suffered the first loss of his career. “Life goes on and I’ll just get back to the gym,” the 30-year-old Californian said. “I will be a world champion again.”
On the undercard:
— Jessie Vargas defeated Khabib Allakhverdiev by unanimous decision to win the Russian’s WBA super lightweight title and remain undefeated. Vargas, from Las Vegas, won by scores of 115-113 twice and 117-111 in a fight that appeared much closer. Vargas improved to 24-0 with 9 KOs, while Allakhverdiev suffered his first loss and is 19-1 with 9 KOs.–Bryan Vasquez, of San Jose, Costa Rica, handed Jose Felix of Mexico his first loss with a unanimous decision victory. Vasquez retained his WBA interim super featherweight title with the win and improved to 34-1 with 17 KOs. Felix fell to 26-1-1 (21 KOs). He had a point deducted in the ninth round for low blows, and was cut by an accidental head butt in the 11th. Vasquez landed 84 of his 184 power shots to Felix’s body.