Heading into tonight’s rematch in Las Vegas it was tough to predict who would come out victorious in the rematch between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao. It was also interesting to see how this fight would play out a second time and what would change. Early on it was a very different fight where Bradley looked like a poised veteran coming forward with confidence and landing hard punches that looked like they hurt Pacquiao. Manny looked slower, vulnerable, and behind at the midway point. As the sixth round came near the close Bradley dropped his hands to taunt Pacquiao and bobbed and weaved out of harm’s way. However, this was the turning point as Bradley took his foot completely off the gas and in reality it was hard to find a round after six to give to Bradley until the eleventh. It was hard to tell whether Bradley got tired, cocky, or hurt something because he stopped fighting and spent the next couple of rounds posing and taunting rather than fighting and it gave Pacquiao a lead on the cards but he robbed himself of the momentum.
By the time Bradley woke up and started getting back on the offensive he was already terribly behind in the fight and needed a knockout that he was not in any real position to score. The fight started off very explosive as Bradley came right after Pacquiao and fought inside and toe to toe with Pacquiao unlike the first fight and appeared capable of hurting Pacquiao. In round four Bradley snapped Pacquiao’s head back on an overhand right and Manny appeared momentarily staggered. Bradley also connected hard on a right hand in the first round and backed Pacquiao up and hit the body during the third round. Tim Bradley was able to duck and dip out of the way of Pacquiao’s attack and actually land powerful blows that moved Pacquiao. Then the wheels came off the bus and the fight turned.
In round five and six Bradley got confident enough to taunt and toy with Pacquiao but he was able to land hard punches and make a strong case in those rounds. In the seventh Bradley started the round showboating and was hit with a strong left hand and buckled briefly. Then Bradley went directly to the ropes and went into his shell and let Pacquiao just fire away at will. Some shots were partially blocked or grazing but most of the lefts got in clean. Bradley swung wildly and it appeared he was playing possum but he had completely given up the round. Bradley stepped in with some swinging shots and tapped his gloved and waved at Pacquiao but the fight had turned. The eighth round was an important round as the fight was still on the cards for Bradley if he could just get back to what had worked but he spent another round with low activity posing around and not throwing. The round was very inconclusive as neither guy did much of anything, if Bradley had done a little more he may have swung this quiet round. It was hard to tell if the pace and loading up early took the wind out of Bradley’s sails or if he was frustrated. At first the taunting seemed like smart head games to lure Manny off of his game and walk him into the big overhand rights Bradley had landed earlier. The only problem, Bradley’s offense completely turned off.
Round ten opened up with Bradley getting caught with a hard right hook over the jab and was a very good round for Pacquiao. Pacquiao began to really get consistent and clean left hand work done in this round. Round eleven was a quiet round that Bradley managed to grab in the second half, most likely the only round after six the judges could have scored for him. The twelfth and final round saw Bradley chase and attack trying for the stoppage but came up short on his blows. An accidental clash of heads paused the action with seconds remaining and the two men flurried in the last moments. Some rounds were very close and inconclusive sort of rounds like the fifth, eighth, eleventh and twelfth but the judges most certainly got this one right. The 118-110 scorecard was a terrible score and did not reflect what really happened in there but there is no controversy tonight.
The impression leaving this fight was that Bradley really seemed to have fought the wrong fight and seemed to blow it more than anything. He lost the fight on two cards by four points, all he had to do was fight more aggressively in two rounds and the title would still be around his waist. Something happened after the midway point of the fight. Bradley in the post fight interview with Max Kellerman immediately claimed a calf injury as if he had the answer scripted since the middle of the fight when things went sour. Whether it was an injury or getting tired or possible getting stupid Bradley took his foot off the gas and showboated away his title in a fight that was on the table for him to win legitimately. Manny Pacquiao did what he had to and upped his attack down the stretch but was mostly allowed to get away with outworking his way to the win because Bradley out of nowhere just stopped fighting.
Last fall against Juan Manuel Marquez, Bradley showed supreme craft and focus and stuck to the plan in an easy victory. Tonight Bradley fought more like he did in the Ruslan Provodnikov fight where he really fought the wrong fight and this time he paid with the loss of his world championship belt. Bradley smartly attacks ferociously when hit which is a great quality to have. Tonight he did this but he also did this with wild and loaded up swings. He threw one left hook in the third with so much behind it he missed and spun around like a cartoon character. Another problem that Bradley has is when he bobs and weaves he gets his head very far out past his knees almost passed his front foot and squares his hips. It is kind of easy to see how he suffered the injury in the first fight and may have suffered another in this fight. His balance also seemed awkward on some of his loaded up swings where his feet and hands just do not seem in sync with each other.
Manny Pacquiao was victorious tonight and now has his world championship back around his waist but he did not look spectacular in doing so. Early in the fight he was vulnerable and bothered by punches from a man not considered a puncher like Tim Bradley. He also had a difficult time landing his left hand early on as Bradley was able to duck and slip a lot of what Pacquiao dished out. His output was lower early in the fight and he looked slower than he has ever been and more flat footed than ever. He took over down the stretch and did basically what he had to in order to secure a points victory over a fighter that looked as if he packed it in. After this tale of two fights sort of night it will be interesting to see where both men go from here.
Had Bradley won fair and square he would have been elevated to a whole new status and cries for a Floyd Mayweather showdown would be loud and clear. Now he leaves tonight with a loss and is left with a win that most do not recognize. Tim Bradley’s star power had a lot riding on this fight and it is hard to tell where he goes from here. He waited so long for the chance to prove himself and signed an extension with Bob Arum and Top Rank but did not fight with the same intensity in the ring as he showed in the buildup. It will be interesting to see who he fights next; a trilogy is not the immediate necessity at this point. A rematch of the Provodnikov war looks like the best fight possible unless Mike Alvarado manages to somehow defeat Juan Manuel Marquez in superb fashion. Honestly, the Golden Boy stable has more interesting fights for Bradley against some real top class welterweight fighters but we will have to wait for these fights if we ever get them. Manny Pacquiao was victorious today and for the second time since Marquez turned off the lights in 2012. He won the two fights but appears slower and more vulnerable. Now looks like a great time to either rally as hard as possible to fight Floyd Mayweather or to call it quits and hang up the gloves.
Also on the undercard Raymundo Beltran wins his first fight since drawing Ricky Burns in a lightweight title fight last year and Jessie Vargas picks up his first world title. Ray Beltran dominated the late substitute Arash Usmanee in twelve lopsided rounds. After the first round Beltran pretty much showed a different level of class and controlled the fight. Usmanee also moved up in weight and the size difference was clear as Usmanee could not hurt Beltran and Beltran was able to wobble Usmanee. Usmanee fought a brave and game fight and was able to move and pepper out a right cross here and there but when it became stationary he was pounded on. There were some moments where it looked like Beltran needed just a few more shots to land before the referee Vic Draculic would step in. The fight ended on a high note as Usmanee finally was able to land two right hands that hurt Beltran but Beltran rallied back and hurt Usmanee. They traded some hard punches to end the fight which Beltran won clearly. Beltran looked sharp as ever as he mastered distance and saw most of what Usmanee was throwing and used his solid foot work to escape the pocket and be gone before the punches got to the target. He sees his opponent’s punches coming and has great reactions and counters. He is a solid fighter on a solid streak of performances and it looks like he will be wearing a world title belt in the near future.
Jessie Vargas won on the cards tonight but this one was pretty controversial. Khabib Allakhverdiev was making the second defense of his WBA 140 pound title and it looked like he had won a close but deserved decision. Vargas was announced as the winner by unanimous decision and the 117 to 111 score by Jerry Roth was very surprising. In the first round Vargas moved to the left and jabbed very intelligently. There was a massive difference in hand speed in favor of Vargas and Allakhverdiev was very patient early waiting for a moment to let his hands go. Vargas landed snappy punches but Allakhverdiev‘s punches had way more effect on Vargas. Vargas was wobbled throughout the fight and was unable to put anything on Allakhverdiev to prevent him from just walking him down and stalking. Allakhverdiev despite the success did not uncork his left hand all that much and rarely ever threw to the body at all. The eighth round began with some violent exchanges that only emboldened Allakhverdiev to throw the left more and he was hurting Vargas. This was a solid fight with both men throwing with intensity. A rematch would be very warranted.