A few years didn’t change much, huh?
Manny Pacquiao beat Timothy Bradley by unanimous decision on Saturday night to regain the World Boxing Championship welterweight title he should have never had to relinquish in June of 2012.
He didn’t lose that night to Bradley. Two of three judges just said so.
And he definitely didn’t come close to losing this time.
The scores of 116-112, 116-112, 118-110 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena painted the proper picture, one that Bradley agreed to afterward.
“You won the fight,” Bradley told Pacquiao. “You deserve to win. I have no excuses.”
He sort of made one, though.
It wasn’t about not wearing socks this time for Bradley. He apparently injured his right calf in the first round. But then came what appeared a strange strategy. Bradley fought as if hoping Pacquiao would punch himself out, that he might tire as the fight wore on and either become careless or that Bradley could pile up enough points late to win.
It proved to be a bad play. Bradley gave up too many rounds. He teased Pacquiao into countless punches, taunting him at times. None of it worked.
“It’s back to the gym for me,” Bradley said. “Not a big deal. I lost to one of the best fighters in the world.”
Pacquiao might have lost his knockout punch the past few years, but his speed and smarts appear as sharp as ever. Even when Bradley wanted to come forward and be the aggressor, he couldn’t catch Pacquiao.
Said Freddie Roach, trainer to Pacquiao: “Manny was a little sloppy but I was happy with his performance. It looked like Bradley was going for a one-punch home run.”
“Manny was the aggressor,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “Why wouldn’t the people be entertained by that kind of spectacle? I’m very proud of both fighters. And in three weeks, you guys are going to promote and encourage people to spend money on absolute crap.”
He was speaking, of course, of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana fight scheduled for May 3 at the MGM Grand.
And he has a point.
Mayweather is a 12-1 favorite. His fights long ago became like deciding whether or not to attend the U.S.-Russia hockey medal-round game in the 1980 Olympics.
You really only show up at the incredibly small chance the side that’s supposed to win doesn’t. I know a guy who didn’t show up to the 1980 game. Has never forgiven himself.
But this wasn’t such a matchup. Bradley was wild Saturday but wasn’t some overwhelming underdog. He just wasn’t good enough.
“I threw a lot of punches,” Pacquiao said. “I picked up some speed in the second part of the fight and made the adjustments Freddie was giving me. Bradley was a much better fighter this time.”
Back then, Joel Diaz told his assistants to get into the ring and pick Bradley up when the final bell rang. The trainer was that sure his fighter had won a battle few others did.
They picked him up. The scores were read. The result stunned most everyone from here to Manila.
This time, no one picked Bradley up. No one on his side appeared confident. They knew.
Pacquiao is right. Bradley was a better fighter this time than last but wasn’t the better fighter either time.
“After he injured his calf in that first round,” Diaz said, “there is nothing more I can say.”
Nothing to say. Pacquiao won the first fight. He won this one.
Good for Jessie Vargas, the local by way of Palo Verde High, for winning his first world title. He scored a unanimous decision against Khabib Allakhverdiev for the junior welterweight belt.
Either way, it’s a bad night for headline writers in Russia.
I thought the fight was much closer than the 117-111 that judge Robert Hoyle scored it, but Vargas apparently did enough in the early rounds to build a cushion. It felt much more like that 115-113 scores of judges Jerry Roth and Alan Krebs.
It felt, in some ways, that Allakhverdiev won the fight. But he looked worse in the end, having suffered an accidental headbutt in the eight round. Blood running down a guy’s face and onto his shorts rarely makes one look the part of winner.
Hoyle actually gave Vargas seven of the first nine rounds, which brought to mind other judging mishaps of late.
Rumor even has it that upon reaching his dressing room, the now former-world champion Allakhverdiev asked of his team: “Where is this C.J. Ross person when you need her most?”
Or something like that.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.