LAS VEGAS -- Nearly two years later, Manny Pacquiao finally got the decision most people thought he deserved the first time against Timothy Bradley.
Pacquiao won a unanimous decision in his rematch with Bradley on Saturday night, avenging his 2012 loss and claiming the WBO welterweight title.
Pacquiao (56-5-2) pursued and peppered the previously unbeaten Bradley around the MGM Grand Garden ring with an aggressive effort occasionally recalling the Pacman in his prime. Bradley fought back with counterpunching and elusiveness, but Pacquiao kept up his attack while Bradley (31-1) struggled down the stretch.
In the same arena where the fighters met for their first bout, Pacquiao left little doubt about the result -- although that’s what he thought last time, too. Bradley’s split-decision victory astonished most ringside observers, who felt Pacquiao had earned a clear decision.
"I knew I had to do more in this fight than I did in the last fight," Pacquiao said.
Judges Craig Metcalfe and Michael Pernick scored the rematch 116-112 for Pacquiao, while Glenn Trowbridge favored the Filipino congressman 118-110. The Associated Press scored it 116-112 for Pacquiao.
After the fight, Bradley said he injured his right calf early on. But he also applauded the decision when it was announced, and he congratulated Pacquiao in the ring.
Pacquiao landed 35 percent of his 563 punches, while Bradley connected with just 22 percent of his 627 blow.
Pacquiao was more aggressive and accurate from the opening minutes of the rematch, sticking to trainer Freddie Roach’s pleas to take the action to Bradley. They exchanged big shots in the opening rounds, but Pacquiao appeared to wear out Bradley with the heavy early pace -- and the Pacman never slowed down.
Although Pacquiao couldn’t knock down Bradley, he answered the questions raised by Bradley about his killer instinct with a consistent attack all night. Bradley couldn’t match that consistent aggression with counterpunching, apparently trying and failing to catch Pacquiao out of position.
"It looked to me like Bradley was just going for a one-punch home run," Roach said.
The arena was crackling with energy when both fighters made their ring walks, with Pacquiao in the unusual position of going first as the challenger.
Pacquiao landed a series of big left hands in the early rounds, knocking back Bradley with gusto. Bradley responded impressively in the fourth round, wobbling Pacquiao twice with a right hand.
The pace slowed in the fifth, with Bradley showing off his defense and movement while Pacquiao attempted to trap him against the ropes.
Bradley came on strong in the 12th, and the fighters’ heads collided late in the round. Pacquiao avoided any trouble until the final bell, when he did a short dance step to his corner.