LAS VEGAS -- Manny Pacquiao may not have returned entirely to his dominance of a half-decade ago in beating Timothy Bradley, but the performance easily had enough credibility to “go there” once more.
Yes, with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a fight he’s heavily favored to win May 3, a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is back on the table even if it’s uncertain anyone who could successfully negotiate the sport’s ultimate fight will sit at that table.
By taking Bradley’s World Boxing Organization welterweight title Saturday with a unanimous-decision victory by scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 118-110, Pacquiao (56-5-2) is positioned, like Mayweather, to fight again in the fall.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, has penciled in the fighter to return against the winner of the May 17 fight at the Forum between Pacquiao’s longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado.
Yet, with that fight undone, that would leave at least a two-week window for the longtime combatants on both sides of Mayweather-Pacquiao to calm their feuding and broker a long-desired deal.
“That’s a lot of time,” Arum said after Saturday’s bout. “If they told me they’d sit down and wanted a serious meeting, then I’d delay [working on Pacquiao vs. the Marquez-Alvarado winner] till whenever.”
Pacquiao, 35, and the 45-0 Mayweather, 37, have been involved in at least three serious negotiations that have failed since 2009 over issues such as drug testing, the purse split and ego.
Since their first talks, Pacquiao has now met Mayweather’s request for stringent drug testing and has said he doesn’t need a 50-50 purse split, either.
So all that really remains are the egos.
“It’s really hard to talk about that [fight],” Pacquiao said. “How many years have we talked about it and it hasn’t happened? Like I’ve said, my line remains open 24 hours, seven days a week.”
For Pacquiao, Saturday marked his return as a world champion since his controversial split-decision loss to Bradley in 2012.
“I’m satisfied,” Pacquiao said. “Bradley has improved a lot. I was trying to finish him, threw a lot of strong punches at him, but he managed it.”
Bradley before the bout accused Pacquiao of lacking the killer instinct in recent fights — he’s gone eight fights since 2009 without a knockout — but he said that wasn’t the case Saturday.
Bradley, who said he hurt his calf in the first round, found himself backed to the ropes frequently in the bout and beaten up in exchanges, reduced to swinging for a knockout through most of the second half, and backpedaling from Pacquiao, especially in the 11th round.
“He went for the knockout, definitely,” Bradley said. “Pacquiao was the better man. He still has it. The reason I love him is he never ducks an opponent. He still has the sharp snap.”
Bradley said Pacquiao didn’t seem to have punched him as hard as he did nearly two years ago.
“I don’t think Manny had any compassion,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “He was throwing combinations, stayed in the corner too long. He wanted to fight him, and showed heart.”
With his star reunited with a world title, Arum moved to corner his former fighter Mayweather and arch-enemy, Mayweather manager Al Haymon, by bashing the May 3 fight against world welterweight champion Marcos Maidana as a waste of time with boxing’s best fight still more myth than reality.
That, of course, isn’t a gracious entry point for negotiations.
“The Mayweather fight [against Maidana] is bad for the public, who are being talked to about spending good money on nonsense, and it’s bad for MGM, which continues to peddle non-competitive matches,” Arum said, telling reporters, “If you think it’s not competitive, write it … about Mayweather. Don’t not write it because he’ll deny you access.
“The only people who can make Floyd Mayweather fight Manny is the public if they boycott the nonsense on May 3. … There’s not a downside to sitting down and trying to make it happen. Any excuse for it not happening is just posturing.”
Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe and his promoter, Richard Schaefer, did not immediately respond to messages left by The Times on Sunday.
Showtime Vice President Stephen Espinoza, whose network has a 30-month deal with Mayweather, said he was “skeptical of anyone trying to start negotiations with media people and writers at a press conference.”
Espinoza said he doesn’t expect Mayweather to discuss anything about another fight until he’s finished with Maidana.
“I thought [Pacquiao] looked good, it was a clear victory,” Espinoza said, later agreeing Mayweather-Pacquiao “is the fight everyone wants to see.”
Pacquiao said despite some Arum outrage at MGM Grand for putting Mayweather signage around the building on Pacquiao fight week, he wants his next bout to be in Las Vegas too.
That’s something Las Vegas resident Mayweather can agree upon.
“Sit down at a conference table like normal human beings and negotiate a deal,” Arum urged.
Pacquiao was asked how he felt about restarting talks with Mayweather.
“Same,” he said.