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Pacquiao takes a decisive stance

The old guy prevailed. Manny Pacquiao’s boxing journey, at age 35, will continue.

In a show of incredible speed, willpower and condition, he took a unanimous decision over the man who had shocked him two years ago and taken a controversial decision, the quick-hitting Timothy Bradley of Palm Springs.

This time, in front of 15,601 in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, there could be no doubt. The congressman from the Philippines province of Sarangani, the boxer who had held eight world championships and was the new WBO welterweight titlist after this one, had met the challenge.

Two of the judges had it 116-112, eight rounds to four, and the third had it 118-110.

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Pacquiao’s catchphrase all along in the pre-fight hype, where much discussion had been about the possibility of his retiring full-time to politics if he turned in less than a stellar performance or lost again to Bradley, had been, “We shall see if my journey continues.”

It seems it will.

The victory was decisive, impressive.

His approach was the same as the one that has taken him now to a 56-5-2 record. That is, ding, dart and disappear. Bradley, like most fighters who face Pacquiao, swung and missed a lot. Pacquiao may be 35 -- Bradley is 30 -- but he seems not to have lost a millisecond of quickness.

Bradley said afterward that he had injured his

right calf in the first round and couldn’t do much after that, having a balance problem.

“He deserved to win, " Bradley said. “I have no excuses.”

That seemed to contradict the calf injury.

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Bradley had entered the fight unbeaten at 31-0.

The first round of feeling out each other quickly became a brawl in the second, when Pacquiao landed several big shots. That pace continued in the third, somewhat amazingly with the postmatch news that Bradley had hurt his leg in the first.

Pacquiao’s opening pace seemed to catch up with him in the fourth, and Bradley got to him for solid shots at least three times. The rounds Bradley got from the judges came at this point in the fight.

In the fifth, Bradley connected more again and the fight got closer. Then Bradley ended the round by uncharacteristically hotdogging the last 10 seconds, arms at his side.

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At this point, Pacquiao, who praised Bradley as being a better fighter now than in the first match, said he and his corner began to understand that Bradley was going for the “home run punch.”

Bradley hotdogged again at the end of the sixth, and it became stranger and stranger as it became clearer and clearer that Pacquiao was winning the match.

The weirdness by Bradley continued in the seventh.

Again, Pacquiao appeared to score more and move better. But Bradley ended the round taunting Pacquiao again to come and get him. Twice Pacquiao did, peppering Bradley with eight- and nine-punch combinations.

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In the eighth round, Bradley showboated more and it appeared the strategy from his corner was now to see if Pacquiao would punch himself out.

In the ninth, Bradley’s right eye seemed to be swelling, the norm for most fighters against the lefty Pacquiao. At this point, it looked as if Bradley needed to win the last three rounds to have a chance.

By the 10th, Bradley looked spent and Pacquiao, clearly somewhat tired himself, kept firing away. Most ringside observers had it 98-91 at this point for Pacquiao, leaving Bradley’s only chance a knockout.

The 12th and final round was more of the same, and appeared to be merely window dressing.

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By the time the fight started at 9:21 Pacific time, well after midnight in the East -- when anybody who had paid the $60 to see it on pay-per-view may have fallen asleep -- the place was electric. Grammy award winner Ashanti’s rendition of the national anthem had massive adrenaline flowing in the massive arena.

The late start was par for the course. The last important boxing match to start on time was probably Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling in 1938. The world runs by a clock. Boxing runs on boxing time.

Pacquiao paraded in to the sounds of “The Eye of the Tiger.” Most tigers, of course, would have been sound asleep in the den by now.

As the reigning champion, Bradley walked in last and did so to some heavy rock music. Like Pacquiao, he looked composed and ready and undistracted by all the promotion’s introductory noise and glitz.

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But in the end, the journey continues and it is Pacquiao in the driver’s seat.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

--

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

ROUND-BY-ROUND SCORING

The questions at the start were could Manny Pacquiao regain the ring savageness that made him a star or would Timothy Bradley gain redemption after taking so much heat over his 2012 controversial split-decision victory over Pacquiao?

Pacquiao hasn’t knocked anyone out in seven fights dating to 2009, and his decision to cruise through the final rounds of an apparent one-sided win in the first meeting versus Bradley cost him valuable points on the scorecards.

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This time, with Bradley voters Duane Ford and C.J. Ross now out of the judging business, there’s three new judges: Nevada’s Glenn Trowbridge, Florida’s Michael Pernick and Canada’s Craig Metcalfe.

Bradley rallied from the controversy to beat Ruslan Provodnikov in the 2013 fight of the year and Juan Manuel Marquez by split-decision in October, and he has doubled down on his claims that he won the first Pacquiao fight by now saying Pacquiao has lost his killer instinct.

That claim has chafed Pacquiao, who has said he’s intent to prove against Bradley that the knockout power remains.

At 35, he now confronts the truth.

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ROUND 1: Eight-time world champion Pacquiao enters the MGM Grand ring to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” and Bradley walks in to a friend’s rap. Bradley at the introduction by Michael Buffer raises both arms. The referee is Kenny Bayless. Both fighters exchange stern looks at instructions. Pacquiao hasn’t been in this ring since his knockout loss to Marquez in 2012. Pacquiao jabs and lands left to ribs. More jabs, he covers on a Bradley punch. Good right by Bradley to the face. Jab by Bradley lands. Left-right by Bradley. Good right by Bradley, Pacquiao answers with a left at the bell. Bradley says he hurt his right calf in the round.

ROUND 2: Bradley swings a hard right that hits Pacquiao, who slightly covers. Bradley stumbles on Pacquiao pressure. Pacquiao looking for an opening, finds one with a big right, then backs Bradley to ropes with a combination. More Pacquiao pressure and Bradley is backing, but regains self and they brawl twice. Big Bradley right. Pacquiao is OK.

ROUND 3: Pacquiao opens by landing two good lefts. Pacquiao combination, the crowd is roaring. Bradley’s superb shape is letting him endure and Pacquiao is not chasing for the kill. Good Bradley right. Better Pacquiao flurry. Good Bradley left uppercut followed by resounding Pacquiao combinations. Heck of a pace. Can they continue? Bradley still punching at end, but is fatiguing.

ROUND 4: Pacquiao jabbing. Bradley swings, misses. Bradley to body and head. Taking a little breather here. Good rights by Bradley, Pacquiao is backed up. Pacquiao to body. Some good rights by Bradley.

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ROUND 5: Left-right-left by Bradley with Pacquiao covering. Good left by Pacquiao with Bradley ducking. Bradley to belly. Pacquiao holds down Bradley’s head. Good left by Pacquiao. Hard right by Bradley, good left by Bradley. Way better action than first fight. Pacquiao lefts. Bradley nods like they didn’t touch him.

ROUND 6: Opening combination by Bradley. Right-left by Bradley blocked. Bradley looks fresher than Pacquiao now after Pacquiao pressure had tired him early. Left by Pacquiao. They’re each missing otherwise. Right by Bradley. Pacquiao corners Bradley, lands a fraction.

ROUND 7: Bradley charges in, gets in a body shot. Pacquiao left. Good left backs Bradley, who slipped. Bradley moving head like on swivel. Pacquiao gets best of exchange. Bradley answers with two scoring blows. Pacquiao combination, he chased the kill there. Bradley asking for more. I knew he’d revert to Provodnikov warfare. He got the worst of that by far. Crowd erupts at bell.

ROUND 8: Pacquiao left. No denying how hard Bradley’s head is. A Pacquiao combination, Bradley slipped again. Pacquiao right to chin. Bradley looking for good opening to land a whopper. And he doesn’t like the punishment he got in last. Bradley playing. Pacquiao jabs.

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ROUND 9: Bradley jabs. Pacquiao makes him eat two lefts. Bradley slips again. Pacquiao with good pressure. Bradley to ropes, which keep him up. Better lefts by Pacquiao in brawl. Bradley misses wild swing. Hard Pacquiao right to head. Pacquiao gets better of late combination.

ROUND 10: Bradley right eye treated between rounds. Good Pacquiao jab. Bradley not dealing with an aged fighter, Pacquiao still moving well. Two Pacquiao lefts and a combination answer a Bradley try. Right uppercut and left by Pacquiao. Bradley fading. Two good rights by Pacquiao before bell. Bradley tired and beat up.

ROUND 11: Good Bradley counter. But Pacquiao backs him to corner ropes and Bradley’s hugging now, no more warfare. Bradley nearly falls throwing right. Action slowing. Bradley on bicycle backpedaling. Wants no part of this, hoping for bad judging again. Big left by Pacquiao. Counter by Bradley. Right by Bradley. Pacquiao dealing with a backward fighter.

ROUND 12: Pacquiao waiting for Bradley, still on stool. Good Pacquiao left. Bradley right-left. Good left by Pacquiao. Good left by Pacquiao. He’s not wasting the late rounds this time. Pacquiao puts Bradley on the ropes again with scoring blows. Maybe he shouldn’t do this, but after the judging in last fight and criticism of no killer instinct, he’s trying. Pacquiao is cut under the left eye. Action resumes. Bradley has nerve to raise arms, Pacquiao on top of ropes.

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DECISION: Scores by judges Trowbridge 118-110, Metcalfe 116-112, and Pernick 116-112, all for Pacquiao, who wins the World Boxing Organization welterweight title. The Times scores it 117-111 for Pacquiao.

--Lance Pugmire


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