Retirement? That can wait.
For now, Manny Pacquiao, who is basking in the glow of his victory over Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, has Juan Manuel Marquez in mind.
The Filipino ring icon avenged a controversial loss to Bradley and regained the World Boxing Organization welterweight world title with a 12-round unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten American.
Pacquiao lived up to his pre-fight promise to come out with more aggression, denying Bradley’s avowed aim of sending him into retirement with another defeat.
“I think I can go another two years,” said Pacquiao, who had been stung by Bradley’s pre-fight claim that at 35, Pacquiao had lost the fire that had made him one of the most feared fighters in the world.
Pacquiao’s next opponent could be the winner of the May 17 bout between Mike Alvarado and Marquez.
If Marquez wins, he could meet Pacquiao for the fifth time.
“I have no problem with fighting Marquez again,” he said.
Another Pacquiao-Marquez confrontation suits international fight promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions just fine. That bout could happen in Macau, China.
“They want to bring Manny back [in Macau],” Arum told reporter Steve Carp of Las Vegas Review Journal. “But we’ll sit down and talk to Manny and see what he wants to do. I thought he looked sensational, and I thought he and Tim [Bradley’s nickname] gave the fans a hell of a show.”
“Pacquiao’s next fight whoever it is [he will be battling]will be a competitive fight,” the promoter said.
There is also the dream megafight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., both once considered among the best fighters of their generation, but that remains a remote possibility.
Pacquiao said “Bradley was not an easy fight.” The American, who said he fought from the first round with a right calf injury, fell to 31-1, with 12 knockouts.
“Life goes on,” Bradley said of his first pro defeat. “Not a big deal.”
Judge Glenn Trowbridge scored the bout 118-110 for Pacquiao, while both Michael Pernick and Canada’s Craig Metcalf saw it 116-112 for the “Pacman,” whose every move was cheered by the star-studded crowd of 15,601 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
After a tight first round, Pacquiao made his power felt in the second.
The third saw both fighters exchange at a furious rate, Pacquiao again landing the more damaging blows.
But Bradley rocked Pacquiao in the fourth, and Pacquiao said California’s “Desert Storm” was an improved fighter from the one who took that bitterly debated split decision in their first fight.
Even the WBO said upon review that Pacquiao should have won that fight on June 9, 2012.
Instead, he saw a 15-fight winning streak end, and went on to be knocked out later that year by Marquez.
“Bradley is better from the first fight,” Pacquiao said. “He hurt me on the chin.
“I knew I had to do more this time than I did the last time,” he added.
Killer instinct regained
Pacquiao had launched his comeback from the back-to-back 2012 defeats with a lopsided points win over Brandon Rios in November.
That victory was a clinical display of boxing skill. Sunday’s victory showcased more of the old “killer instinct” that Bradley had questioned.
Bradley finished the fight with bruising around his right eye from repeated Pacquiao lefts, but Pacquiao said Bradley was just too tough to go down.
“Many times I hit him hard, but he’s still there,” Pacquiao said.
Trainer Freddie Roach was surprised to see Bradley in search of one big knockout blow himself.
“He was swinging for the fences all night,” Roach said of Bradley, who said he thought it was the only way he could win the fight.
But the American appeared in the later rounds to have punched himself out.
“I tried, I really tried,” said Bradley. “I wanted that knockout. I kept trying to throw something over the top, that’s what the plan was.”
Bradley trainer Joel Diaz said he knew the plan had gone out the window when Bradley came to the corner after the first round saying he thought he had torn his right calf muscle.
The injury was later diagnosed as a strain, and Bradley said he had “no excuses.”
“Manny is a great fighter, one of the best in the world, maybe the best ever,” he added.
After throwing few punches in the 11th, a desperate Bradley swung wildly in the 12th.
Pacquiao finished the fight with a jagged cut over his left eye from a clash of heads late in the final round that required 32 stitches.
International boxing referee and judge Danrex Tapdasan praised Pacquiao for his performance.
“It was a very entertaining fight. Bradley surprised Manny by being extra aggressive to start the first round. Bradley easily won the first stanza due to the element of surprise,” Tapdasan told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
But the Filipino fighter “showed his poise and composure by adjusting well in the ensuing rounds,” foiling the plan of Bradley’s corner to knock out Pacquiao, he said.
Tapdasan added that Bradley lost a lot of energy after throwing a lot of haymakers that missed Pacquiao.
Crowds watching the fight, which was broadcast live from Las Vegas in several parks, squares and public stadiums around the country, erupted in cheers as Pacquiao was declared winner.
“The people of the nation are united in cheering on the victory of the nation’s fist, Congressman Manny Pacquiao. He is the symbol of the excellence of the Filipino in all endeavors,” said Malacañang spokesman Herminio Coloma shortly after the victory.
Pacquiao is a lawmaker representing Sarangani province in Mindanao.
Coloma said Pacquiao’s latest victory was symbolic of the way Filipinos can recover from the worst disasters, an apparent reference to Super Typhoon Yolanda and the earthquake that struck the country last year, killing thousands.
Street sweeper Fernando Baque, 52, one of the thousands who watched the fight on a giant screen in a park in suburban Manila, said, “I was happy to see him win. He can still take it. He isn’t that old. He really controlled the fight. His punches really rocked Bradley.
“He shouldn’t retire yet. The country still needs him,” Baque told Agence France-Presse.
While Pacquiao failed to knock out Bradley, his Filipino fans were not disappointed by his performance.
“I really prayed for this. He really looked strong this time. As long as his body can take it, he should keep it up,” said a 50-year-old carer, Elsie Vinluan.
But a 72-year-old retiree, William Saraste, said Pacquiao should retire after just one more fight.
“He already has enough money and he can’t go on for much longer. I wish he would fight Mayweather. That should be his last fight,” he added.