Fists do the talking for Manny
By Joaquin M. Henson Updated Tuesday April 15, 2014 - 12:00am

LAS VEGAS - Defending WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley taunted, showboated and mocked challenger Manny Pacquiao during their 12-round battle at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here Saturday night but in the end, the Desert Storm walked away humbled, his cockiness destroyed by the fighter he later called one of the greatest in the world.

  Leading towards the big fight, Bradley tried to get into Pacquiao's mind. Whenever they got together for a press conference or a TV interview, Bradley made it a point to look Pacquiao in the eye, staring him down, hoping to unsettle his nerves. Bradley's gambit was to scare Pacquiao or at least intimidate him. Pacquiao just smiled and laughed off the antics. The Filipino icon has gone through several wars in the ring and fought bigger names than Bradley so he wasn't about to lose sleep thinking about the fighter who stole his crown two years ago.

Bradley surprised Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach by pressing the attack from the onset last Saturday. Roach previously said he expected Bradley to hit and run, maybe run more than hit to avoid a risky confrontation. Apparently, Bradley went for the knockout, anticipating that in case of a decision, the judges would pay him back for that undeserved win in the first meeting with Pacquiao.

Despite the hot start, only judge Craig Metcalf, a late replacement for John Keane, scored the opening round for Bradley. Glenn Trowbridge and Michael Pernick saw it for Pacquiao. The three judges gave the fourth and fifth rounds to Bradley. His finest moment came in the fourth when he wobbled Pacquiao who was close to hitting the deck from a right hand. Momentum shifted in the sixth with the three judges scoring it for Pacquiao. Trowbridge saw Pacquiao sweeping the last seven rounds, a far too generous gesture, as he ended up with a lopsided count of 118-110. Pernick and Metcalf gave Pacquiao six of the last seven.

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Bradley eventually realized he couldn't shatter Pacquiao's mental toughness. He swayed, shifted and moved his head like a top on a swivel. Once Pacquiao figured out how to defend against Bradley's right, he settled down to focus on executing his offense. Roach wanted Pacquiao to work combinations but before moving in, to feint Bradley off his timing. Bradley wasted a lot of gas in the early going and with Pacquiao's defense hanging tough, lost steam progressively.

Bradley got a taste of his own medicine as Pacquiao countered with his own mind game, starting nearly every round seconds before the bell waiting in the middle of the ring while the champion tried to catch his breath sitting on his stool. When Bradley was convinced he couldn't frustrate Pacquiao, he became exasperated by his failure.

In the late rounds, Bradley teetered on shaky legs. He later claimed straining his right calf in the first round. How strange that if he suffered the injury so early, Bradley looked sharp in the fourth and fifth which he clearly won. Bradley told Pacquiao after the fight, "you deserve to win, I have no excuses." So why did he bring up the right calf excuse?

Pacquiao won the battle of wits, hands-down. His key adjustments in defense and offense were decisive. Pacquiao found an antidote to Bradley's right hand by keeping his left hand up and spinning away from range. When Bradley tried to shoot the right, Pacquiao was a glove off-target. The Filipino's defense was exceptional, forcing Bradley to land only 22 percent of his punches. Bradley connected only on 32 of 287 jabs thrown and 109 of 340 power shots.

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Once Pacquiao established his defense, he went to work on his offense. Pacquiao threw flurries to fluster Bradley but never stayed too long within the champion's range. Bradley looked to throw a counter right and Pacquiao knew it. Buboy Fernandez kept reminding him in the corner not to fight Bradley toe-to-toe. The nightmare of that knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez still haunts Pacquiao's camp and it's reflected in a more cautious fightplan.

"We wanted to box Bradley, not slug it out," said Roach. "We knew Bradley was out to try to score a homerun. He was looking to finish it with one punch like Marquez did. We didn't want to give him that chance. Manny moved in with his combinations then moved out as soon as Bradley tried to counter." To execute both defensively and offensively, Pacquiao had to be in excellent physical condition with sturdy legs for his footwork.

Pacquiao's handspeed and footspeed were critical elements in his execution. The downside was compromising Pacquiao's knockout power. Because the plan was to attack then backtrack, Pacquiao couldn't set up for the killer blows. He hurt Bradley but not enough to put him on the floor. So failing to score an abbreviated win had nothing to do with Pacquiao's age. The fightplan called for a convincing win without taking chances on defense.

Last Saturday night, Pacquiao let his fists do the talking, not his mouth. Bradley learned a bitter lesson in humility and paid dearly for his brashness. He suffered his first defeat after racing to a 31-0 record.  Another welterweight is in line to taste his first loss once he squares off with Pacquiao. He's making all sorts of excuses to avoid a showdown with the Filipino. But inevitably, their paths will cross and Floyd Mayweather Jr. could suffer the same fate as Bradley.

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