Pacquiao bows out in glory

Abac Cordero - The Philippine Star

LAS VEGAS – Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao dished out snatches of his glorious past to bring back the old chant of “Manny, Manny” among the 14,665 fans at the MGM Grand here as he redeemed himself on the day he bade farewell.

Pacquiao fought with the urgency of a young Manny and the grace and ring savvy of the old champion to mow down Timothy Bradley two times en route to a unanimous decision that somehow made up for his dismal performances in his past six fights, including his controversial loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., last year.

Yesterday’s fight (Saturday night in Las Vegas) brought to a memorable close one of the most colorful careers in boxing. It began in the same Las Vegas venue, with Pacquiao’s sensational victory as a whirlwind of a fighter in June 2001, and ended with this emphatic win over the American who inflicted one of his three grave losses in his last six fights.

When the final bell sounded, it was clear who the winner was. All three judges had it 116-110 for Pacquiao.

“From the Philippines!” blurted the ring announcer, triggering wild cheers from the crowd.

Pacquiao, who was astride somebody’s shoulders, raised his hands, blew a kiss to the crowd and bowed his head, hands clasped in prayer.

Pacquiao, 37, is hanging up his gloves, honoring a commitment to his family that last Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) welterweight showdown against Bradley would be his last.

The Filipino ring master knocked Bradley down twice during the fight, first in the seventh round, with a punch, and then in the ninth, with a short left to the face.

Pacquiao promised his fans an impressive performance. Despite failing to score a knockout, he looked impressive in completing his trilogy with Bradley, with him having the upper hand, 2-1.

It was a non-title fight, but nobody cared. Not Pacquiao, not his team, not his promoter, not his fans, those who packed the historic arena, and those who watched around the world.

Pacquiao, a two-term Sarangani congressman, is running for senator in the May 9 elections.

 “This fight is not about politics. It’s for the honor of or country,” Pacquiao said.

At the center of the ring, amid the mild celebration, Pacquiao was asked if indeed it was his farewell fight.

“I’m retired as of now,” he said. “I just want to go home, be with my family and serve the people. I will go home and think about it (a rematch with Mayweather),” said Pacquiao.

“I love the way Pacquiao threw his combinations tonight. He was a little rusty. But if he wants to continue fighting, I think he can still go,” said Freddie Roach.

The highly decorated trainer said he would support Pacquiao in any decision he makes, whether it’s fighting in the Rio Olympics in August, fighting on, or retiring.

Pacquiao slugged it out with Bradley in the closing seconds of the fight as the 32-year-old American desperately hoped to land the big punch and turn things around.

But Pacquiao was sharp all night. He kept Bradley guessing and out of focus, not knowing whether to stick to their game plan or go toe-to-toe.

After the first three rounds that could have gone either way, the two boxers went at it in the fourth, and threw a couple more punches after the bell sounded.

In the fifth, Bradley got carried away and took some big hits. As he walked back to his corner, he almost cursed himself for losing his patience.

“Manny was very strong and patient. I wasn’t professional enough to be patient myself and I walked into some shots,” said Bradley.

He went down in the seventh after taking a right, then a left near the ropes. But Pacquiao seemed to have pulled his opponent down. Referee Tony Weeks ruled it a knockdown.

A short, crunching left to the face in the ninth round sent Bradley down and tumbling backwards to the ropes.

Bradley was asked just moments after the fight what he thought of the two knockdowns.

“I don’t even remember it, man,” he said, adding that in the first knockdown, he felt that Pacquiao had pulled him down a bit.

The native of Palm Springs, California, had his best moments in the eighth round. For a while, he had Pacquiao covering up against the ropes. It was the only round that he won on all three scorecards.

He said, “We came up short tonight. Manny Pacquiao was strong. He was solid. They came up with a great game plan and I got defeated.”

Bradley’s trainer, Teddy Atlas, offered no excuses.

“You must give Pacquiao the credit. I didn’t do a good enough job,” he said.

The head promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, was a very happy man after the fight. He said he’s leaving it all up to Pacquiao whether he would retire or continue fighting.

Arum said he has no worries at all.

“Truth is, when I walk out of here tonight, I will only think of one thing: where to get something to eat,” said boxing’s greatest salesman.

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