By NICK GIONGCO
LAS VEGAS – The long wait was well worth it for Manny Pacquiao, who regained his pride, soothed his bruised ego and became a world champion again Saturday night, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tim Bradley before a near-sellout crowd of 15,601 at the MGM Grand.
The win was sweet revenge for the 35-year-old Pacquiao who lost to Bradley, 30, on a controversial split verdict almost two years ago.
In the much-awaited rematch, there was no doubt Pacquiao was the better fighter as he scored heavily in rounds two and three and during the last few rounds when he unleashed flurries that had Bradley either looking for cover or stumbling across the ring like a skid row drunk.
“I am so happy to be a world champion again,” said Pacquiao, whose win awarded him the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title in the very same venue where Bradley had beaten him in June 2012.
“Bradley was much better than in the first fight we had. He hurt me on the chin,” said Pacquiao, who pocketed $20 million plus a share of the pay-per-view revenues.
Judge Glenn Trowbridge of Nevada scored it 118-111, while Michael Pernick of Florida and Craig Metcalf of Canada both had it 116-112. The Manila Bulletin scored it 118-111.
Compubox showed Pacquiao throwing a total of 563 punches and landing 198 for 35 percent, while Bradley had 627 but connected just 141 for 22 percent.
Of the 563, Pacquiao unleashed 344 power punches and landed 148 for 43 percent. Bradley almost had the same number with 340 but he connected just 109 for 32 percent.
The rematch looked like a replay of their first meeting although Pacquiao was even more dominant this time as Bradley, 30, spent many a time ducking and weaving to avoid being struck by Pacquiao’s thunderous punches.
Pacquiao’s biggest rounds came in the second, sixth and seventh when he scored on multiple combinations while on his bicycle.
Bradley had his finest moment in the fourth when his overhand right landed on Pacquiao’s face, sending the Filipino boxing icon backing away and the pro-Pacquiao crowd on the edge of their seat.
It was to be Bradley’s last stand, however, as Pacquiao dominated the rest of the way, flicking his right jabs and throwing lefts to the body and rights and lefts to the head.
Boastful and brash before the fight, Bradley had nothing but good words for Pacquiao during the post-fight press conference.
“He just had too much experience and he used it,” said Bradley, who wore a dark pair of glasses when he faced the media.
Still, Bradley was quick to admit that “Pacquiao was the better man tonight” as he downplayed the calf injury that he sustained in the first round.
“I don’t want to talk about that, and I don’t want to take anything away from Pacquiao,” said Bradley, who was guaranteed $6 million and a slice of the PPV sales.
Pacquiao said the scariest moment for him was when Bradley landed the overhand right which “hurt me on the chin.”
Still, Pacquiao said he didn’t become overly aggressive when he had Bradley in trouble a few times because he did not want to fall into a trap just like the way he did when he faced Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012.
“I didn’t want to become careless,” added Pacquiao, who proved his mastery of Bradley on his 24th bout on US soil.
Pacquiao’s win boosted his record to 55-6-2 with 38 KOs. Bradley dropped to 31-1 with 12 KOs.