When the final bell rang in Manny Pacquiao's long awaited revenge bout against Timothy Bradley on Saturday, it was almost as if both fighters changed places in the landscape of modern boxing.
Coming into the bout, people doubted what the 35-year-old Pacquiao still had left in the tank, while the undefeated Bradley looked more confident than ever. A unanimous decision in favour of the Pac-Man later, and the roles had been reversed.
Suddenly, Pacquiao was supposedly back to his dominant self, with fans once again starting to dream of a Floyd Mayweather superfight. And suddenly, Bradley's previously undefeated record had seemingly lost its relevance. Desert Storm was a good, not great boxer who didn't belong in the pound-for-pound conversation.
Of course, that's what happens when you're presented with a boxing clinic, courtesy of one of the greatest fighters the sport has seen in the last few decades. Bradley's footwork was well and truly gone by the sixth round, as the former champion couldn't deal with the ferocious pace of his Filipino challenger.
So where does that leave Bradley?
With all of the momentum he had built in the last two years seemingly gone and the public suddenly thinking perhaps Desert Storm wasn't as great as we all thought to begin with, Bradley needs something special fast.
He went from beating Pacquiao to being dominated by the very same fighter in a single night. With seemingly the whole world watching, Bradley will need to come up big to alter his legacy. He still has just the one loss on his resume, and a big win over a solid opponent could ensure he doesn't lose what's left of his credibility as a top fighter.
A bout with someone like Canelo Alvarez would be perfect for Bradley. Per ESPN's Dan Rafael, the Mexican youngster was a big hit carrying the pay-per-view in his last fight against Alfredo Angulo:
Many wondered if Alvarez, carrying a pay-per-view by himself for the first time and coming off a resounding defeat, would still generate enough fan interest to warrant becoming a PPV regular as he envisions. After the returns came in for the fight with Angulo (22-4, 18 KOs) on Friday, the answer is a resounding yes.
Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions announced that the pay-per-view generated "well over 350,000 buys" for Alvarez's one-sided 10th-round knockout of his Mexican countryman. The pay-per-view grossed at least $20 million.
Alvarez is popular, highly touted and very visible as an opponent. At the age of 23, he also lacks the experience to go toe-to-toe with someone like Bradley for the full 12 rounds, setting up a big comeback win for Desert Storm in a perfect way.
Beat Alvarez, and Bradley becomes the guy who just wasn't good enough to beat a Hall of Famer like Pacquiao. Don't beat anyone worthwhile or stay out of the ring for the time being, and he will remain the guy who stole a win from the Pac-Man and got embarrassed when the legend decided to set the record straight.
As for Pacquiao, things are a little less clear.
The manner in which the Pac-Man beat Bradley suggests he still has very quick hands for a 35-year-old, and he beat a younger opponent in large part because of better conditioning.
Pacquiao remained aggressive throughout the fight but displayed a sense of patience that ultimately paid off, as Bradley spent the latter rounds swinging at an opponent that wasn't taking too many chances. If anything, this cautious approach is indicative of a man understanding his age and the limitations that come with it.
But Pacquiao is still a 35-year-old public figure with a political career and a recent spell away from the sport. And while his win over Bradley showed the world he's still one of the greatest on an athletic level, no one truly knows how badly the Pac-Man still wants to be a fighter.
Two names will keep coming up over the next few weeks: Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez. The latter is nearing retirement himself and has already fought four intense battles with Pacquiao, the latest of which resulted in a devastating knockout.
All four fights were instant classics, and one last bout between the two rivals just seems inevitable. ESPN's Brian Campbell agrees there's no reason for fans not to want a fifth fight:
These two veterans have provided fans with the kind of slug fests that have become rare in the sport every time they've faced off, and one last go would make for the perfect sending off for Marquez.
But what about Pacquiao? What does the Pac-Man have left to prove, and who hasn't he fought yet?
As one of the biggest draws in the sport, promoters will always find someone for him to fight, but the question is how much longer Pacquiao will be willing to go like this. He got his revenge against Bradley. He'll most likely get a chance at avenging his knockout-loss against Marquez.
If the Mayweather superfight falls through, as seems likely, don't be surprised if the legendary Filipino decides to call it quits after a hypothetical fifth fight with Marquez. It would be the near perfect ending to an illustrious career, and it would give the Pac-Man a chance to go out on top.
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