Las Vegas: Manny Pacquiao returned from the biggest loss of his career with a bang Saturday night, knocking down Timothy Bradley twice on his way to a unanimous 12-round decision in their welterweight showdown.
Pacquiao shook off the ring rust from a layoff of nearly a year after losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. to beat Bradley for a second time in the rubber match between the two fighters. In doing so, the Senate candidate in his native Philippines showed he may have to reconsider his plans to retire and devote his full time to politics.
Pacquiao (58-6-2) knocked down Bradley (33-2-1) in the seventh round, though Bradley seemed to have slipped. He left no doubt in the ninth with a big left hand that sent Bradley sprawling.
The fight was scored 116-110 by all three ringside judges.
In the final seconds, many in the crowd of 14,665 at the MGM Grand arena were on their feet chanting "Manny! Manny!" as Pacquiao tried to end the bout with a flourish. He never came close to finishing off Bradley, though he was so far ahead on the ringside scorecards that it didn't matter.
If the fight was indeed the end of the 37-year-old Pacquiao's career, it was a remarkable one. Aside from the loss to Mayweather last year he did little wrong in winning eight weight class titles in 21 years as a pro.
"As of now I am retired," Pacquiao said. "I am going to go home and think about it but I want to be with my family. I want to serve the people."
Pacquiao had no problems with the right shoulder he injured against Mayweather as he stalked Bradley across the ring, looking to land big shots. He landed enough of them to make Bradley wary, and the knockdown in the ninth round seemed to take the rest of the fight out of Bradley.
"Manny was strong the entire fight and he was also very patient," Bradley said. "I wasn't professional enough to stay patient myself and I walked into shots."
Both fighters took some time to get untracked, with the early rounds offering little action. Pacquiao seemed a bit rusty from his layoff and Bradley was unwilling to get inside and trade punches.
Pacquiao began picking up the pace and stalking Bradley, though, coming in behind a right jab and following it with his left hand. In the seventh round, he seemed to graze Bradley with a pair of punches and Bradley went to his knees for what referee Tony Weeks ruled a knockdown.
"He was very quick, very explosive," Bradley said.
Ringside punching stats showed Pacquiao landing 122 of 439 punches to 99 of 302 for Bradley.
Pacquiao said before the fight that he felt refreshed after his layoff and stronger than ever. He hadn't scored a knockout at 147 pounds since stopping Miguel Cotto in 2009, and went after Bradley with big left hands to try to break that streak.
"I was looking for a knockout in every round," Pacquiao said. "He's a very tough fighter and a very good counter puncher."
Pacquiao, who was guaranteed $7 million, was fighting for the first time since losing to Mayweather last May in the richest fight ever. He lost a unanimous decision in that fight, blaming his lackluster performance on the shoulder injury that flared up in the fourth round and required surgery afterward.
Still, Pacquiao was a 2-1 favorite against Bradley, who beat him on a controversial decision the first time they fought before losing a unanimous decision in the second fight in 2014.
Bradley vowed this would be his best fight, with new trainer Teddy Atlas in the corner giving him instructions. Atlas fulfilled his job, jumping into the ring after each bell to lecture Bradley, sometimes having to be pushed out of the ring by Nevada boxing officials so the next round could start.
"Teddy obviously made a difference," Pacquiao said. "This was the best Timothy Bradley I have faced in the three fights.
If it was Pacquiao's last fight, he goes out as one of the biggest pay-per-view attractions in the sport. Pacquiao headlined 22 pay-per-view fights, generating more than 18 million buys and $1.2 billion in PPV revenue.
His next career probably won't be as lucrative, with Pacquiao running for the Senate in elections next month in the Philippines. Should he win - and he is one of the favorites - it would be almost impossible to remain an active fighter.
Pacquiao said in the days leading up to the fight that his family - particularly his wife - wanted him to retire.
"Thank you boxing fans," he said in the ring afterward.