Manny Pacquiao knocks down Tim Bradley twice on way to unanimous decision victory
Manny Pacquiao sends Tim Bradley reeling to the canvas with a short left. AP

LAS VEGAS - Manny Pacquiao scored two knockdowns on the way to a decisive victory over American rival Timothy Bradley on Saturday night (Sunday, Manila time) in what the Filipino ring hero said was the final fight of his legendary career.

Pacquiao started slowly but picked up the pace in the final half of the 12-round bout, knocking down Bradley late in the seventh round and again in the ninth before a wildly cheering crowd at the MGM Grand Arena.

"Every round I was looking for a KO," said Pacquiao, who remained without a knockout win in seven years but nonetheless put on a performance more impressive than in his last bout against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

All three judges scored it, 116-110, in favor of Pacquiao.

The vintage performance soon turned the conversation to Pacquiao's pronouncement that this will be his final fight, and his statements after the Bradley fight didn't help clear up the guessing game.

"As of now, I'm retired," said the beloved boxing hero. "He's a very tough fighter and a very good counter puncher."

"I want to go home to my family and serve the people," added Pacquiao, whose next order of business is his campaign for a Senate seat in the May national elections back home.

Pacquiao knocked Bradley down in the seventh round, though Bradley seemed to have slipped. He left no doubt in the ninth round with a big left hand that sent Bradley sprawling.

In the final seconds, many in the crowd of 14,665 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.

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."

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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, 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. - With reports from AP

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