In beating Timothy Bradley by unanimous decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Pacquiao accomplished most of what he wanted in his return to the ring since saying he underwent right shoulder surgery following his disappointing showing against the unbeaten Mayweather.
The southpaw flashed his old power, scoring a disputed seventh-round knockdown and then sending Bradley to the canvas again in the ninth by blasting him on the chin.
“He looked like he was looking for the knockout. It was good to see the old Manny Pacquiao,” his trainer, Freddie Roach, said at the post-fight news conference. “He hasn’t slowed down a bit. No signs of wear and tear. When I see Manny aggressive, that’s the best Manny Pacquiao.
“I saw him smile quite a bit. That shows he loves the sport. It wasn’t a complete comeback, but it was a good first step.”
That said, Pacquiao (58-6-2) said the step he wants to take is away from the sport, declaring himself retired at age 37.
Headed to an election for a Senate seat in the Philippines on May 9 — polls before the fight had him in fifth place, with 12 spots available — Pacquiao said at his post-fight news conference that family and public service are his priorities.
“I’ve decided. I’ve committed to my family that after this fight I will spend more time with them and dedicate and focus to serve the people of the Philippines,” Pacquiao said. “That is my priority and focus.”
If Pacquiao is indeed departing — a claim greeted by much skepticism given the history of un-retirements in boxing history — there were indications he’s leaving at an appropriate time.
He landed only 20 total punches in the first three rounds, and his punching volume per round shrunk from 63 in his 2012 fight against Bradley to 37 in the trilogy-capping bout.
“He’s capable of a lot more fast combinations. He has room for improvement,” Roach said. “We’ve had a good 15 years. If he retired, I’ll be happy for him. He has something to fall back on.”
But Roach, who’s told Pacquiao he’ll urge him to retire should he witness glaring signs of slippage, said no such discussion would happen after Saturday's outing, when the record eight-division world champion out-landed his younger opponent 122 punches to 99.
“His legs are good, his work ethic is great, he hasn’t missed a beat.… This may be the beginning of bringing back the old Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said. “I’d like to see him fight again.”
Said Pacquiao: “If you ask me about my condition, my body … I’m still OK. I can still give a good fight. I worked hard in training. I feel OK. I like to fight, the way we prepare. I’m happy doing that. Freddie always taught me the aggressiveness, the hunger. I liked that [tonight].”
Roach said his top choice for Pacquiao is unbeaten junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford, but what remains unknown is what the ultimate choice — Mayweather — is thinking.
Was the two-knockdown performance enough to stir the case that, with a healthy shoulder, Pacquiao could give Mayweather the fight everyone hoped for in the first place?
The new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas had Mayweather using a shovel at its groundbreaking two years ago, and his father/trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., said last week that repeating a victory in the new, massive venue to finish 50-0 could “persuade” his 39-year-old son to return.
Like Mayweather, however, Pacquiao says he’s done, so perhaps it’s time to move on to a new era with middleweight champions Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, along with Crawford and light-heavyweights Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward to provide boxing’s best action now.
"My heart is 50/50," Pacquiao said. "I love my family.... Boxing is a really hard sport, very difficult. I might enjoy retired life or I may come back.... Right now, my decision is to retire.… I love to help people."
“Let me enjoy first a retired life," he said. "If you ask me [if I’ll] come back, I don’t know. I might be enjoying retired life. I’m not there yet, so I don’t know the feeling. I’ve committed to my family. I’ve made my decision already.”
With that, he left the stage, telling everyone, “Thank you everyone. Cheers.”