LAS VEGAS — In so many ways, it felt like it was 2009 once again for Manny Pacquiao. He outclassed Adrien Broner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden to retain his WBA welterweight title, looking more like a 29-year-old than Broner did.
Pacquiao was faster, hit harder and won the bout going away. Judges had it 116-112 twice and 117-111 to give Pacquiao his first win on U.S. soil since 2016 when he defeated Jessie Vargas.
But just like 2009, when he knocked out both Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, almost all of the focus post-fight turned to a fight with Floyd Mayweather.
The first time, it took more than five years to get the bout made. When it did, Pacquiao injured a right shoulder that required surgery and Mayweather won a wide decision in a fight that was largely a disappointment.
In his locker room a half-hour later after all but running Broner out of the ring, Pacquiao saved his greatest emotion for when he talked about Mayweather. The two men ran into each other at a night club in Japan in September.
And after that 2015 defeat, Pacquiao kept the hunger for a rematch for competitive, not financial reasons.
“The fans are waiting for that fight,” Pacquiao said of a rematch with Mayweather. “When we met in Japan, he came to my table and he said he would come back to challenge me. I told him, ‘I’m a champion. Challenge me and if you want to come back, we’ll get in the ring.’ We met in Japan and we also met at the Clippers game at Staples Center, but that was coincidental. But in Japan, he came to my table and said he wanted to fight me.
“The most important thing to me is my legacy. I want to retire a winner. I want to leave a name in boxing. I want to leave a legacy that people remember. Boxing is my passion. I want to retire as a champion and a winner.”
He was a winner on Saturday because he was quicker, landed the sharper punches and was far busier.
Broner landed only 50 punches in the fight, and never more than seven punches in a round. He had two rounds when he connected on just one shot.
That didn’t stop Broner from believing he’d won.
“I wear these glasses for fashion,” Broner said as he arrived at the post-fight news conference. “I ain’t got a mark on me. I ain’t going to go crazy [about the judging]. I ain’t got to. My performance talked for me.”
When Pacquiao heard that, his voice raised several octaves as he said, “Really?” and tried to suppress a laugh.
But he wasn’t laughing all that much afterward, even though he was pleased with his performance. Just as it was last time, it will be a chore to get Mayweather into the ring, if he’s able to do it.
He did a little dance when the final bell sounded, right on the side of the ring where Mayweather watched impassively.
Mayweather left without attending the post-fight news conference, but Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe quickly doused ice water on the possibility of Mayweather-Pacquiao II.
“He’s retired,” Ellerbe said of Mayweather. “He has no interest in doing that. It’s not always about the money, believe it or not. What more can the man do? He doesn’t have the motivation, the desire. He’s living his best life, traveling, running his multiple businesses, spending his hard-earned winnings.
“He’ll be 42 come Feb. 24 and enough is enough. What good does it do to earn all that money if you can’t hang around long enough to spend it?”
No means no, unless we’re talking Pacquiao-Mayweather. Then no could mean no, it could mean yes or it could mean maybe. This is one of the most complicated relationships one could ever imagine.
“I think the people want to see that fight and we should give the people what they want,” said Pacquiao, who made the comment Saturday but probably also said it in 2009 and early 2010.
Trainer Freddie Roach said he thought Pacquiao had done enough to get a rematch with Mayweather, but Roach knows from long and hard experience that doesn’t mean a thing.
If the mood strikes Mayweather, he’ll come back and do the fight. If it doesn’t, he’ll keep flying the world and posting pictures of his cars, jewelry and money on social media.
Regardless, Roach got what he wanted to see from Pacquiao.
“I thought the body shots killed [Broner],” Roach said. “He went to the body early a lot, and then the left hand, he brought upstairs. He hurt him upstairs and then he made him run. Maybe he flicked a couple of jabs, but the guy actually ran. Some of those could have been 10-8 rounds because he was on his bike so much. … He’s in a difficult division. It’s stacked and there are a lot of great fighters in it. It’s really a good time to be a welterweight, but maybe not a 40-year-old welterweight.
“But Manny doesn’t want to fight just to fight. He wants big, significant fights. Obviously, I’d love to get the rematch, but if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to have to fight one of those tough guys. There’s a lot of really good, really tough guys, but Manny Pacquiao is also a really good and really tough guy, too.”
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