LAS VEGAS - For the first time in six years, Timothy Bradley does not have a world title after suffering his first loss in 33 fights Saturday night against Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquaio scored a unanimous decision to regain the WBO welterweight title that he lost to Bradley in 2012 by controversial split decision.
During the fight Saturday, Bradley elected to go toe-to-toe with Pacquiao and went for the knockout.
Bradley's strategy surprised Pacquaio's trainer, Freddie Roach, but thrilled many fans and at least one boxing expert, ESPN's Dan Rafael, who thinks Bradley helped his stock.
"He fought a hell of a fight. No one is going to be upset with him like it was last time, or they shouldn't anyways insult him or call him names or threaten him, whatever," Rafael said. "He fought his heart out, he admitted he lost.
"There's nothing bad to say about Timothy Bradley," Rafael said. "He's a top-notch fighter. There's no doubt in my mind his next fight will be another good fight. HBO wants him back, I'm sure the fans will want to tune in to watch him. He's a hell of a fighter and he's a classy guy. He's very likeable and he's now at that level where he can take a loss and he can come back and have a good fight."
Ironically, when Bradley beat Pacquiao two years ago, his stock dropped as he couldn't get a rematch with Pacquiao or any other boxer with pay-per-view appeal.
But Bradley pieced together his career with a thrilling slugfest against relative unknown Ruslan Provodnikov that earned near-unanimous Fight of the Year honors in 2013. Bradley followed his Provodnikov victory by beating Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision. It was Marquez's first fight since his spectacular knockout of Manny Pacquiao in 2012.
On Saturday, Bradley tried to mix it up with Pacquiao.
"Bradley was swinging for the fences and he tired quickly," Roach said. "I felt like in the second half is when we started to dominate the fight."
Bradley's strategy got Pacquiao in trouble in the fourth round when Bradley hurt him with a big overhead right, Roach said.
"The gameplan didn't go as well as we thought because he didn't fight the way we thought. We didn't think he would be aggressive," Roach said.
While Rafael said he enjoyed Bradley's performance, Yahoo! Boxing expert Kevin Iole was confounded by it.
"I thought he fought a stupid fight. What is he trying to do? He boxed so beautifully against Marquez. Firing those punches and getting into a slugfest is just not the way to fight Manny Pacquiao," Iole said.
Because the first fight against Pacquiao was so controversial, some experts thought Bradley couldn't win if the fight went to a decision, figuring the judges wouldn't want to go through the scrutiny the first group of judges did in Bradley-Pacquaio 1. Both judges who scored the fight, CJ Ross and Duane Ford, are no longer working. Ford retired soon after the fight and Ross was pressured out when she scored a draw in the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez bout in the fall.
"Tonight, Bradley thought he couldn't win a decision, so he fought and reacted to that kind of talk," said Iole, who had picked Bradley to win Saturday night because of his boxing ability. "You fight your fight, and you fight the best fight you can. If the judges screw you, that's what happens, but you can't go out there and fight Manny Pacquiao's fight. A slugfest favors Manny Pacquiao and that just didn't make sense."
Bradley injured his calf in the first round according to his trainer Joel Diaz. However, in the post-fight news conference, Bradley refused to say anything about the injury or if he tired in the second half of the fight.
"I have no excuses tonight, Manny Pacquiao was the better man," Bradley said. "He showed what he's made of, he still has it. The reason why I love Pacquiao so much is that he never ducks an opponent. He's always willing to face the best. He faced one of the best tonight and he came out on top. Manny Pacquiao is a true champion and unbelievable fighter. I have much respect for him and his team."
The way Bradley handled himself, as well as the way he fought could have been a gamble, theorized Lem Satterfield, The Ring Magazine's boxing expert.
"He sacrificed a strategy that would have given him a better chance to win the fight," Satterfield said. "He's gambling that will keep him relevant. He's already won a fight against Manny Pacquiao, even though some people didn't think he won it.
"The gamble may not hurt him. He was a winner tonight in the way he handled himself. He was a winner in the way that he fought, in the manner and the intensity that he fought with. Strategically, was it the right move? That was a question he didn't answer."