In the immediate aftermath of Timothy Bradley's stunning, and ridiculous, split-decision win over Manny Pacquiao last June, the idea of a rematch was widely panned in the boxing press.
One of those to do so was yours truly, as a second fight, at the time, seemed unnecessary and insulting to the fans who shelled out money to see the wrong guy's hand raised.
But what a difference several months, and two stunning fights, can make.
Pacquiao, of course, is coming off a second, and in this case decisive, loss to rival Juan Manuel Marquez, while Bradley went far out of his comfort zone to win a unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov in an exciting slugfest this past weekend.
In the process the Pac-Man, who was universally recognized as a top-three pound-for-pound fighter before the Marquez fight, saw his stock go down.
On the other hand, Bradley, who is known for his technical and at times non-crowd-pleasing style, won over new fans with an aggressive, if at time reckless, performance against the little-known Russian that saw him taste the canvas and nearly get stopped in the final round.
But he showed tremendous heart, determination, and will to carry through and win clearly, and once again reminded boxing fans why he is one of the 10 best fighters in the sport.
So it would seem that given the recent performances of both fighters, a rematch could be a logical step and would be full of the sort of intrigue that did not define their first bout.
For one thing, the version of Tim Bradley that fought Ruslan Provodnikov last Saturday night would pose tremendous challenges for Manny Pacquiao. This is especially true if the Pac-Man is not the same fighter after his crushing knockout by Marquez.
You were able to find a good many observers who felt Pacquiao would be upset that June night in Las Vegas. And he was, even if he really wasn't.
Seeing as the two fighters appear to be heading in opposite directions, would anyone be willing to count Bradley out of a rematch?
To most observers, he was simply not active enough to justify his victory in the first fight. He was content to allow Pacquiao to take the lead and throw the majority of shots—the bigger ones in most of the rounds.
Even in with the win, "Desert Storm" was forced to defend his subpar performance and revealed later that he was fighting most of the fight on two badly injured legs. This limited his movement and ability to engage. At the post-fight press conference, he was even forced to show up in a wheelchair.
For those who felt the decision was ludicrous, many were still willing to praise Bradley for continuing to fight despite the injury, and his prowess for never seeming to be badly hurt by any of Pacquiao's punches.
To say the Tim Bradley we saw against Provodnikov was more engaging and more active than the one who faced Manny Pacquiao is an understatement.
So right there that makes a compelling fight
Another storyline is whether Bradley would be able to sustain that type of pace against Pacquiao. Obviously, Provodnikov has some power—he hurt his opponent several times and dropped him at least once—but he isn't as precise as Manny Pacquiao is capable of being.
For that matter, if Bradley were to fight that type of style against Pacquiao, would he be able to hurt him?
He isn't known for his punching power at all—only 12 knockouts in 30 pro wins—but we don't know what set of whiskers the Pac-Man will have left. Oftentimes it only takes one devastating knockout to open the flood gates. Just ask Roy Jones Jr.
That said, Pacquiao and his people could view Bradley as the perfect type of bounce-back opponent if a fifth fight with Marquez cannot be secured. His light-hitting style could be perceived as presenting little risk of knockout or injury.
And most importantly, at least from Manny Pacquiao's perspective, a win over Tim Bradley would mean more now than it would have had they staged a rematch in the fall.
At that point, Bradley was considered to be a decent fighter who got a gift decision he didn't deserve. And while his performance against Provodnikov didn't erase that feeling, it certainly gave fans the chance to see the type of heart he brings to a fight.
It could be said that Timothy Bradley has "earned" his rematch with Manny Pacquiao. But make no mistake about it: He will come to win, and this time he just might.
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