WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley will defend his title against old foe Manny Pacquiao on April 12 in Las Vegas.
More than 18 months have passed since Timothy Bradley wrested the WBO welterweight title from Manny Pacquiao in one of boxing's most hotly disputed verdicts, and the two appear to be ready for a sequel.
Per Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, Bradley and Pacquiao have finalized terms for a rematch of their controversial June 2012 bout, and this time, "Desert Storm" enters as the champion and possibly the favorite.
While many expected an immediate rematch, given the controversy and angst surrounding the outcome of their first fight, Pacquiao's team declined, feeling that the bout wouldn't draw at the box office. But with the champion having beaten Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez back-to-back and Pacquiao in need of rebuilding his star power, a sequel makes perfect sense now.
Here we examine the fight and the fighters. This is your complete head-to-toe breakdown of Bradley vs. Pacquiao II, which is set to go down on April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Manny Pacquiao will seek redemption, and his belt back, against Timothy Bradley.
Main Event: Timothy Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao; 12 rounds for Bradley's WBO Welterweight Championship.
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
When: April 12, 2014.
TV: HBO pay-per-view.
Bradley is undefeated in his professional career, but Pacquiao has a gripe that he got robbed against "Desert Storm."
Pacquiao is looking to regain a share of the welterweight title.
Back in June, 2012, Timothy Bradley was guilty of nothing more than showing up, fighting a spirited but underwhelming fight against Manny Pacquiao and getting a decision—which was out of his hands—that he didn't deserve. You'd have thought, given all the vitriol and criticism directed his way after the fight, that Bradley had stolen the scorecards and personally filled them out the night before.
Ever since that night, he's been on a singular quest for respect, and he earned a lot of it with his performances in 2013.
He went to war with recently crowned junior welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov in March, emerging with a close but highly exciting unanimous decision in 2013's Fight of the Year, as judged by The Ring Magazine and Bleacher Report.
He then followed that up by defeating Pacquiao's old foe Juan Manuel Marquez in October to secure a spot in The Ring Magazine's pound-for-pound top three.
Manny Pacquiao was once boxing's pound-for-pound king, but consecutive losses in 2012—including the highly specious decision loss to Timothy Bradley—left him almost as an afterthought. He rebounded nicely in November, after nearly a full year out of the ring, by shredding the rugged but limited Brandon Rios in Macau.
The Filipino icon will be looking for a measure of revenge in this fight, and he'll get a chance to right one of the biggest judging wrongs in the history of professional prizefighting by recapturing a share of the welterweight crown.
The universal condemnation that followed the miscarriage of justice perpetrated on Pacquiao—and by extension all his fans who shelled out money to watch live and at home—was swift and highly unflattering to judges CJ Ross and Duane Ford, who scored the first bout for Bradley. The story reverberated across the sports world, and it made boxing look at best incompetent and, at worst, corrupt.
Bradley is a tremendously skilled technical boxer.
Timothy Bradley is one of the best technicians in the sport of boxing. He's an accurate and effective puncher, and he has as good a sense of distance and ring position as anyone in the business today. In his last fight, against a supreme tactician, he controlled the distance and outboxed a dangerous puncher in Juan Manuel Marquez.
You don't do that unless you have more than a few tricks up your sleeve.
Bradley is at his best on the inside, where he can shake up his foe with quick, precise punches. He's also been known in the past to make good use of his head, causing him to earn the "dirty fighter" label from a few of his past foes and Marquez's trainer Nacho Beristain, who said Bradley is "very dirty," because he "uses his head, elbows," per BoxingScene.com. On the outside, he's a quick and dangerous counterpuncher who is capable of making opponents miss and pay for it.
In his heyday, Manny Pacquiao was a buzz saw. He would come forward and attack, attack and attack. Most of his opponents were so overwhelmed by the volume of punches coming at so many different angles that they couldn't mount any offense of their own.
When he settles into that type of groove—something that's earned the almost mystical designation of "the old Pacquiao" amongst fans—you'll see quick, short punches from all sorts of directions, and they'll come fast and furious. But he hasn't consistently been that fighter in some time.
In his last two bouts, he showed some glimmers of his old self. Against Marquez, before being knocked out, he seemed to be settling into a rhythm, and he picked Rios apart in November. The good news from that fight is that he fought every minute of every round. The bad news is that he never seemed to have his foe in any trouble.
From a pure boxing-ability standpoint, Bradley gets the nod here. He's more technically sound, and he boxed Pacquiao well on two bad legs the first time around.
Pacquiao has a power edge, but didn't seem to bother Bradley much the first time around.
One of the biggest knocks on Timothy Bradley is that he doesn't have a ton of punching power. With just 12 knockouts amongst his 31 professional wins, "Desert Storm" is much more likely to outbox an opponent than knock him out.
That said, punching power isn't only determined by a fighter's knockout percentage. Bradley is a smart, precise puncher. He doesn't waste any movement in the ring, and he lands his shots exactly where he intends them to go.
Just because he's not likely to knock you out doesn't mean he can't hurt you.
It would seem that a lot of the mystique surrounding Pacquiao's punching power is based on his run to the top of boxing between 2006 and 2009. In that stretch, he stopped a dizzying number of top-flight boxers including Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.
But he hasn't stopped a fighter since forcing Cotto to succumb to his power and pressure in the 12th round of their 2009 bout. He spent most of the 12 rounds against Rios hitting him with basically anything he wanted, but he never seemed to put "Bam Bam" in any real trouble.
As he's gotten older, Pacquiao's power has seemed to diminish a bit, and he was never able to hurt Bradley in their first contest.
Largely out of respect for his past accomplishments and due to Bradley's lack of huge punching power, Pacquiao gets the nod here. Even if his power has slipped in recent years, he still carries more thunder in his fists than Bradley.
Bradley was able to frustrate Marquez with his movement, and he rarely let the Mexican legend land cleanly.
If there were any lingering questions about Timothy Bradley's ability to defeat an elite-level foe with big punching power, he answered them against Juan Manuel Marquez in October. He was able to dart in, land his punches and get out of range in time to make the Mexican legend miss.
But that hasn't always been the case with Bradley. He's the type of fighter who is comfortable boxing but also likes to brawl, and when he brawls, he's very hittable. For evidence of that, check out his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov.
Bradley has also been down more than his share of times during his career, and while he's always overcome the adversity, it's something that might catch up with him.
For most of his career, Manny Pacquiao has subscribed to the adage that the best defense is a good offense. At his peak, "Pac-Man" threw so many punches that his opponents were too busy trying to figure out where they were coming from to return any significant fire.
As his offense has slowed in recent years, Pacquiao has become a little easier to hit. Against Bradley, he only fought in spurts. He did that to a lesser degree against Marquez and then put in a complete effort against Rios. You'll never confuse him for a top-notch defensive wizard, but Pacquiao remains a difficult nut to crack.
Bradley turned in a measured performance against Marquez, but that was because he had a healthy respect for the punching power of his opponent. Nothing Pacquiao threw at him seemed to bother him, and he'll be just a little more lax this time around. That will give the Filipino the edge here.
Pacquiao will need to avoid fighting in spurts like he did in his first contest with Bradley.
Timothy Bradley will look to do what he's always done. It has led him to an undefeated record in 31 fights, and he has no reason to change. "Desert Storm" will try to use his jab to keep Pacquiao at bay and give him the time and space needed to execute his game plan.
Ideally, Bradley will use that time and space to frustrate Pacquiao by preventing him from getting into a rhythm. That will make it easier to jump into range, land a few solid shots on the inside and get out of there before the Filipino icon can get his hands moving. That was something a hobbled Bradley—he suffered injuries to both legs during their first bout, per ESPN—was largely unable to do when they met in 2012.
But it wouldn't be surprising to see Bradley attempt to mix it up more—think Provodnikov and not the Marquez fight—in order to make a statement. He doesn't have the same respect for Pacquiao's power as he did for Marquez's, and he won't be content to just win the fight. He'll want to show that the first win was no fluke.
By the same token, Manny Pacquiao wants—really needs—to set the record straight. He got burned by the judges last time around, and that had a lot to do with him allowing Bradley to hang in many of the rounds. Now, hanging in and winning are two different things, but he can't afford to leave the outcome to chance this time.
Pacquiao showed no lingering effects from his devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez when he manhandled Brandon Rios in Macau last November. Even better, he didn't fight in spurts, and he more or less threw whatever he wanted.
Against Bradley, he'll need to leave no doubt in any of the rounds. Look for him to attack early and often and to keep his foe off kilter with punches in bunches.
Bradley will get the win by decision, and this time, he'll deserve it.
In many ways, Bradley vs. Pacquiao II will play out in the same way that many predicted their first bout to go.
Virtually every word—both written and spoken—about that contest emphasized how underrated and dangerous Bradley would be for an aging—and some said lacking intensity—"Pac-Man." Dan Rafael of ESPN summed it up perfectly in picking Bradley to win based on his intensity and desperate hunger to prove himself.
You can take those two characteristics and double them today.
Bradley is riding the biggest and most impressive wave of his career and, given the trajectories of both fighters since their fateful first bout, there's no reason to believe the momentum will crest in this fight.
"Desert Storm" is brimming with confidence, he's come into his own in his last two fights, and he'll be motivated to "avenge" what most felt was an undeserved win.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, is going to be nearly two years older, and it's hard to argue that he hasn't declined a bit during that stretch of time. Lost in all of the consternation over the awful decision was the fact that, while clearly winning, he didn't do anything to blow Bradley away.
Granted, that doesn't justify the verdict, but it represents an attempt to understand where the judges may have been coming from.
In this fight, you can once again expect a lot of close, competitive rounds. But when the judges award them to Bradley, he'll have done enough to earn them. He's simply fresher and more confident and won't be denied.
Bradley will win this fight by a close decision, but this time he'll deserve it.