In the first fight, Pacquiao winning the clear majority of the rounds was clear to almost everyone except two of the three judges at ringside.
The two offenders, Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, scored the bout 115-113 for Bradley. Judge Jerry Roth scored it rightly for Pacquiao, though his 115-113 score was probably a bit too close, as well.
Both Pacquiao and Bradley will be looking to make statements in their second fight, and both have much to prove since their last encounter.
Pacquiao’s career took a nosedive after his loss to Bradley. He was knocked out cold in Round 6 of his next fight, his fourth career bout against nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012.
Pac-Man appeared to be winning the fight, but Marquez played coy and blasted Pacquiao to the canvas with a brilliant counterpunch that derailed any hope of Pacquiao making a fight against Floyd Mayweather irresistible enough for his cautious but undefeated rival to turn down.
Pacquiao stayed out of the ring until December 2013. He returned to form against former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios, salvaging his drawing power as one of the top earners in the sport.
The Filipino icon dominated Rios, winning virtually every round with ease. He was fast, powerful and showed nary a concern for Rios’ punching power, with no lingering effects from the knockout loss to Marquez one year prior.
Meanwhile, Bradley has gone from being uniformly despised for refusing to acknowledge his tough outing against Pacquiao to being recognized by many as one of the top fighters in the sport today.
Bradley enjoyed a stellar 2013. He outlasted Ruslan Provodnikov in March 2013 in a fight of the year candidate. He was knocked down in the bout once and appeared out on his feet several times during the slugfest, but fought his way to a close decision victory.
Then, in October, Bradley showed his quality by outboxing and out-thinking Juan Manuel Marquez over 12 strategically fought rounds. Bradley earned a split decision and vaulted toward the top of many pound-for-pound lists.
But each man needs a win over the other to move forward career-wise.
For Pacquiao, a win over Bradley would prove he is still one of the elite fighters in the sport. While his destruction of Rios was important for Pac-Man moving forward, it really did nothing but show that Pacquiao could come back from a devastating knockout.
A win over a clearly elite fighter like Bradley would prove that 35-year-old Pacquiao still belongs at the top of the sport.
In fact, a win over Bradley would restart the Pacquiao-Mayweather drums which were beaten loudly by fans from 2009-2012.
On the other hand, Bradley will be seeking redemption from his first fight with Pacquiao. While the belligerent welterweight will likely never admit he was bettered by Pacquiao the first time, deep down he must know what really happened.
Who will be the winner of Pacquiao-Bradley 2?
He’s had plenty of chances to field questions about it from both fight fans and media, and he absolutely wants to prove to himself that he can beat Pacquiao.
Moreover, a legitimate win over Pacquiao would vault Bradley even higher into the minds of the boxing public.
While he’s currently considered one of the most accomplished fighters in the sport, he hasn’t yet made such a case for himself as to bait the catcalls for a matchup against Floyd Mayweather, something he expressed interest in after his last fight.
Bradley is an immensely intelligent fighter. He is capable of fighting well using multiple styles, and he knows his only legitimate chance at getting a lucrative Mayweather fight is by beating Pacquiao for real.
While Bradley, a Top Rank-promoted fighter, would stand only a small chance of landing a Mayweather megafight while boxing’s cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy rages on, millions of lottery ticket buyers would agree a small chance is better than no chance at all.
Remember, Floyd Mayweather can do whatever he wants. He doesn’t have to fight me. Fans asked him to fight Manny Pacquiao, he’s not fighting Manny Pacquiao, you know what I’m saying? There’s no guarantee. What I have to look after is myself. I can’t chase a guy. I can’t chase Floyd Mayweather, and chase this guy, chase this guy. I need to secure my future, secure my legacy, and secure what Tim Bradley wants and what will benefit him and his family.
So while each man’s future will be resting on the outcome of the bout, it seems to be Bradley with the most to gain going forward. He’s five years Pacquiao’s junior and has the largest moments of his career well ahead of him if he’s to compete at the same level historically as the Pac-Man.
Regardless, the stakes are high for both men, and fight fans should expect a good battle this spring. The winner has larger things ahead for him, and the loser will lose footing in an increasingly competitive welterweight division.