Manny Pacquiao has listened to Timothy Bradley talk, and talk and talk some more about how he just doesn't have it anymore. That his killer instinct, once the cornerstone of his meteoric rise to the top of boxing, is gone, never to return.
And he's not angry. He's not upset.
He's just determined to prove him wrong.
"The more he says that, the more it inspires me to show again the hunger and the killer instinct," Pacquiao said in response to Bleacher Report's question on Tuesday's international media conference call.
"It's good for me, but not for him I think."
Bradley has—literally—taken every available opportunity to needle Pacquiao about his somewhat reluctant fighting style of the past few years.
Pacquiao scored a dominant victory in his last fight—a lopsided unanimous decision win over Brandon Rios last November in Macau—but he hasn't scored a knockout since stopping Miguel Cotto in 2009. What's more, he's often seemed to take his foot off the gas in fights where he probably could've pressed for a stoppage.
Bradley's pointed that out on dozens of separate occasions since their rematch for April 12 was announced in January, including face-to-face at a New York City press conference in February and on the debut of Face Off With Max Kellerman: Pacquiao/Bradley 2 last week on HBO.
But Pacquiao, who is completely unflappable when it comes to any sort of criticism, says he's turned those words into a positive.
"I'm not angry or disappointed at what he told me. I am happy because he told me that," Pacquiao said.
"It inspired me to train hard and focus on my gym plan and focus on the fight."
Pacquiao and Bradley, of course, met for the first time on HBO pay-per-view in June of 2012. It appeared to the eyes of most that the Filipino icon had done more than enough to emerge from the 12-round affair with a wide points victory.
But the only sets of eyes that mattered—judges C.J. Ross, Jerry Roth and Duane Ford—somehow reached a very different conclusion. Roth scored the fight for Pacquiao by an all-too-close margin of 115-113, but Ross and Ford, who inexplicably awarded the fight to Bradley by the same scores, overruled him.
The ensuing firestorm was epic, and it led to the resurfacing of boxing fans' usual litany of complaints. Accusations of fight fixing, corruption and just plain incompetence were common.
The Nevada attorney general's office investigated and found no wrongdoing. The WBO, which sanctioned the fight, convened a panel of judges who all found in favor of Pacquiao, and taking it to the craziest level possible, Bradley received death threats.
Pacquiao says he isn't worried about the judges this time around, and that he's not going to let them or anyone else impact on his preparations for the fight.
“I’m not thinking about the judges," Pacquiao said.
"I’m just focusing on fighting my fight and my strategy."
The man in charge of preparing Pacquiao for what is possibly the biggest fight of his career, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, was a bit more direct in responding to the same topic.
"Revenge is great. That's what we have a chance to do here. We have a shot at reversing that bad decision and to get the win this time, and hopefully, if everything goes well and we fight the right fight, then we’ll knock this guy out," Roach said on the conference call.
Roach went on to caution that while he'll be looking for his fighter to be aggressive, it's all about executing a game plan and not focusing wholly on a knockout.
"We're not going in there looking for a knockout. If you try to knock a guy out, you'll be waiting all night," Roach said.
Pacquiao, who has scored 38 of his 55 victories inside the distance, echoed those sentiments.
"We're not focusing on the knockout. Our focus this time is to put more gas and more aggressiveness and throw a lot of punches," he said.
"If the knockout comes, it comes. I just want to prove that I still have the hunger and killer instinct."
That last piece would seem to be crucial.
Bradley is riding the biggest wave of his professional career. It's unusual to say that an undefeated, multiweight world champion is one of the most disrespected fighters in the sport, but that's exactly the position the Palm Springs, Calif., native finds himself in today.
Since the controversial win over Pacquiao, Bradley has largely been forced to play defense. Even after his war with Ruslan Provodnikov—which he won narrowly—and a brilliant tactical performance against Juan Manuel Marquez—also a narrow victory—he still doesn't get a ton of credit.
He's seemingly a different fighter now than he was during the first meeting with Pacquiao. But that's something that the Filipino's team isn't overly concerned with.
"He [Bradley] boxed well against Marquez, and he beat a good fighter. What is he going to bring to the table against Manny?" Roach asked.
"I think he'll bring a little bit of Marquez, but I think he likes to exchange a little bit also. So when we do get into an exchange with him we'll need to take advantage of that moment."
Neither Pacquiao nor Roach seemed in the slightest bit worried about what Bradley may or may not do differently or if he's changed as a fighter. All they're focused on is their preparations and what they'll do in the ring.
“Whatever Bradley brings to the table we’ll be ready for it.” Roach said.
And Pacquiao quickly echoed that sentiment.
"I'm not worried about that because I know his style and I can adjust my style," he said.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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