There is much more than the WBO Welterweight Championship on the line April 12 when Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley face off in one of the sport's most highly anticipated rematches.
Respect is one facet of the equation. Now several fights removed from one of the most controversial decisions of the modern era, both Pacquiao and Bradley have traveled drastically different paths to their semblance of unfinished business in the rematch.
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas
When: April 12, 2014
TV: HBO pay-per-view
The fateful decision sent Pacquiao into a tailspin. He lost, but to a seemingly no-name competitor—so much so, he and his team opted for a fourth dance with Juan Manuel Marquez as opposed to a rematch with Bradley, who had just seized the biggest moment of his career—and the title.
Fans know the rest. "Pac Man" caught a mean hook and bit the canvas against JMM—making a rematch with Bradley much, much more integral to his career trajectory. He moved past Brandon Rios with ease, but Bradley's ascension into the upper echelon of the sport certainly helps, too.
While Pacquiao faded, Bradley ignored the naysayers and took his in-ring performance to the next level with convincing victories over Ruslan Provodnikov and JMM.
The writing is on the wall. Whispers of Bradley's legitimacy will evaporate if he can exorcise his demons with a convincing win over Pacquiao.
The American sounds confident—as he should, given his recent performances—and actually puts it best in regard to what the fight means for his adversary, as he told the media in a conference call, via Michelle Rosado of Fight Hype: "If Pacquiao loses this fight, he knows his career is probably over."
Indeed. Many were quick to write off Pacquiao's career—and still are—after the slumber he took against JMM. But he has the sound of a man who has received a wake-up call and understands that aggressiveness is key this time around, as captured by Dino Maragay of Philstar.com:
“I should put more on gas and be aggressive,” Pacquiao said, recalling that fight in which he appeared to dominate.
“I'm not saying that I could knock him out, but I'm just nice to Bradley in the ring. That's what happened,” he added.
The rematch has experts such as ESPN's Dan Rafael stuck:
It should. It has been quite some time since Pacquiao knocked an opponent out, but this recent talk and a strong win over Rios makes it difficult to peg down how he will perform. Bradley's strong showing in the controversial decision, paired with two great wins since, make it hard to get a read on how he stacks up against a motivated Pac Man.
Who wins the rematch?
If Pacquiao is back to his aggressive ways and Bradley continues to be one of the sport's best technicians, the end result is a 50-50 guess.
Regardless of the result, the elephant in the room is painfully obvious—Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao's been chasing the proverbial dream fight for years, while the matchup is an obvious next step for Bradley.
But first, the two have unfinished business to settle. For two men very much at different stages of their prolific careers, April 12 will be a definitive moment for both—for better or worse.