On April 12 in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, boxing fans will learn if the greatest chapters of Manny Pacquiao's legacy have already been written or if the Filipino legend has more epic triumphs in the ring ahead.
To prove his career still has dominance left, the 35-year-old is going to have revert to the unstoppable puncher who bullied his way to titles in an unprecedented eight different weight divisions.
In other words, when he fights Timothy Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) for the WBO Welterweight Championship, Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 knockouts) is going to have to prove he still has his killer instinct.
This, of course, is a rematch of their infamous first fight from 2012 when Bradley came out on top in a decision that left most onlookers somewhere between bewildered or furious.
In case you need a refresher on the night's action, this video will bring you up to speed:
The outcome was so dubious, that as the Associated Press tweeted, it was under investigation:
Nevada attorney general says nothing illegal, criminal in Bradley's split-decision win over Pacquiao. So there's that http://t.co/QNYkdS3O— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) July 3, 2012
At any rate, that is all part of history, and now Pacquiao would be wise to avoid the possibility of that outcome happening again by finishing this fight. In the first fight, Pacquiao dominated Bradley early, but he appeared content to go for the win on points instead of the knockout.
That approach is certainly a departure from the aggressive style Pacquiao used to become an icon, but it was also part of a trend for Pacquiao.
Not since stopping Miguel Cotto in late 2009 has Pacquiao won a bout before the decision, and never was his willingness to take a decision victory more apparent than in his last fight.
Just ask Bradley...or read his below comment as provided by Yahoo! Sports Kevin Iole:
Manny didn't look the same against Rios. He didn't have his usual killer instinct. That's the first thing I noticed. I don't think he has the hunger anymore and it's never coming back. He no longer has his killer instinct.
There is no arguing with Bradley's assessment that Pacquiao didn't show his killer instinct against Rios, but it is too early to say "it's never coming back."
The win over Rios snapped a two-bout losing streak for Pacquiao. First there was the loss to Bradley, which was followed up by his viscous knockout via a thunderous counterpunch from his longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
In that bout, Pacquiao's killer instinct was on full display. He looked strong and aggressive, which is part of the reason he was vulnerable to the counter in the first place.
Now, I don't know if that knockout was still lingering in his mind when he fought Rios or if he was simply trying to ensure he got back on the winning track. It was probably a little of both, but the reality is that it won't work against Bradley.
Famed boxing commentator Larry Merchant, via The Ring's Lem Satterfield, commented on Pacquiao's last performance, and how it will play against Bradley:
In that fight, against Rios, he fought just as a boxer. But he's not going to be able to beat Bradley just as a boxer.
The question is whether he can make as big a change in doing that as he would have to to beat Bradley. The question for Manny is whether he will have the ability and the fire to force a fight, and to return a little bit to his previous incarnations.
Meanwhile, the below video offers up a take on keys to victory for both fighters:
Pacquiao is not going to be able to outbox Bradley, but he can dominate the fight. Pacquiao must take the action to Bradley and then stay aggressive.
This will keep Bradley on his heels and from gaining any momentum. The 30-year-old is a skilled fighter, but he is not as an accomplished counterpuncher as Marquez. In other words, he will not be able to handle Pacquiao's fierce attack as Marquez has.
Pacquiao must display his killer instinct to not only win this fight but to show the world he is still capable of fighting in the style that made him so wildly popular in the first place.