Career longevity will be the heart of the matter when Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley step into the ring on April 12 to set things right after their controversial first fight.
Like any fight, both contestants carry the experiences of the past into the bout. Obviously, both fighters will key on how their last dance developed—especially in Pacquiao's case. But key victories in each of their careers will affect how they approach one of the sport's biggest rematches of all time.
For example, Pacquiao enters a tad more aware of not being able to put his foot on the pedal, as a recent knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez drilled the lesson home. Conversely, Bradley recently beat JMM and got a firsthand look at the strategy he employs.
Here are the most important wins to date in the careers of both Pacquiao and Bradley, not based on financial gain but career status—feel free to ink in their April 12 fight after the fact.
Victory over Erik Morales via 10th-round stoppage: Jan. 21, 2006
Pacquiao found himself in a similar situation to his current predicament back in 2006, although he had a bit more spring in his step and not so much on the line.
Erik Morales downed Pacquiao in their first bout via unanimous decision, which eventually set up this fateful rematch.
It's the fight that helped put Pacquiao on the map. He nearly knocked the Mexican star out in the second and sixth rounds before finally forcing the stoppage in the 10th round. It wasn't really a close fight, but it was an important one, as Pacquiao bounced back in a major way, which catalyzed a huge wave of momentum.
Victory over Marco Antonio Barrera via TKO in 11th round: Nov. 15, 2003
This fight is what made Pacquiao who he is today, but a bout several years down the line truly made him a superstar as the minds of fans were made aware of his skills via his win over Oscar De La Hoya.
For that, his win over Marco Antonio Barrera comes in a very, very close second place. The dance in the Alamodome in San Antonio was Pacquiao's first at featherweight, and his combination of speed and power reaffirmed he could fight in any class he desires.
It also marked another first, as Pacquiao became the first to score a knockout win over Barrera. He also managed to win a belt in his third different weight class, a major accomplishment that solidified his status as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Victory over Oscar De La Hoya via RTD in 8th round: Dec. 6, 2008
"The Dream Fight."
Any bout labeled so emphatically automatically makes the top of any fighter's career list, regardless of whether or not it turned out to be a bit of a dud.
Pacquiao, at this point, was widely hailed as the best in the world, but many suggested he entered at a major disadvantage. Oscar De La Hoya was a legend, and his jump to the welterweight division suggested he would wind up with a loss.
"We knew we had him after the first round," Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot."
That about says it all. Pacquiao came out aggressive and won the overall power-punch battle, 195-51 per CompuBox stats (via BoxingScene.com), before De La Hoya's side threw in the towel after the eighth round. It was a severe beating and one that cemented Pacquiao's status as a global sensation.
Victory over Ruslan Provodnikov via unanimous decision: March 16, 2013
Bradley's list is a bit shorter with him essentially being a new kid on the block and one whose recent success is the most notable.
Take his stunning victory over Ruslan Provodnikov, a fight most consider far and away the best fight of the 2013 calendar year. Bob Velin of USA Today summed up the jaw-dropping performance best:
Bradley fought in a style unlike anything anybody had seen from him, going toe to toe with the "Siberian Rocky" from the opening bell.
The action was back and forth throughout, as Bradley went down in the first round — though it was ruled a slip — and was out on his feet in the second round after he was concussed by the heavy hands of Provodnikov, a former sparring partner of Pacquiao who was trained by Freddie Roach.
Bradley came out reckless with something to prove and went toe-to-toe with Provodnikov in a bout that was not decided until the final second. Concussed, knocked down multiple times and with the WBO welterweight title still around his waist, Bradley did much to prove to the world his win over Pacquiao was no fluke.
Victory over Manny Pacquiao via split decision: June 9, 2012
Perhaps the most controversial decision of all time, Bradley walked away with the strap and a career-defining win, regardless of how fans around the globe felt about the outcome.
To his credit, Bradley did much to hang around and came on very strong in the second half of the fight. That said, the victory clearly should have gone to Pacquiao.
Regardless, the fleeting chance at glory was seized by Bradley—for better or worse—and solidified his status as a top name in the sport. He's since gone on to prove he belongs, but the controversial decision—and the fact that he stuck with Pacquiao for 12 full rounds—speaks volumes about his ability and place in the hierarchy of the sport.