Almost two years after their controversial first bout that saw Timothy Bradley become a household name in the world of boxing and Manny Pacquiao "lose" his first fight in over seven years, the two welterweights will once again face off on Saturday at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
In one of the most controversial decisions in recent times, the first fight was scored in favour of Bradley despite nearly everyone watching (and just about everyone who figured Bradley-bashing was cool) agreeing Pac-Man deserved the win.
Two years later, Pacquiao will get his chance to convince the judges they had it wrong the first time around, but Bradley won't be the only opponent the former pound-for-pound king will face on Saturday.
At 35 years of age and coming off consecutive bouts in which he looked nothing like the whirlwind of destruction we've come to know and love, Pacquiao might be fighting Father Time as much as the man standing in front of him.
Pacquiao needs more than just his instincts and his thunderous jab. He needs a plan.
Don't try to change who he is
Pacquiao's decision win over Brandon Rios wasn't controversial in any way, but it still had people talking. In his first fight back since his knockout loss against Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao looked timid and lacked his traditional aggressiveness, opting to try to outbox Rios as opposed to taking the fight to the American.
That's simply not who the Pac-Man is, and even Bradley thinks he shouldn't try to be a "nice guy," as shared by David Kano of MMA Show News:
Timothy Bradley: "Manny Pacquiao's lost his fire for boxing. He's too nice."— David Kano (@TheDKano) April 3, 2014
Pacquiao is a puncher. That's who he always has been, and at 35, he's simply too old to change that. Perhaps the knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez made him think about the way he fights, or perhaps he needed a first fight against someone like Rios to get used to being in the ring after a one-year hiatus.
Either way, it doesn't matter. Pacquiao has made a career out of turning boxing matches into all-out wars, and Bradley is too good a fighter to lose to the Pac-Man the same way Rios did. As legendary a fighter as he may be, Pacquiao can't outbox Bradley, and he shouldn't try.
Take (calculated) risks
Building on the previous point: It doesn't hurt to take a few shots left and right. Bradley has demonstrated he has a tremendous chin over the last few years, but there are few fighters who pack the kind of knockout punch Pacquiao can throw, as his 38 career knockouts indicate, according to BoxRec.com.
Yes, we're talking about the 35-year-old Pacquiao and not Pacquiao in his prime, but it's a well-established fact a fighter's punch is the last thing to go, and the Pac-Man is but two years removed from being considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Thinking he's come to the point where he's lost his power would be foolish, and as Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com put it, watching the 35-year-old work the heavy bag is still an impressive sight:
Manny Pacquiao working the heavy bag is one of the most impressive things Ive seen in the gym, the blend of speed and power #boxing— Steve Kim (@stevemaxboxing) April 5, 2014
We all remember what happened the last time Pacquiao took a serious risk, and another knockout similar to the one that happened in his fight with Marquez is something he'll absolutely try to avoid, but Bradley isn't nearly the counterpuncher Marquez is.
Give any fighter too many openings though, and they'll take advantage. Moving forward and taking chances is the way to go for Pacquiao, but he shouldn't overdo it.
Start the fight early
At the age of 35, can Pacquiao still go 12 rounds with one of the world's best fighters? Frankly, I don't know, and I doubt whether even Pacquiao himself knows. There's only one way to find out, but the Pac-Man shouldn't let doubts about his conditioning play any role in Saturday's bout.
Against a fighter as skillful as Bradley, starting out slow means falling behind on the scorecards, and that is one thing Pacquiao needs to avoid at all cost. Losing a couple of early rounds will conjure up memories of that faithful fight two years ago, and few fighters in the world are as skilled at defending the lead as Bradley.
Pacquiao doesn't just want to win this fight, he wants to win decisively and show the world his first bout with Bradley was a fluke, a mistake on the part of the judges. Struggling early will invite doubt, not just in the minds of the people watching but within Pacquiao himself.
And while Bradley might not be an exceptionally good puncher, having to chase a fighter in the latter rounds to avoid a loss on the cards is just asking for trouble.
In short, the blueprint for Pacquiao to win this fight is simple: He has to remember what made him great and why he was seen as the pound-for-pound king for all those years.
If Pacquiao comes out swinging and remembers what happened against Marquez without allowing that fight to control his approach to this bout, it'll give him his best chance at avenging his loss to Bradley two years ago.