After a career-altering loss to Timothy Bradley almost two years ago, Manny Pacquiao has had to step back and examine things.
With age comes reduced speed and diminishing returns on both power and ability to sustain a hit. Shortly after the loss to Bradley—a fight he clearly won—Pacquiao was hit with the knockout heard around the world at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez.
One victory later, Pacquiao has to exorcise his demons in the squared circle in an attempt to keep his career alive and forcefully take back the WBO welterweight strap.
With past lessons in hand, Pacquiao has a few focal points to key on against Bradley if he is to turn things around.
Avoid the Counter
It sounds simplistic, but two out of Pacquiao's last three fights have seen the same approach hurt him in a major way.
Bradley loves to fire off straight jabs followed by a crushing hook when the opportunity presents itself, especially after the opposition has misfired or has his back against the ropes.
This move apparently devastated Pacquiao on the scorecards the first time around, and it's a variant of the shot that had him taking a nap on the canvas against JMM:
Worst of all, Bradley knows all too well how to use these maneuvers to great effect against Pacquiao. Not only did he win their first bout, but he also later stepped in the ring with JMM himself and scored a win with this approach.
Pacquiao surely wants to be aggressive in the hopes of a knockout to put the decision in his own hands this time around, but against a technician like Bradley, he has to be smart about his approach.
Keep Foot on the Gas
It was apparent in the first bout with Bradley that Pacquiao was a bit lackadaisical in his approach.
In hindsight, it's easy to see. Here's a legend of the sport who has yet to slow down against a hand-picked opponent who has no real shot at winning. Things progress through the rounds and Pacquiao, his corner and even Bradley's mannerisms—despite a late surge—suggest Pac Man was on his way to the decision.
This time around Pacquiao has to not make the same mistake. He doesn't make it sound like this will be an issue on April 12, via ESPN:
I want to prove to them that I am the best. I am inspired. I am the challenger. I know I will need to outbox and outspeed Bradley. And that is what I will do. This is the first time I have challenged for a world title that I lost. Do I want it back? You bet I do. And I want it back from Tim Bradley.
The best fighters don't make the same mistake twice. If Pacquiao is to keep his career relevant, he has to come out gunning in a smart manner from the opening bell.
Remain Mostly the Same
When it comes right down to it, Pacquiao has to change very little when he enters the ring for the rematch.
He won the last fight in the minds of most outside of two judges. Independent judges hired by the World Boxing Organization even confirmed Pacquiao should have been awarded the victory.
Too much change may doom Pacquiao. There's no reason to drastically fix what worked the first time around before a third party stepped in and took control.
If Pacquiao pairs his normal self with a tad more aggression and an eye for the counter, he'll make the decision easy on judges—if they have the chance.