The longer the fight goes, the slimmer the chance Timothy Bradley has of retaining his WBO welterweight title in Saturday's rematch against Manny Pacquiao at Las Vegas' MGM Grand.
Since Bradley only has 12 knockouts in his 31-0 career, odds are that this bout will go the full 12 rounds, just as it did in the boxers' initial encounter on June 6, 2012. A hotly debated split-decision victory was awarded to Bradley then, but if he's unable to knock Pacquiao to the canvas for good, the title will be Pac-Man's again.
Although there is pressure on Bradley to back up his previous win that many feel wasn't just, Pacquiao is essentially in a must-win scenario to keep his career going.
At least, that's what trainer Freddie Roach recently told reporters:
This is a 'must-win' situation on Saturday night, and if we don't win this fight we have to consider maybe retirement. So this is a big, big fight for him. We are in a 'must-win' situation, it's as simple as that. Some people think we are all done and we have to prove that we are not.
The blinding, quick combinations Pacquiao is capable of laying down as an unconventional southpaw have made him a force in the ring for years. After a loss to Bradley and being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez thereafter, he came back strong in a victory over Brandon Rios.
Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com points out how well Pacquiao has trained for the Bradley rematch too:
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
In his past seven fights, Pacquiao has not registered a knockout himself, opting to wear down his opponents but still allowing them to finish the bout. Some have been critical of this approach, but it's precisely what makes Bradley such a favorable matchup.
Bradley has neither the quickness nor the power behind his punches that Pacquiao does, so the more damage Pacquiao can inflict over a longer span of time, the tougher it will be for judges to deny him a win for a second time.
Plus, if Pacquiao does indeed retire once this fight concludes should he lose, it's hard to imagine he would hold anything back.
That is, unless he's lost the passion for boxing he once had. Based on what Roach told reporters, this doesn't seem to be the case:
[Pacquiao] was not too happy about the way Bradley was talking about him, he said he felt disrespected. You see, Manny is a good guy. He doesn't talk bad about anybody, but he felt disrespected by him. Manny lights up at disrespect [...] turns it up a notch. That switches something in him. He now wants payback. He has the killer instinct and I feel when he hurts Bradley in this one, he will finish him. He feels the same way about Marquez, too, by the way.
This is all about vengeance for Pacquiao, whose career and pride are both on the line. As far as rematches go, the stakes could hardly be higher for one of the best boxers of all time.
Pacquiao is seemingly doubted more for his willingness to knock opponents out than his actual ability to still devastate an opponent with a knockout blow. Now that Bradley has egged him on and doesn't have the explosiveness to back it up, look for Pacquiao to make his foe pay for the disrespect he's shown.
What will Manny Pacquiao do in and after Saturday's fight?
It won't be a knockout triumph, but that will also be the beauty of it.
Pac-Man will let Bradley battle away, pummel him and show off his longevity, toughness and superior punching to the judges, who will have no choice but to return the WBO welterweight title to him.
Roach didn't exactly give the strongest vote of confidence and seemed to imply that Bradley has a chance to win in discussing Pacquiao's potential retirement. It seems evident that Pacquiao wants to move forward with boxing at the moment, though—commitments to politics and other issues aside. At least, that will hopefully be the case.
There were strong indications in the Rios fight that Pacquiao has plenty left in the tank. A long-awaited tangle with Floyd Mayweather Jr. could be in the cards if Pac-Man pulls off a win on Saturday night.
If not—and in the opinion of yours truly, a Pacquiao loss won't happen—it would be an abrupt end to a phenomenal career for one of boxing's living legends.