Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley both have something to prove heading into their rematch on Saturday night. The first meeting ended in a controversial split-decision victory for Bradley, but he'll need to score another win over the eight-division world champion to validate that result.
While Pacquiao put together a performance that was good enough to beat Bradley the first time around, he failed to deliver a knockout. And by now, boxers and boxing fans know that once things go to the scorecards, the outcome that the judges see isn't always the same as everybody else.
So it's up to Pac-Man to leave no doubt in the second matchup, while Bradley will try to prove the first win wasn't simply a fortunate decision from the judges. With that in mind, let's check out all of the crucial information for the card, followed by the biggest keys for the main event.
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas
When: Saturday, April 12 at 9 p.m. ET
Watch: HBO PPV
Live Stream: TopRank.tv
Biggest Keys to the Fight
Pacquiao: Push the Pace
A worrisome trend for Pacquiao in recent bouts, including losses to Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, is his inability to find the next gear it takes to finish a fight. He's still controlled rounds using an impressive combination of striking ability and quickness, but knockouts have been elusive.
His last victory by KO came against Miguel Cotto all the way back in 2009. In order to bring that drought to an end and avenge the previous defeat to Bradley, Pacquiao must push the pace early and continue to amplify the pressure. If he leaves the door open even slightly, Bradley can capitalize.
Whether Pacquiao has the internal drive necessary to do that is a question mark. Steve Bunce of ESPN UK notes Pac-Man ostensibly still has the skills to dominate but isn't finding a way to showcase that proverbial killer instinct when an opponent is reeling:
It seems that Pacquiao has lost something during the last few years and he has not had a stoppage win in his last seven fights. However, it looks like all that he has lost is his ability to be vicious and not his timing or power; Roach insists that Pacquiao is back and angrier than ever.
Rediscovering that finishing ability is key. If Pacquiao can get Bradley on his heels, which happened a couple of times during the first meeting, he must push for the knockout instead of allowing his opponent to break free and letting the fight get decided by points.
The more Pac-Man can engage Bradley, the better his chances will be of scoring a knockout or at the very least making sure there's no doubt in the minds of the judges.
Bradley: Defend Early, Attack Late
Bradley should know Pacquiao is going to come out with an aggressive game plan. What he doesn't want to do is let that approach dictate the fight so he gets forced into an all-out brawl, which would favor the Filipino sensation.
Instead, the best course of action for the American is to keep his distance early while focusing on defending Pac-Man's power and getting in some shots on the counterattack. Like the first fight, he just wants to remain within striking distance.
Heading into the bout, Bradley seems confident he'll be able to avoid the power game from Pacquiao. In a piece for ESPN.com, he explained that his opponent isn't capable of turning it on like he did when he was one of boxing's dominant forces: "I think his skill set is still there, but he just cannot turn it on like he used to anymore. In the Brandon Rios fight, I saw he had Rios up against the ropes and then he stopped throwing his punches. He took a couple steps back and let Rios out."
So if Bradley can survive that initial surge, he should find more opportunities to go on the offensive in the middle and late rounds. That's when he can start to attack and try to steal enough points to pick up another win—or potentially even a knockout of his own.
All told, Bradley is going to need a more comprehensive performance in the rematch if he wants to push his record against Pacquiao to 2-0. It all starts with good defense in the opening rounds.