There will be a handful of truly big fights in 2014, but none of them as important as Saturday's WBO welterweight title rematch between champion, "Desert Storm" Timothy Bradley and Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao.
The MGM Grand in Las Vegas will be buzzing for this one.
Not only are two of the sport's biggest stars set to renew acquaintances after a controversial ending to their first meeting, but the stakes are even higher for Pacquiao and Bradley this time around.
Drama from the First Bout
In their first meeting back in June 2012, Bradley took the WBO title away from Pacquiao via a highly disputed split decision. Most believed that Pacquiao deserved the decision, though there were a few that thought Bradley earned the win.
In the video below, HBO's Max Kellerman says: "some people of whom's opinion I trust" think Bradley won the fight.
Per BoxRec.com, the official judges scored the fight as followed:
Judge: Duane Ford 115-113 - Bradley
Judge: C.J. Ross 115-113 - Bradley
Judge: Jerry Roth 113-115 - Pacquiao
The decision in this bout helped fuel the criticism of Ross. Ultimately, the embattled judge took a leave of absence (per Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports) after her scorecards for future bouts also came under fire.
Nevertheless, this bout gives each man a chance to set the record straight. When this one is over, hopefully there will be no doubt who is the better fighter.
Here's the information you need to catch the fight.
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
When: Saturday, April 12, card begins at 9 p.m. ET
TV: HBO pay-per-view
Referee: Kenny Bayless
Judges: Glenn Trowbridge, Michael Pernick, Craig Metcalfe
Odds: per Odds Shark (Pacquiao -200, Bradley +162)
(Subject to change before beginning of the fight)
- WBA Junior Welterweight Title Bout (c) Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KO) vs. Jessie Vargas (23-0, 9 KO)
- Arash Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KO) vs. Raymundo Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KO)
- Interim WBA Super Featherweight Title - (c) Bryan Vasquez (32-1, 17 KO) vs. Jose Felix Jr (26-0-1, 21 KO)
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The Book on Pacquiao
Since the First Fight
Pacquiao’s next fight after losing to Bradley was the low point of his legendary career. Long-time rival Juan Manuel Marquez viciously knocked him out in the sixth round of their Dec. 2012 bout.
The loss created doubts and concerns as to whether Pacquiao could or should continue his career.
He took nearly a year off before taking on Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios last November.
In a fight that looked like an overhyped sparring session, Pacquiao boxed circles around the slow and plodding Rios.
Pacquiao won a unanimous decision, but critics pointed to the fact that he couldn't stop Rios. When at his best, Pacquiao was one of the sport's most vicious punchers.
As of now, he hasn't stopped an opponent since he defeated Miguel Cotto in Nov. 2009 by TKO.
Why This is a Must-Win for Pacquiao
Another loss of any kind would be disastrous for Pacquiao.
An undisputed defeat at the hands of Bradley would clearly prove Pacquiao is no longer the most compelling opponent for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
A superfight between Mayweather and Pacquaio has lost much of its luster over the last four or five years. But make no mistake, the fight would still break records if it were signed some time in the near future.
If Bradley beats Pacquiao, it would stamp out the remaining intrigue and Desert Storm would likely replace Pac-Man as the most desired opponent for Mayweather.
Beyond that, Pacquiao's overall legitimacy as an elite contender would be in doubt. It would be his third loss in his last four fights. A setback on Saturday would send the legend tumbling toward mediocrity.
For a proud, future Hall of Famer, that's a futile existence in the sport.
Pacquiao's Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach told Gareth Davies of The Telegraph his fighter will consider retirement if he loses.
Roach also added:
"In the history books you have to avenge your losses, you have to avenge your losses in life."
Without question, this is the most important fight in Pacquiao's illustrious career.
The Book on Bradley
Since the First Fight
Since his initial win over Pacquiao, Bradley has been exciting and, most importantly, has continued to win.
In the 2013 Fight of the Year, Bradley defeated former Pacquiao sparring partner, and current WBO light welterweight champion, Ruslan Provodnikov.
Bradley's pride made this fight a lot closer and more thrilling than it needed to be.
After enduring massive criticism and even threats after the Pacquiao decision, Bradley came into the March 2013 bout with a point to prove.
Bradley talks about the unfortunate events after the first fight with Pacquiao during the HBO 24/7 series to hype the bout with Marquez.
Bradley's anger shaped his aggressive strategy against Provodnikov, but that approach nearly cost him the fight.
Instead of easily outboxing Provodnikov, he engaged in ill-advised exchanges. The powerful Siberian rocked Bradley on a few occasions and dropped him in the final round. Bradley's boxing skills dominated every round that he wasn't hurt, and thus he won a close unanimous decision.
In his next bout, Bradley tamed Pacquiao's oldest nemesis last October.
Fighting much smarter, Bradley was too quick and slick for Marquez. The fight was called a split decision, but Bradley was the better boxer and nearly knocked Marquez down in the final round.
Suddenly, it's Bradley who has become the hottest name.
To perhaps add extra incentive for both Bradley—and certainly Pacquiao—the winner of this fight will be in line to take on the winner of the Mike Alvarado vs. Marquez bout scheduled for May 17, per The Ring Magazine.
Why This is a Must Win for Bradley
This is all about respect for Bradley. The champion has said as much. Per Leighton Gin of The Desert Sun, Bradley said this about his win over Pacquiao: "I got the win, but it felt like I lost because I didn't get any credit from the fans. It's very important to get the credit from the fans."
What's worse for a proud fighter than carrying around a title the vast majority of the community doesn't think you deserve?
If Bradley is ever going to shake the negativity many associate with the first fight, he needs a clean and undisputed win over Pacquiao.
Until that happens, he'll never get the respect he truly deserves.
Bradley can win this fight if he uses his feet, hand speed and brain. However, quotes like this per Douglass Fischer of The Ring Magazine:
and Bradley's burning desire to score an emphatic win over Pacquiao could hurt his chances.
Bradley is a quick, physically fit, tough boxer, but he's not a knockout fighter. There's a reason he has only 12 KOs in his career. If he tries to transform himself into a slugger for effect, he'll put himself in harm's way.
Pacquiao is not the same fighter as in years past.
A prime Pacquiao likely dominates Bradley, but the power outage in Pac-Man's game is real. He lacks the explosiveness and stamina he once had.
In every fight over the last five years, except the Rios bout which didn't tax him mentally or physically, Pacquiao's energy has dipped noticeably in the later rounds.
Because of his current state, Bradley is not a good matchup for him. Long time boxing analyst Larry Merchant said the same thing in this interview with Chris Robinson of Hustle Boss:
Bradley could fall into a trap created by his own anxiousness, but a more likely result is a statement-making boxing exhibition that exposes Pacquiao's current state, and finally proves that Bradley is truly elite in the sport today.
Bradley wins by unanimous decision.
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