Strap in for a wild ride, because the rematch that sees Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley put their careers on the line April 12 is set to go the distance in a brutal display of violence and stamina.
Pacquiao in particular has everything to lose at the age of 35. He lost the first bout in an admittedly unfair fashion as the judges had the look of deer in headlights, but he went on to get knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez and score a not-so-convincing win over Brandon Rios.
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.
In order to avoid that miserable outcome to what has been a legendary career, Pacquiao has to learn from past mistakes while also kicking his stamina up a notch to match the younger Bradley for 12 rounds.
Now, Pacquiao's stamina has never been an issue, but one can agree it's something that begins to naturally wane with age. Compound that with issues in his recent fights and it's easy to see why his endurance should be the focal point of the fight.
Against Bradley, Pacquiao will have to do more work than normal. He seemed winded, if not downright lackadaisical, in his last encounter with Bradley and allowed the American to come on strong in the late rounds. He should have still won, but the approach was a red flag.
Then came the knockout at the hands of JMM. Pacquiao simply didn't see the glove headed his way as the fight wore on, which is obviously abnormal. In his bout with Rios he appeared timid, through what was likely a combo of his fear of another knockout and simple strategy.
Compounding the issue is the younger Bradley, who has done nothing but improve. As Roach told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the American's progress is a concern:
It's tougher. He fought different against Ruslan than he did against Manny. So he's tougher to predict. But a couple of basic things are there. He will exchange because when he gets hit his instinct is to fight back. He's a little wild when he comes forward. He sticks his chin up a little bit. I think Manny can hit him with some serious shots down the middle when he does that.
Does Pacquiao have the stamina to be the aggressor this time around? What about the chin? He struggles with fighters similar to him who would rather sit back and react. Bradley does just that and may do so again to great effect on Saturday.
The mental side of the equation speaks for itself. Pacquiao surely wants to score a convincing win to help extend his career. He can make that decision on his own rather than leave it in the hands of a third party through a knockout.
In order to do so, Pacquiao has to buck his naturally aging body and remain on the attack while sustaining violent blows above the waist. Heavy hands and dragging feet will play a factor in the late rounds, as Bradley won't necessarily go for broke either.
If Pacquiao can come out more aggressive with renewed stamina and purposefully use his energy, he'll come away the victor. If not, a golden era of boxing may slam shut with finality.