A lot has passed for both Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao since the two boxers dueled in 2012 in a controversial split-decision Bradley victory, but all of the questions will be answered in the ring Saturday night.
In the twilight of his career, Pacquiao enters Saturday with seemingly one last chance to reach the pinnacle of the sport. He would take Bradley's WBO welterweight belt—the same one he reluctantly gave to Desert Storm after judges gave him a narrow victory in their first bout.
Bradley himself has faced some obstacles getting to his rematch with Pacquiao. The 30-year-old fought Juan Manuel Marquez, who had just beat Pacquiao, and just barely survived off the skin of his teeth with another split-decision win.
Needless to say, both boxers have plenty to fuel them in the biggest fights of their respective careers and legacies. Let's break down the biggest storylines.
Were the Judges Right?
No matter what happens, Pacquiao-Bradley will always go down as a controversial finish. But for the most part, the argument should be put to rest Saturday night.
In their first fight, Pacquiao seemed to be in control for all 12 rounds. He was controlling the pace, running Bradley in circles and landing more quality blows.
At certain points, it became obvious that Pacquiao was holding back from finishing off Bradley when he had the chance. He looked to be content letting the decision go the judges' way, and he learned his lesson the hard way.
Going into the fight, it looked like a tough matchup for Pacquiao, but he seemed to show up and give Bradley some of his best stuff. However, in the end, Pacquiao left the ring with his first loss to that point since 2005.
As if Pac-Man wasn't fueled enough by that development, he has the inevitability that his career is all but over if this fight doesn't go his way.
At the very least, we should find out how much stock to put into the first bout the two had.
Will Bradley's Talk Comes Back to Haunt Him?
Trash talk is of the norm in boxing, especially leading up to a fight of this magnitude. But Bradley launched a mortar Pacquiao's way in the months before this one.
Bradley told FightHype.com's Ben Thompson some choice words of the 35-year-old in his last fight, an easy win over Brandon Rios:
"He doesn't have that killer instinct. Yeah, he didn't have that killer instinct in the (Brandon) Rios fight... There was times where he probably could've finished Rios, or attempt to, and he played it safe, you know what I'm saying. So I think that's gonna definitely work in my advantage."
“The more he says it, the more it inspires me to show the hunger and the killer instinct he is talking about,” Pacquiao said. “I am not angry or disappointed about what he says to me, but I’m happy that he has told me that because it inspires me to train hard and to focus in the gym on my game plan and focus on the fight. It is a benefit for me.”
Pacquiao said it himself—Bradley's comments are more of motivation than anything. If he chooses—and he obviously has—to take offense to what Bradley said, it could very well end in Pacquiao showing no mercy.
Bradley better hope that his opponent doesn't get him on the ropes, or he might start to regret that comment.
Does Pacquiao Still Have 'It'?
To Bradley's credit, some of his sharp words hurled Pacquiao's way were on point.
Even before he faced Bradley, Pacquiao was starting to become the subject of criticism. He hadn't faced a dangerous fighter in years, and he had battled some of them in uninspiring fashion.
Furthermore, it has been awhile since his emphatic defeats of Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya.
But what Pacquiao needs to avenge more than anything is his recent losses to Bradley and Marquez.
Any justification Pac-Man had for his fight with Bradley was laid to rest with one blow from Juan Manuel Marquez. In their fourth and seemingly final bout, Marquez knocked Pacquiao out. Pacquiao has recovered by comfortably beating Brandon Rios, but he won't get much credit for that if he doesn't now get past Bradley.
Pacquiao has everything to prove at this point. His career is diminishing. A chance to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. before he retires will evaporate completely if he doesn't win impressively Saturday night.
Pac-Man will go down as a boxing legend either way, but he still has a chance to further improve that legacy.