Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley will put the WBO welterweight title on the line when he and Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao lock horns on Saturday night, but both men will be competing for much more than that.
Bradley controversially defeated Pacquiao by split decision two years ago, and even though it went down in the record books as a victory, Bradley has been trying to prove himself ever since.
The perception is that Pacquiao deserved to win the fight. The chips didn't fall his way, though, and he then proceeded to get knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez. Pac-Man rebounded with a win over Brandon Rios, but some people question whether or not he might be at the tail end of his career.
Bradley and Pacquiao have a lot to prove, so this is promising to be a highly competitive and entertaining contest. Judging was a major point of contention in their previous battle, but here is a look at the projected scorecard for the rematch along with the keys to victory for each boxer.
|Boxer||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6|
|Boxer||Round 7||Round 8||Round 9||Round 10||Round 11||Round 12||Total|
Pacquiao's Keys to Victory
Aside from actually being awarded the win, most people within the boxing world seem to believe that Pacquiao did enough to beat Bradley two years ago. Two out of the three judges didn't agree, so Pac-Man finds himself in a position where he needs to win decisively in order to erase all doubt.
As seen in these punch stats courtesy of the World Boxing Organization from the first Pacquiao vs. Bradley fight, Pac-Man was fairly efficient:
In fact, when compared to Bradley's statistics, he was downright dominant:
Although Bradley threw more punches, Pacquiao's offense seemed to be cleaner and more efficient. Each and every round is supposed to be scored without bias, but one has to believe that the judges might subconsciously favor Pacquiao in close rounds after what happened in the first fight.
With that in mind, the only way to ensure a victory is via knockout. Bradley has never lost, so he has obviously never been knocked out. That didn't stop Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach from predicting a knockout win for his fighter, though, according to Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine:
I think that he does have his killer instinct and I think that he's been a little compassionate for some fights. But for this one, I think that he's a little bit angry about that. He always tells me that he wants to give the people what they want, and I told Manny, 'people want a knockout.' I think that we're all on the same page. I think Manny's going to win this fight by knockout, and I think that he's going to look good doing it.
Pacquiao has gone eight fights without winning via knockout, and while it would be nice to end the bout that way, it isn't likely. There is a huge element of mystery when it comes to the judges, but as long as Pacquiao stays aggressive like he did in the first fight, he should be rewarded.
Bradley's Keys to Victory
Who will win this fight?
Even though Bradley is the one with a win under his belt, he has a lot more to prove than Pacquiao in this contest. His win was roundly criticized and discounted, so he is practically entering this fight without having had previous success against Pacquiao. Because of that, he has to dazzle and take it to Pac-Man.
There is no question that Bradley was on the defensive far too often in the first fight. The judges apparently saw something that they liked, but the general public was unimpressed with his performance since he never tried to control the pace of the bout.
Bradley has blamed injuries to both his feet for his passive performance two years ago, but he is confident that things will be different now that he's healthy, per ESPN.com:
I was able to show my boxing ability against Marquez with two good feet, so this will be no different. I will be faster than Pacquiao, I will have better defense than Pacquiao, I will be hungrier than Pacquiao. (...) I have been in the ring with Pacquiao, so I know exactly what to expect. There are a few adjustments that I will make and with two good feet under me, and, at the end of the night, I will be victorious again.
Bradley looked much more explosive in his two fights following the initial Pacquiao bout. He beat both Ruslan Provodnikov and Marquez, and he enters Saturday's bout with a ton of momentum behind him.
Like Pacquiao, Bradley probably feels some pressure to end this fight with a knockout. That isn't Desert Storm's game, though, as just 12 of his 31 wins have come in that manner. If he tries to chase a knockout that isn't there, he'll leave himself susceptible to Pacquiao's still-present power.
Bradley shouldn't be afraid to go to the scorecards again, but he has to be moving forward rather than backward this time.
It seems to be Bradley vs. the world heading into this fight after what happened two years ago. There isn't much belief that he can win again since luck may not be on his side this time, but Bradley has developed into a much better fighter since then.
Pacquiao was impressive in his win over Rios, but that knockout loss to Marquez still looms large. Bradley was able to defeat Marquez, and that has seemingly given him a great deal of confidence. That was apparent in some of his comments leading up to Saturday's bout, courtesy of Gerry Ramos of Spin.ph:
I know this is my time. I know the reason why the stage is set. I know why I am here. I know exactly why the controversy happened the first time. It's my time, it's my moment. I don't care who believes or who doesn't believe, but on Saturday night I'll justify all of that by taking care of my business.
There has been a lot of knockout talk entering this bout; however, this has all the makings of a fight that will go the distance. That will put a lot of pressure on Bradley's shoulders, but he seemingly has the makeup needed to deal with it.
These fighters have been heading in different directions since their first meeting. Bradley is on the ascent, while Pacquiao is on the downside of his career. With that in mind, Bradley will surprise many by truly earning a decision victory on Saturday.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter