Manny Pacquiao squares off with Timothy Bradley on Saturday for a rematch of their highly controversial June 2012 bout. That result saw a judges' decision deliver Bradley a shocking victory, which was the boxing equivalent of scoring eight more touchdowns than the opposition and still losing the game.
After wide speculation that Pacquiao's career might be over, he will look to exact a measure of justice in his second chance at Bradley. Neither fighter is prone to either winning or losing by knockout, and here are four reasons why the much-anticipated rematch will go the distance.
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
When: Saturday, April 12, 9 p.m. ET
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View
1. Seeking Payback Through Total Domination
The first bout between these two stoked historic controversy over the scoring, as Pacquiao appeared to win at the very least 10 rounds of the fight but still lost a split decision.
Allen Barra of The Atlantic summarized the ludicrous judging last time out. CompuBox showed Pacquiao landing 253 of 751 punches thrown (34 percent), and Bradley connected on only 19 percent (115 of 839). Pacman finished with 82 more power punches landed than Bradley.
ESPN's Dan Rafael and HBO's Harold Lederman each scored the fight 119-109 for Pacquiao, meaning they thought he won 11 of the 12 rounds. Instead, the official judges disagreed:
Judge Jerry Roth said 115-113 Pacquiao—that's seven rounds to five. Officials C.J. Ross and Duane Ford both had it 115-113 for Bradley..If Roth thought Pacquiao won only seven rounds of the 12, his boxing license should be suspended. And that will tell you what I think of Ross and Ford's evaluations.
After seemingly doing everything necessary to win in the first incarnation, Pacman will be eager to put together another dominant display of his superiority by beating up Bradley for a full 36 minutes. A second questionable decision for Bradley would have the judges struggling to get out of the arena without confronting an angry mob.
2. Pacman Does Not Get Knocked Out, Bradley Does Not Knock Opponents Out
Since a third-round knockout suffered in Thailand against Medgoen Singsurat in 1999, Pacquiao has only lost three times. Of those, only Juan Manuel Marquez was able to dispatch him before the full 12 rounds.
That crushing blow from Marquez knocked Pacman out cold in December 2012 and handed him a second straight loss in six months after falling to Bradley. Since then, Pacquiao's only fight was a November 2013 tune-up against Brandon Rios, which Pacman won by unanimous decision.
Bradley has never (officially) lost a fight in his career and has a 31-0-0 record with 12 KOs to his credit. However, aside from TKO wins in 2011 and 2007, Bradley's last outright knockout came in 2006 against Alfonso Sanchez.
Both fighters have a familiarity with their opponent's style, and neither one is prone to either winning or losing by knockout, suggesting 12 rounds of impending fisticuffs.
3. Bradley Has Plenty to Prove
As a result of a victory that was seen as not just tainted but a complete robbery by many, Bradley was affected in subsequent matches in numerous ways. He altered his style, sustained an injury then came back with fearless determination to beat Juan Manuel Marquez in October 2013 to retain his welterweight title.
Nevertheless, despite that encouraging victory over the fighter who had KO'd Pacman less than a year earlier, Bradley's health remains in question.
As noted by ESPN's Dan Rafael:
Bradley has been obsessed since the Pacquiao fight with earning the respect from fans and media he was denied afterward. It led Bradley to change his style and fight in an unnatural brawl in March (2013) against Ruslan Provodnikov, who nearly knocked him out multiple times, dropped him in the 12th round and left him with a concussion, from which he was feeling the effects for at least two months after the fight.
Bradley actually told Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News four days before the Pacquiao rematch that the concussion gives him a "huge advantage because I know I can endure a lot of pain. Everybody thought I'd be damaged goods after the fight (with Provodnikov). But I wasn't."
However, Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, who also trains Provodnikov and suffers from Parkinson's disease, disagreed with Bradley's assessment of the concussion, per Abramson: "It can't be good. I worry about him sometimes as a fighter. And I think Manny is going to remind him of those shots when they fight."
If Bradley tries to brawl once again, he could very well get stunned in the early going. Pacquiao still possesses blazing speed in the ring, which once had many pundits nodding in agreement that he was the best pound-for-pound puncher in boxing history.
Bradley is a skilled fighter, but he should resort to locking Pacman up in close quarters when he gets the chance. Pacquiao must fight off those tie-ups and keep Bradley at target distance, but the rematch is set to be a long slog.
If Bradley can control the pace of the fight at least somewhat, there would be no better way to prove the full measure of his worth than turning in a convincing win through the full 12 rounds.
4. Pacquiao is Nearly on to the Next Fight
Despite his fleeting dominance and advancing age, the 35-year-old Pacquiao arrived at MGM Grand brimming with confidence about a rematch victory. If he underestimates Bradley at all, the politician from the Philippines will have to make sure he has scored an undeniable landslide after 12 rounds.
Pacquiao addressed reporters' questions after arriving at the venue, saying per Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail, "I believe I can go on for another couple of years at least....I’m not only hungry but I still have the same speed and boxing skill and I intend to continue to continue my journey...Winners always think positive. I am positive I will set the record straight against Bradley."
In fact, Pacman is so positive of a win, he's already considering options for his next marquee bout, via Powell: "Already on record as saying '(Floyd) Mayweather only has to call and say he wants to fight me and the fight is on,' Pacquiao now adds: 'If Marquez is impressive in his upcoming fight I am not against fighting him again and closing the book on that one.'"
Who will win the fight?
Pacquiao has already fought Marquez four times, going 2-1-1. The Bradley rematch is not only about his legacy, however. He will need to beat Bradley soundly enough to leave no question in anyone's mind, especially not any of the judges, before looking ahead to the next opponent.
If Pacman is unable to get past Bradley, it would seriously hinder hype for a potential bout with Mayweather or yet another rematch with Marquez. Pacquiao wants to use the rematch as a stepping stone, and the most likely outcome is indeed another 12-round tussle dominated by Pacman. As of April 10, Oddsshark had the odds favoring Pacquiao heavily at minus-205.
A knockout would be disastrous for him, but playing it safe and going the distance would make it nearly impossible for judges to deliver a decision in favor of Bradley unless the American turns in a spectacular domination.