Two years after earning a controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao, time will be Timothy Bradley's biggest strength heading into their rematch.
At this point, most boxing fans have probably heard enough about their disputed finish in 2012.
According to CompuBox, Pacquiao landed a lot more punches and boxed much stronger, yet somehow still lost. Bradley won the WBO welterweight title to everyone's confusion and we realized how insanely silly it is to let three people determine a sporting event's outcome.
On Saturday night, Pacquiao and Bradley will meet in Las Vegas to once again trade fists in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Even though Desert Storm emerged victorious last time, he's acting as if he must avenge a defeat. During an international conference call, he played the man-with-everything-to-prove card:
I’m a different fighter now. I’m a different beast. A different animal. And this time around I want to prove it to the fans and prove it to everybody watching. I got the win, but it felt like I lost because I didn’t get any credit for it from the fans. And it’s very important to get the credit from the fans.
Bradley led that statement with the key to winning this fight. Even though he technically won last time, he'll need to show he has improved since their last meeting while Pacquiao has dipped in the other direction.
Looking at their past activity since their controversial clash, it's an easy case to make.
Bradley has since defeated Ruslan Provodnikov in The Ring's 2013 Fight of the Year. Not known for his powerful punch, Desert Storm stood tough against the Russian brawler, matching shots in a violent classic.
Then he defeated Juan Manuel Marquez, who previously recorded a sixth-round knockout over Pacquiao.
Now 35 years old, Pac-Man has not notched a knockout since 2009. He thoroughly manhandled Brandon Rios, but never pulled the trigger on a put-away hit. That conservative attitude allowed the judges to cost him a victory over Bradley, and he kept the younger Rios around for much longer than necessary.
Although Bradley is hardly a kid at age 30, those five years make a drastic difference this late into a boxer's career. While Bradley is still entrenched in his peak, Pacquiao probably already plateaued.
Not likely to hand Pacquiao another knockout, Bradley's younger feet and hungry heart could propel him to a deserved victory if the judges again get the final say. He described his relentlessness to Sports on Earth's Geoffrey Gray in a gripping piece about the two competitors.
"I'm not the most talented," Bradley said. "I don't have the biggest punch or the best speed. But I'm the most willed. If you don't kill me or knock me out, I am going to be there every damn round."
An older, more compassionate Pacquiao could make a huge mistake by letting Bradley linger for too long. Bradley has since proven he belongs among boxing's best while Pacquiao is still searching for that missing gear.
Bradley may not have deserved to win in 2012, but that doesn't mean he can't earn a legitimate triumph this weekend.
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