On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KO) and Timothy Bradley (31-0, 12 KO) will meet for the second time in the ring. This match has been hyped up by media outlets such as HBO’s series 24/7, but don’t expect anything to be different this time around, except for the judges’ scorecards.
Pacquiao and Bradley first fought at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in June of 2012. Most boxing experts and pundits scored Pacquiao as the victor at the end of their 12-round contest, but to everyone's astonishment, the judges handed in a split decision in Bradley’s favor.
This ruling set off a whirl of controversy that has haunted Bradley ever since. Beating Pacquiao should have been the highlight of his career; however, it ended up turning into one of the biggest question marks.
During the first fight, Bradley played the role of defensive counterpuncher. He was cautious and hesitant, which didn’t please fans. Pacquiao pushed the action and was the aggressor throughout the fight, but Bradley’s movement made it hard for Pacquiao to land anything solid.
Overall, their first fight was entertaining but not compelling. No one was ever hurt, and no dynamic flurries were exchanged. In all, the fight took on the appearance of a glorified sparring match, not a $60.00 pay-per-view event.
The controversy of the first fight lies in the difference between the reality of what occurred in the ring and how the judges scored the bout. According to CompuBox, Pacquiao outlanded Bradley 253-159. This is the fight that the majority of the world saw—one where Pacquiao outworked Bradley and landed nearly 100 punches more than him.
But judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford both scored the contest 115-113 in favor of Bradley, which gave him the split-decision victory, even though statistical and qualitative data seemed to prove otherwise.
Since the first Pacquiao fight, Bradley has fought twice and has appeared to have a chip on his shoulder. The criticism he received from the public after his decision victory against Pacquiao has impacted his recent performances.
When he faced Ruslan Provodnikov nearly a year after the Pacquiao fight, Bradley came out throwing power punches and looking for a knockout. He completely changed his style from a defensive counterpuncher to an action brawler. It appeared like he was trying to prove to boxing fans that he deserved to be recognized as one of the best boxers in the world.
His fight with Provodnikov was thrilling to fight fans but also hazardous to his health. Bradley was often hurt in the early rounds and looked several times like he was on the verge of being knocked out.
Somehow, he found ways to rally and outboxed Provodnikov in the middle and later rounds. Bradley was knocked down in the 12th round, but he won by unanimous decision. He gained a lot of fans by displaying courage and perseverance but also received a severe concussion for his efforts.
Against Provodnikov, Bradley proved to fight fans that he has heart and a strong chin. He also learned that he is not a power puncher and is much more efficient as a counterpuncher.
The one way in which Pacquiao vs. Bradley looks appealing is if you believe Bradley’s boxing skills have improved more than Pacquiao’s have regressed. In his last fight, Bradley easily outpointed Juan Manuel Marquez, who ironically knocked out Pacquiao after fighting Bradley.
The mistake that many boxing enthusiasts will make is that they will look at Marquez as a barometer for both fighters. They will use Pacquiao vs. Marquez 4 to show how Pacquiao has lost his edge, while using Marquez vs. Bradley to show Bradley’s growth.
This would be an error on their part.
As the old saying goes, styles make fights. Bradley and Marquez have fought four times, and all of those fights, except for the last one, were close. Their styles mesh together well to expose each other's weaknesses. It’s almost like Pacquiao and Marquez were made to be the ultimate antagonist for each other.
Bradley's style gave Marquez trouble. It forced Marquez out of the comforts of being a pure counterpuncher. He had to be more aggressive to push the action, which usually doesn’t work out well for the Mexican.
When trying to predict the outcome of Saturday night's bout between Pacquiao and Bradley, the best measurement to use is their previous fight. Major changes have occurred in both boxers’ lives since their first fight, but one thing hasn’t changed: their styles.
Look for Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2 to be a carbon copy of Pacquiao vs. Bradley 1. Hopefully, the only thing that changes is the quality of the judges’ scoring.