Timothy Bradley had an opportunity to strike gold against Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night.
At 30 years old he was at the perfect age to become one of the sport's biggest stars. With a controversial decision victory over his legendary opponent already on his resume, he was on the cusp of making himself the welterweight division's biggest star outside of Floyd Mayweather.
A second win over the eight-division champion would have made Bradley's star shine even brighter and put him in position for even more big-money fights down the road.
For approximately five rounds of Saturday night's fight, it really appeared that he could be heading toward a not-so-controversial win over Pacquiao. However, it was Bradley who squandered this opportunity.
Which fight would you rather see Pacquiao take next?
After five rounds of competing with Pacquiao (and arguably getting the better of him), Bradley decided that it wasn't good enough to beat his aging opponent, he was going to embarrass him. "Desert Storm" abandoned the aggression that was allowing him to score early and often and opted for a strategy that saw him do much more taunting and jawing than actually punching and scoring.
Whether this was the result of an injury, as Bradley brought up after the fight, or just a poor strategic decision after watching Juan Manuel Marquez knock out Pacquiao with one well-timed power punch is unknown. What is known is that Bradley gave away his shot at winning a fight that would have been massive for his career.
And that is exactly why there really is no need for a third fight.
Yes, the score is officially tied 1-1 between the tow fighters. Yes, the HBO commentary team was already talking about a third match before the end credits rolled on the pay-per-view telecast.
However, in the eyes of many, Pacquiao was the victim of bad judging in the first bout and should have picked up the win over Bradley. This time around, he left no doubt, as he was clearly the superior fighter once the fight got going. One look at the scorecards indicates a wide-margin victory for "The Fighting Pride of the Philippines":
But most importantly, Bradley didn't put in the kind of performance that would earn him another shot at Pacquiao. Looking ahead to the rest of Pacquiao's career, his days have to be numbered. At 36 years old, there are only so many more fights "Pac-Man" will be able to take.
Bradley's performance was certainly not the kind that would warrant him taking up one of Pacquiao's few remaining fights he has left in the the tank. Rather than go out on his shield with guns ablazing like he fought in the first half of the fight, Bradley clowned his way to the loss.
#PacquiaoBradley2 IDK what Bradley is doing but he is losing these rounds. If he would stop clowning & box he could be winning.— FightNights.com™ (@boxing) April 13, 2014
Instead, Pacquiao should turn his attention to avenging one more loss—the devastating knockout defeat suffered at the right hand of rival Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012.
The duo have fought four times throughout their careers, sure. But both fighters have gone to battle each time, and the pairing has brought guaranteed excitement for fans. The latest installment, the one that ended with Pacquiao in a heap on the canvas, was a thrilling back-and-forth that Pacquiao was winning before the knockout.
As for Bradley, he needs to pick up another win or two before thinking about a three-match. After seeking some redemption of his own against Pacquiao in this bout, perhaps offering Ruslan Provodnikov the opportunity to run back their 2013 Fight of the Year.
After all, that would be the perfect stage for Bradley to prove that he can remain collected and in control against an aggressive puncher if given the chance to settle the score against Pacquiao.