Mike Coppinger of USA Today confirmed Rafael's report.
“It’s a done deal and it’s going to be a third fight against [Timothy] Bradley. We took a lot of consideration knowing Bradley has improved a lot as a fighter since the last time they’ve met in 2014,” Top Rank CEO Bob Arum told Josef T. Ramos of the Manila Times earlier on Wednesday.
“Bradley is happy about it of course and that’s really a competitive fight for Manny [Pacquiao]," Arum added.
"People should not buy this fight because they believe it's Manny's last fight," Arum said, per Coppinger. "They should buy it if they believe with Bradley's improvement this is a really competitive fight."
While Pacquiao (57-6-2) is still a major draw, he's getting prepared to take the next step in his Filipino political career. Arum previously noted in October the 37-year-old star has his eye on a Senate seat, meaning boxing will likely get pushed out of the equation, per Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times.
"He can't [mess] around and take off to go into a training camp for three months if he's in office as a senator," Arum said. "Senators do most of the work in the Philippines. They have to be there virtually every day. He knows if he's a senator, he can't fight."
Given Pac-Man's age and the six-year terms in the Philippines' Senate, the latest battle with Bradley (33-1-1) could very well mark the end of his athletic career.
There was also talk about a potential rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. After years of hype, the so-called superfight failed to live up to expectations as Pacquiao lost by unanimous decision in a lackluster contest that lacked action. He later admitted a shoulder injury limited him.
Now he's working his way back to full strength and, if he's indeed heading into his last bout, will certainly want to end on a high note after losing three of his past six fights.
It's an important rubber match for Bradley as well. He surprised a lot of members of the boxing community when he scored a victory, albeit by controversial split decision, over Pac-Man in 2012. He wasn't nearly as competitive in the rematch loss.
Coppinger passed along comments from the 32-year-old American, who claims a torn calf is the main reason he struggled to keep pace in the second meeting.
"You can't move," Bradley said. "You can't do the things that you need to do. I felt that if I was 100 percent, if I hadn't torn the calf, I would have done a lot better."
He followed the loss to Pacquiao with a draw against Diego Gabriel Chaves before getting back on track with victories over Jessie Vargas and Brandon Rios. Now he gets a chance for another marquee win over one of the era's top fighters.
Ultimately, it may have been more interesting to see Pacquiao go up against a new opponent in the form of Amir Khan, Danny Garcia or Terence Crawford. Instead he'll try to settle the score against Bradley with another convincing performance.
It's also important for Pac-Man to finish on a high note. The Mayweather clash produced monster financial numbers, but it was a disappointment for him both in terms of the result and the lack of impact he made against the five-division world champion.
A victory over Bradley would help him move forward to the next stage of his life on a more positive note.
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