Manny Pacquiao has fought Timothy Bradley twice, and most in the boxing world believe Pacquiao beat his opponent twice.
However, Pacquiao (57-6-2) was done in by a controversial decision in their first fight, but he did manage to rebound and came away victorious in their second encounter. Now comes the rubber match in Las Vegas on Saturday night at the MGM Grand, and if Pacquiao is going to come away with the victory, he is going to have to show he still has the quickness in his 37-year-old hands and legs to hold off an opponent who appears to be improving each time out.
Pacquiao is a 4-9 favorite according to Odds Shark, while Bradley's backers will get odds of 7-4 for a bet on their man.
Pacquiao has not fought since losing to Floyd Mayweather last May, and that fight was disappointing. While Mayweather never appeared to hurt Pacquiao at any point in the fight, he was able to shut off Pac-Man's offensive thrusts consistently. The decision was never in doubt.
Pacquiao has lost three of his last six fights, dating back to the controversial loss to Bradley in 2012. Following that fight, the veteran fighter got into the ring with Juan Manuel Marquez, and even though he knocked Marquez down once and appeared to have gained control of the fight, he suffered a devastating knockout when he ran into a huge right hand at the end of the sixth round.
|Bradley vs. Pacquiao 3 Prop Bets|
|Fight is won in an even-numbered round||9-2|
|Fight is won in an odd-numbered round||9-2|
|Bradley wins in the opening 60 seconds||125-1|
|Pacquiao wins in the opening 60 seconds||125-1|
While many were fearful that Pacquiao's career could have been ended by that fight, he rebounded with one-sided decisions over Brandon Rios, Bradley and Chris Algieri. Then he failed to get anything going against Mayweather, a fight that probably should have taken place three or four years earlier.
Bradley (33-1-1) was in rough shape emotionally after his victory over Pacquiao. In his mind, he had earned a close decision. But the boxing world refused to give him credit, and he could not escape the criticism and the belief many had that Pacquiao was the real winner.
He was basically a recluse after that fight and remained that way until he got into the ring with the hard-punching and aggressive Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley was thought of as a pitty-pat puncher by some until that fight, but he engaged in a brutal bout with his Russian rival, and the two traded punches for 12 rounds. Bradley won a unanimous decision and earned respect from the boxing fans who had doubted him.
He followed that with a split-decision victory over Marquez and then got back in the ring with Pacquiao. He lost a one-sided decision, but by then his redemption was complete. He tried to compete with Pacquiao but lost to the better fighter. However, there was nothing pitty-pat about his game any longer. He went for it.
Since losing to Pacquiao, Bradley is 2-0-1, and one of those victories was a TKO over Rios. He comes into Saturday's bout as a much more complete fighter than he has ever been.
He is still a scientific boxer who looks for his openings and excels at counterpunching. However, when he senses he has the ability to hurt his man, he will attack and throw aggressive, hard punches. Trainer Teddy Atlas has turned Bradley into a volume puncher.
So, a case can be made that Pacquiao will see in Bradley a fighter he is not quite familiar with. How will Pacquiao adjust?
Even if he does make the adjustment, how much does he have left? Pacquiao has not registered a stoppage of any kind since a November 2009 TKO of Miguel Cotto. It's been nearly seven years, and while Pacquiao may have quick hands, there's reason to believe he is no longer capable of knocking out an elite fighter.
Bradley is intelligent and has grown since that controversial first fight. At this point, it's about Bradley's confidence level. If he truly believes in himself and that he is continuing to improve as a fighter, he has a legitimate chance to win this bout.
However, Pacquiao is very smart, and his superior quickness will make him a major challenge. He may have just enough left in the tank to win this fight and walk into the sunset of retirement with a victory.
Pacquiao had said in January that he would retire after the Bradley fight, but he has backed off that point in recent weeks.
"I cannot say right now that I am going to retire," Pacquiao told the Telegraph's Gareth A. Davies. "I don’t want to say that because I don’t know what the feeling is when you leave boxing. I will give it great thought when I return home. My mind right now says to retire, but we don’t know."
If Pacquiao has anything but a stellar performance that leads to a one-sided decision or an unexpected knockout, he probably should retire. He has little to prove in a sport he has starred in for many years.
Look for Pacquiao to get off to a good start and jump to an early lead with his quick hands and sharp punching in the first few rounds. Bradley will come on in the middle rounds and will look like he has gained the advantage by the eighth or ninth round. That's when Pacquiao will show his champion's heart and rally for a win that will give him the decisive edge in the series.
Look for Pacquiao to win a unanimous 12-round decision by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-112.