Bradley wants to erase the doubt of those who believe he didn’t really beat Pacquiao in 2012. Pacquiao wants to erase the doubt of those who insist he has lost his commitment to the sport.
The old cliche about styles making fights is true. Here’s a better one: Doubt makes for great rematches. Especially when the goal for the fighters, a TV network, and the promoter is making the pay-per-view cash register jingle.
That brings us to Saturday night when the lone congressional representative from the Sarangani province in the Philippines, (Congressman) Manny Pacquiao, steps in the MGM Grand Garden ring in Las Vegas for a rematch with WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley (HBO PPV, $59.95, 9 p.m.), boxing’s first mega fight of 2014.
The two fighters first met on June 9, 2012 with Bradley winning a controversial split decision. Bradley not only took the title from Pacquiao but ended his seven-year, 15 fight winning streak. The judges’ decision caused an immediate furor. Promoter Bob Arum, who handled both fighters, was incensed. “I’ve never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight,” he said after the fight.
Things did not get easier for Pacquiao after the loss. He returned to Vegas that December 2012 only to be knocked out in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao returned to fight once in 2013, scoring a unanimous decision win over a lesser opponent, Brandon Rios, last December in China.
Since winning the title, Bradley has been in tough fights. In March, 2013 he was involved in a classic, winning a blood-and-guts unanimous decision over Russian Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley fought with a concussion through most of the fight. Yet he came back seven months later to score a split decision win over Marquez, the man who KO’d Pacquiao in 2012.
There is doubt on both sides here. Bradley wants to erase the doubt of those who believe he didn’t really beat Pacquiao in 2012. Pacquiao wants to erase the doubt of those who insist he has lost his commitment to the sport.
The roads they each took to this fight suggest Bradley is coming in with more momentum. And Pacquiao has much to prove, not only to himself but to the boxing world. In the buildup to the fight, Bradley has more than suggested Pacquiao is now more politician than pugilist.
With Pacquiao seated next to him in an HBO studio, Bradley looked in his opponent’s eyes and said: “The hunger that he’s looking for, it’s no longer there, and he can’t get it back. It’s gone. It’s gone. It is, Manny. Manny, you can’t even sit here and say certain things that you would like to say because of what you believe in. It’s not there anymore. I truly believe that. It’s not there….The killer instinct.”
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