Friday, April 11, 2014

Plenty at Stake for Both Fighters in Pacquiao-Bradley Rematch

Bradley (left) took a split decision the first time these two met, but many thought Pacquiao (right) should have won. Each comes into Saturday night's rematch with something to prove.
By Warren Rodriguez

On June 9th 2012, Timothy Bradley beat Manny Pacquiao by a controversial 12-round split decision to win the WBO welterweight title.

This Saturday brings a chance for revenge. Not Pacquiao's chance, but rather Bradley's. Anybody watching the fight that night saw Manny Pacquiao put on a boxing clinic, arguably winning all 12 rounds. Bradley was ineffective, unaggressive and at times seemed timid to even exchange punches with Pacquiao.

When the scorecards were read, however, it was Bradley who claimed victory, winning the fight 115-113 on two of the three judges cards. One of those judges being C.J. Ross, who also scored Mayweather-Canelo a draw this past September when it was clear Mayweather deserved a unanimous decision (she has since retired from judging).

Two years later, it is Bradley with something to prove after the controversial decision. The split decision victory hurt Bradley's career more than it helped it. Pacquiao didn't want a rematch as he felt he won the fight and had nothing to prove to Bradley, instead electing to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a 4th time. No challengers were stepping up to fight Bradley as he looked so unimpressive against Pacquiao. In the immediate aftermath of the fight Bradley received much vitriol from fans and even death threats.

Bradley has described the experience as the most painful period of his life, and a dark cloud that continues to linger over his head. Bradley feels this fight will finally give him the respect he deserves.

"Look I beat this guy already, but nobody believes that I did," explains Bradley. "For me, this fight is about one word and that's respect. I didn't get any credit for beating him the first time. I'm sick of walking down the street and having people say I didn't win the fight, they gave it to you, they robbed Manny. I'm the champion, but I need this fight so I can sleep at night."

Bradley was able to bounce back nicely after his fight with Pacquiao, taking on Ruslan Provodnikov in a slugfest that turned out to be ESPN's 2013 fight of the year. Bradley was more than willing to go toe-to-toe with Provodnikov in what seemed to be an attempt to silence his critics and show that he is willing to engage, and not scared of a dog fight.

Bradley then had another solid win over Juan Manuel Marquez, who was coming off his six-round knockout win over Manny Pacquiao. Bradley showcased his boxing skills and almost dropped Marquez in the final round. Now the focus is back on Pacquiao as Bradley tries to get the signature win of his career.

Manny Pacquiao has something to prove as well. Not to Bradley, but to himself. Many question whether Pacquiao still has the desire to keep boxing, and if he still has the killer instinct and tenacity that made him such an electrifying fighter earlier in his career. Pacquiao hasn't had a knockout since he TKO'd Miguel Cotto in 2009, but insists he isn't looking for the knockout.

"We feel we got robbed in the last fight and we want to make it right, but I'm not thinking about the knockout," Pacquiao said. "My focus is to throw more punches and to be more aggressive. If the knockout comes, it comes. Knockouts are a bonus from working hard."

Pacquiao may be a little more cautious in going for the knockout nowadays, as he tried to against Marquez in their fourth battle and ended up going to sleep himself. Pacquiao is coming off a nice unanimous decision victory over Brandon Rios in November where he completed outclassed Rios.

Still, expect Pacquiao to do what he says and come out aggressive to put the pressure on Bradley. Bradley is going to have to counter effectively and not let Pacquiao get into a rhythm and keep him on the outside, which may not be too difficult as Bradley revealed he doesn't shower for a week before a fight.

"I don't shower either the whole week. That's a ritual," Bradley said. "I don't shower until Saturday right before the fight. I don't know why that's one thing that I don't do. I don't care. I'm not ashamed of me."

Expect Pacquiao to shower Bradley with punches for most of the night and come away with a unanimous decision victory.

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