When Manny Pacquiao was upset by Timothy Bradley back in 2012, it seemed that a rematch was a logical next step for both men. Pacquiao deserved the win as far as most of the world was concerned, but Bradley got the nod on two of the three scorecards that actually mattered.
Injuries to Bradley and a fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez that ended with a shocking KO loss for Pacquiao served as setbacks that pushed the rematch off until tonight, live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pacquiao has gotten a bit older, and the stunning KO at the hands of Marquez had some worried that his days as an elite fighter had passed him by. But Manny got back in the ring against a heavy hitter in Brandon Rios and not only beat him, he dominated him without ever looking particularly concerned about getting hit.
Bradley isn't a huge hitter, he has never stopped anyone of high quality outside of Joel Casamayor, but Casamayor was years past his prime. So, even if you were worried about Pacquiao's chin, Bradley isn't likely to be the man to test it.
Manny still carries solid power himself and has tremendous hand speed and uses angles in ways that are simply amazing to watch. You can read a fantastic breakdown of what makes Pacquiao so special from a technical perspective over at FightLand, it does more justice to his brilliance than I ever could.
Bradley is technically solid himself, but it a more standard, less "what am I seeing?!" way. He also has a tremendous chin and, as displayed in his thrillingly brutal fight with Ruslan Provodnikov, a true "fighter's heart."
He also seems confident. And he should be. Bradley may not have really "deserved" to win the first meeting, but he was not embarrassed in the ring by Pacquiao. He is also coming off a win over Marquez, the man that left Manny face down the last time they met. That win netted Bradley the WBO welterweight title that he'll put on the line tonight.
There has been plenty of weird stuff in the lead-up to tonight. Bradley's broken foot and injured ankle in the first meeting was the result of not wearing socks, he says. Why a fighter would pick the biggest moment of his life to see how he'd do without socks? I don't know. But that's what he says. He also has talked about how he thought about killing himself after the first Pacquiao fight, just due to the vitriolic reaction from boxing fans.
Pacquiao was only fighting part of the rounds the first fight, according to trainer Freddie Roach. Why? I don't know. But Roach also is cycling back through the standard "Manny found religion" fare, claiming that it is draining his killer instinct and claiming he is reminding him of the biblical concept of "an eye for an eye."
Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2
But all of the nonsense goes out the window when they step into the ring and the fight does remain compelling on paper. Bradley has found himself in brawls since the Pacquiao fight, something that likely adds to his confidence in handling things should the fight become a FIGHT, and he has seen that Pacquiao is not invincible.
But Manny is still Manny. A boxing dynamo who has every tool possible and is one of the absolute greatest fighters in boxing history.
From a gambling perspective, I actually find some value in a draw for the first time. This might be another fight where the scoring is all over the place with several close rounds. So, if you're feeling frisky, there's a decent chance to cash in on big odds for a draw, for once.
A draw is still unlikely, however. And Pacquiao is simply the better boxer. I picked Bradley the first time around, but I feel like the first fight showed that he isn't quite on that level. Add to that the idea that Bradley is more willing to get into firefights now and he could put himself into some bad positions throughout the night.
The safe pick is the smart pick...
Pacquiao by decision.