Back in 2012, Manny Pacquiao fought Timothy Bradley and according to pretty much everyone who saw the fight in person or on TV thought Pacquiao won pretty much every one of the 12 rounds.
Unfortunately, for Pacquiao, two of the three judges who’s opinion mattered the most did not agree with public opinion and scored the fight for Bradley. Many would call that decision one of the biggest robberies in the history of sports.
Two years later Bradley and Pacquiao would face each other again and at the end of another 12 rounds all three judges would this time score it for Pacquiao.
Public opinion would say out of the 24 rounds that Bradley and Pacquiao fought that Pacquiao won at least 20 of those rounds. Not exactly something that would make people think these two fighters need to face each other again.
So with that said, why are we being sold a third fight between these same two fighters this Saturday night? Why is boxing telling us that we should care about this fight or expect that a third fight will be any different than the previous two between Bradley and Pacquiao?
Since 2012 when Bradley and Pacquiao first fought, there has been a lot of changes with both fighters. In the case of Manny Pacquiao, who was pretty much unbeatable in 2012, to his own admission, is not the same fighter now as he was four years ago. Besides the obvious of being 4 years older (37), he has also been viscously knocked out in a fight and has battled injuries that have kept him from any real impressive wins during that span. I won’t even bring up the Mayweather fight last May. Manny hasn’t actually stopped an opponent inside 12 rounds since 2009, when he scored a TKO win over Miguel Cotto.
So you have what appears to be a vulnerable Manny Pacquiao.
A vulnerable fighter, who says that this Saturday night will be the last fight of his career.
However, maybe that could be a good thing, as Pacquiao seems to be focused on putting an exclamation point on his Hall of Fame career Saturday night against Bradley.
Manny told reporters this week, “I want an explosive performance and to win convincingly to make the fans happy.” Manny clearly wants to make sure the last memory of him in the boxing ring is a memorable one. He’s hoping to erase some of the memories we’ve had lately of him in the ring and probably as well as the comments he made a few weeks ago about same sex relationships.
His Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach echoed Pacquiao’s sentiments when he spoke with our own Dukes and Bell during their show on Thursday. “Manny is healthy, hitting harder than I’ve seen him in a long time, and he’s committed to giving a great performance Saturday night.”
Pacquiao’s opponent Saturday night is not ready to say goodbye to his career just yet.
He’s the younger fighter (32), who feels he is still in his prime and his best performances are still ahead of him.
He’s only had one official loss in his career, but has had a few fights since 2012 where he was very fortunate to come out on top. In fact, in two of those fights vs. Ruslan Provodnikov and Jessie Vargas respectively, Bradley had to muster every ounce of heart and strength he had to survive the 12th round of both fights and win them by decision.
Tim Bradley though is a warrior who takes the saying of leaving it all in the ring literally. Bradley though sees this as the opportunity of a lifetime for him. In front of reporters on Wednesday, he made that very clear.
“This is about legacy for me. Getting a third crack at it. I’m ready. More than any other fight I’ve ever been in. If I’m going to beat Manny Pacquiao, it’s now. This is my only opportunity, and it’s my last opportunity. And I am ready for it.”
He may indeed be ready, as one major change Bradley has made since 2012 is his trainer.
For his last fight, Bradley brought on legendary trainer and ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas. Atlas has trained the likes of former champions such as Mike Tyson, Michael Moorer, and Alexander Povetkin, but had pretty much given up on training fighters as he didn’t feel he could personally invest his all in a fighter who may in fact not give his all back.
That all changed though when Atlas met Bradley and the two started to work together. He told our Dukes and Bell show on Thursday (listen below), “When I first met Tim we clicked right away. I looked in his eyes and saw that passion and he reenergized me. I consider myself to be a teacher and he just seemed like the perfect student who was willing to learn. And most importantly he trusts me.”
When you are dealing with a trainer like Teddy Atlas you have to trust him for sure. He’s notorious for his passionate, fiery and in your face motivational pleas with his fighters in and out of the ring. While that may turn some fighters off, Bradley has been singing the praises of Atlas since the two first got together and every day since.
He believes Atlas will be a big difference for him Saturday night against Pacquiao.
Bradley says “Before I didn’t have all of the pieces of the puzzle. Now this third time around, there’s a new trainer, new mind-set, new game plan. I feel like I’m refined.”
So, in one corner you have a guy who is determined to want to leave a memorable and possibly final impression in what may be his last fight.
In the other corner, you have a guy who feels this might be his last chance to be relevant in a sport he is not ready to leave just yet.
You add all that up and you have what may be the makings of a fight that may in fact exceed expectations and leave fight fans with an unexpected sense of happiness.
Manny Pacquiao will battle Tim Bradley Saturday night, April 9th for the WBO Welterweight Championship live on HBO PPV at 9 p.m. EST.
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