On July 9, 2012, Manny Pacquaio walked through Timothy Bradley for the first eight rounds. I scored the fight either 9 rounds to 3 or possibly 8 to 4 for Pacquaio, thinking his shots meant more and Bradley’s shots didn’t affect him one bit. But when the scores were read, Bradley walked away with a split decision (all scores were 115-113).
Pacquiao looked befuddled. Bradley acted confidently. I don’t consider close decisions that could go either way a few rounds here or there as robberies, though people like to throw that word around often. But I’d consider their first fight a true robbery.
Nearly two years later, we get the rematch. Bradley has put together quite the resume since, extending his record to 31-0 with an all-heart victory over Ruslan Providnikov and out-slicking Juan Manuel Marquez. For Pacquiao, he was on the bad end of an all-out war with Marquez and out-pointed the bigger Brandon Rios.
Since their first fight, Bradley has seemingly improved while Pacquaio may not be the same. But does that mean Bradley should be the favorite? Not to Vegas where he’s still a slight underdog.
Duan: Pacquiao by decision
The level to which Pacquiao has deteriorated is debatable, but I’m not sure there is anyone who will argue against the idea that his best days are behind him. At 35, we’ve seen everything the Pacman can do at this point. There are no new tricks left in his repertoire still to be revealed. The Pacquiao we will see in the ring on Saturday night will be a somewhat diminished version of what we got in June of 2012. How much diminished is what we don’t know. The Rios fight was rehab. He came through it and proved he still belongs in the ring, but does he still belong with the sport’s elite? That’s what this bout with Bradley will tell us.
The first fight, for both better or worse, has been the defining point in Timothy Bradley’s career. A decision he did not control lead to his freeze-out, alienation and ridicule in the sport of boxing. But it also created in him a drive, determination and desire that few fighters possess. It showed him that there is another level in boxing. A level above world class. And it gave him the intensity and focus to reach it. The Provodnikov fight brought out of him the will and courage required to make that step. Then in the Marquez match-up, he showed the athletic ability and strategic skills to go with it. Pacquiao’s decline is debatable, Bradley’s improvements are not. He’s physically, mentally, technically and tactically a better boxer than he was two years ago, and that bout is the reason for it.
The gap between them I’m certain has closed. The first fight was a blowout, but I don’t see it being the same in round two. I’m expecting a lot of close rounds. I’m expecting a lot of close cards. But I think this is a fight Pacquaio wins. This is another distance fight, and with the hangover from the judging controversy last time, it will probably be impossible for Bradley to get the nod in a tight contest. He’s going to have to dominate to get a decision, and the way these two match up stylistically, I can’t ever envision that happening.
Robert: Pacquiao by decision
I was one of the few “so-called” experts who picked Timothy Bradley in their first fight, even though he didn’t deserve the decision. This time, I expect an even more ferocious fight. Last time, Bradley fought the majority of the fight with torn ligaments in both his feet, and Pacquaio fought as though he was trying not to make any mistakes. This time, expect both men to go for broke. I see Manny winning a hard fought, convincing decision over the “Desert Storm Warrior.” This will probably set up a third and final battle between the two future Hall of Famers.
Sarah: Pacquiao by decision
According to Freddy Roach, Pacquiao will take risks against Bradley, which I find to be an interesting statement. Pacquiao’s camp says he is “hungry” again and wants to show his knockout power. I just don’t think that he has the desire and the drive to really be a knockout artist anymore, and why should he? I think the smart game plan is for Pacquiao to play if safe, make his money, and win the fight. If he risks himself too much and loses (again), all potential talk for a Mayweather super fight is gone, which is the one thing keeping his career in the massive limelight. A win by Manny is much more important than proving anything about his “knockout” game.
Manny has not knocked anyone out since 2009, yet his career is still on the highest level. He has no reason at all to be vintage Manny now. I think we see a solid technical fight from him and a more emotional and fierce brawl from Bradley. Bradley needs to prove himself in this fight and thus, I think he will be over-excited. I see Manny being calm and technically sound (as usual) and I see Bradley taking more of an awkward approach with a heavy gas pedal in the first few rounds. I see Manny winning this fight if he fights calm and technical. If he indeed tries to be a “knockout artist”, well, I see that back firing and he could get caught instead.
GG: Pacquiao by decision
This new version of Manny Pacquiao who has to face his boxing mortality is my favorite version of him yet. This current version of the perennially underrated Timothy Bradley who has a chip on his shoulder is my favorite version of him yet. Neither deserves to lose, though one will have to.
I would love to break out of the pack of Pacquiao predictions and predict a Bradley victory. You figure that if he won the first decision (as wrong as it was) and is now a better fighter and is facing a fighter who is more than likely on his way down, he should win. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think the fight is going to be close. And I think Bradley is going to make the mistake of trying to slug it out in some instances with Pacquiao to show people that he truly is the better fighter. Pacquiao’s power was there the first time and it will be there again. Like Duan, I don’t see how Pacquiao doesn’t win a close decision.
And they’ll make even more money with fight number three.