COMMENTARY | Manny Pacquiao is officially set to take on former foe Timothy Bradley. The pair will meet for a second time on April 12, fighting in Las Vegas in the headline event of an HBO pay-per-view. For Pacquiao, this fight is an absolute must-win, and it's a fight which leaves him caught in a tricky situation in which it will be hard for him to truly come out ahead.
The Pacquiao-Bradley Controversy
When Pacquiao and Bradley met the first time, in June 2012, Bradley took home a highly controversial decision victory. The "win" stood out as the worst decision of the year in boxing, and one of the highest profile robberies in recent memory. It's simply not often that the A-side of a fight, the attraction, gets jobbed on the scorecards that badly.
It's nearly unanimously viewed that Pacquiao deserved to win that fight. Nevertheless, the official ledgers show that Pacquiao was defeated, and that Bradley is still unbeaten (31-0, 12 KOs).
The controversial result was also only the beginning of the bad things to come for Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs). In his next fight against arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez, he was brutally kayoed with a pinpoint perfect counter punch, laid out on the canvas for all to see, his wife shrieking in horror from ringside, effectively and officially ending the era of Pacman as a pound-for-pound force.
Pacquiao returned to action in November 2013, easily controlling the woefully overmatched Brandon Rios. Meanwhile, Bradley and Marquez fought a month prior, with Bradley taking home a deserved, but close, win over Marquez.
While the omnipresent and ridiculous back and forth yammering about a potential Floyd Mayweather clash picked up in intensity after Pacquiao's comeback win, the fight was never realistic at this stage.
Instead, it was clear that Pacquiao had two likely options, a fifth against Marquez or a second fight with Bradley. Marquez was less than thrilled with the prospect, and was also the loser of that pair's encounter, so despite there not being huge financial or fan interest for a second Bradley fight, here we are.
Why The Rematch is a Must-Win for Pacquiao
Pacquiao-Bradley II is a rematch of a fight which had a conclusive ending, but was simply scored in mind-boggling fashion. There wasn't much intrigue or intensity to the fight itself. The action from round to round was routine and devoid of drama, and had been seemingly one-sided.
In other words, without the controversy, there would be absolutely no need for a second fight.
Pacquiao is certainly entitled at a chance to set his record straight once and for all and rightfully defeat Bradley. There's justice to that, and a win would also help Pacquiao to gain an edge on Marquez in their constant game of one-upmanship. It's also smart match-making for Top Rank, as they likely feel that Pacquiao will be able to land a victory and perform at a high level against a fighter who doesn't pose much risk of scoring a knockout against him.
However, with Pacquiao already being seen as the rightful victor, this is a tough spot for him. It's a must-win, and it's actually almost a lose-lose. He's already seen as the winner and the good guy, with Bradley being cast aside as the villain, enjoying no gain through the bout's stained outcome.
Now though, what if Bradley performs better against Pacquiao the second time, who's now even further removed from his prime? What if the fight is close and could rightfully go to either man, leaving more questions than answers? What if Pacquiao wins a controversial decision which leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth?
Pacquiao not only needs to win, he needs to win even more clearly and dominantly than he did the first time around. There's no margin for error. Winning, but looking worse than he did in the first fight, really doesn't do him any favors, only opening up the doors for continued criticism that Pacquiao is indeed on the decline.
The rematch against Bradley was, logistically, a sound decision for Pacquiao and his team. It also leaves him in an incredibly challenging position. Anything but a landslide win and a vintage display of offensive wizardry and fireworks leaves Pacquiao worse for the wear.
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