By Jake Donovan
It’s been nearly two years since Tim Bradley scored a highly controversial split decision win over Manny Pacquiao, yet there still exists a considerable amount of animosity over the final verdict handed down in their June ’12 encounter.
Among those who’ve long ago moved past that night, however, are Pacquiao and his team. In fact, they’re more than content to simply go into the ring and gain sweet revenge.
They get to do so at the scene of the crime, so to speak. The rematch also taking place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which also played host to the first fight.
“Bad decisions are a part of boxing,” Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach noted during a recent conference call to promote the HBO Pay-Per-View event. “We learn from it and move on. Revenge is sweet. If we fight the way we know Manny can fight we’ll knock Bradley out.”
The HBO PPV-televised headliner saw Pacquiao’s welterweight title reign and seven-year win streak come to an end. The wildly popular Filipino was still considered one of the best fighters in the world, despite the official decision. That the media and fans continued to take that stance helped wash away any potential ill will from that evening.
“I’m not angry with nothing,” Pacqiuao (55-5-2, 38KO) insists. “I’m not upset with the judges. Nobody is perfect in this world. Sometimes you mistakes, and it’s part of boxing.
“I was upset that I lost. But when I went home, the reaction was not negative. It was positive, that (everyone thought) I won the fight.”
While most agreed that Pacquiao deserved the decision, opinions widely varied on what the margin of victory should have been. Some had it a close fight, others had Pacquiao pitching a near-shutout.
That said, there is still room for growth from the first fight. Regardless of how the decision went down, it’s clear that Pacquiao, now 35 years old and in his 20th year as a prize fighter, is slowly approaching the twilight of his career. A subsequent knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their epic fourth fight came just more than a year following their controversial majority decision in their Nov. ’11 encounter.
Even in pitching a near-shutout over Brandon Rios in his comeback fight last November, the jury is out on whether or not Pacquiao can return to old form – or even where he left off in the first fight with Bradley.
The plan is to go back even further in time.
“Manny wasn’t throwing punches in combinations,” Roach admits of his fighter’s performance two years ago. “He was throwing single punches and kind of going through the motions, though of course he thought he was way ahead. This time we need him to fight three minutes of every round.”
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum has lobbied for the Nevada State Athletic Commission to go against the grain for a change, and not hire local officials for yet another high-profile bout in town. Even if Duane Ford and CJ Ross were still actively judging, there’s no question that they would not have been approved for this fight.
However, who does land the assignment remains a hot topic, and one that will be placed under the microscope even after the final answer is revealed.
Apparently that’s for everyone else to worry about. Pacquiao is content with hearing the opening bell on April 12 and taking things from there.
“I’m not thinking about the judges,” Pacquiao promises. “What I’m focused on is technique and what we worked on in the gym.”
The rematch with Bradley marks the first time in more than three years that Pacquiao – who’s won titles in a record eight weight classes – enters a fight challenging for a title. The last such occasion took place in Nov. ’10, when Pacquiao outpointed Antonio Margarito to claim a vacant 154 lb. title.
His last official challenge of a defending titlist took place in Nov. ’09. Pacquiao stopped Miguel Cotto in 12 rounds to win the welterweight title he’d wind up conceding to Bradley (31-0, 12KO), who makes his third defense. The unbeaten Californian is coming off of a close-but-clear points win over Marquez last October.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.