By Jake Donovan
The long awaited rematch between Timothy Bradley Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is finally upon us. The pair of elite welterweights square off Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, at the same venue which hosted their hotly contested 12-round battle in June 2012.
The bout airs live on HBO Pay-Per-View (Saturday, 9:00PM ET).
Bradley appeared in his first pay-per-view event at the time, and escaped with a highly controversial split decision win that most felt should have easily landed in favor of Pacquiao. The official verdict ended a seven-year unbeaten run for Pacquiao, who lost his welterweight title but was still viewed as one of the two best fighters in the world despite the outcome.
His next fight knocked him from his pedestal, however. Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38KO) suffered a shocking 6th round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth battle later that December. The next 11 months were spent reloading, returning to the ring last November to score a landslide decision over Brandon Rios.
Bradley (31-0, 12KO) enjoyed a banner year in 2013. The sculpted Californian made two successful defenses of his welterweight title. The first was the bravest of efforts, climbing off the canvas and spending most of the night fighting through a concussion to outpoint Ruslan Provodnikov in their March ’13 encounter, recognized by Boxingscene.com as the 2013 Fight of the Year.
His next bout was just as close, yet an easier night at the office as he won a hard-fought, well-deserved decision over Marquez in their pay-per-view headliner last October.
Now well-versed on the sport’s biggest stage, Bradley’s confidence is soaring at an all-time high. Yet, he still enters Saturday’s bout as a 2-1 underdog and forced to prove that he can win a clean decision.
There also exists a burden of proof with Pacquiao, who needs to convince the boxing world that he still belongs in discussion among the sport’s very best active fighter and that his best years aren’t forever in the past.
Will the sport’s most popular global icon gain sweet revenge? Or will the unbeaten defending titlist continue his winning ways?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes the action will go down in the year’s first truly big pay-per-view.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: TIMOTHY BRADLEY-MANNY PACQUIAO II
“I like Bradley to win a unanimous decision. I just think he's gotten better and more confident since the first time they fought and Pacquiao has dipped a little in recent fights. If Bradley can stick to boxing and doesn't get caught up in a slugfest, he should win a competitive decision.”
- Mitch Abramson (Bradley by decision)
“I think this fight will be closer than the first fight but the judges will get it right and Pacquiao will win around the scores of 115-112, scoring a kd in the process.”
- Ryan Burton (Pacquiao by decision)
“I was one of the few to pick Bradley by split decision the first time they fought - yet feel like I got it wrong, given the controversial nature of the final decision. This time, Tim leaves no doubt, winning an 8-4 type of fight.”
- Jake Donovan (Bradley by decision)
“While I agree with the masses that Pacquiao deserved to win the first go-round in 2012, I also think the intervening two years have been kinder to Bradley. Particularly in his Marquez fight, he showed the varied skills he'll need to handle a Manny who's either still what he was back then, or a trifle diminished. He's got speed, he's got guts and he's got the patience and the smarts to stick to a game plan that might make for a dull fight... but a successful ending. Give me Tim by a close decision, 115-113 let's say, and get ready for the third match.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Bradley by decision)
“This is do-or-die for Manny I think even he finally realizes the urgency as his career comes to an end. Lackluster performances have dulled what has been a bright star in our boxing universe so I have to think we see a bit of a throwback Mannywith speed and ferocity. Bradley has improved since last fight but there may be a bit of over confidence that comes with that and it could be his undoing. Once Manny has him hurt he won't let off until the ref stops it.”
- Ernest Gabion (Pacquiao TKO9)
“I've been a Many Pacquiao fan since before I'd even considered becoming a journalist so this prediction probably comes from the heart rather than the head but I think he is going to roll back the years and put in a vintage performance to dominate Bradley. In the first fight between them Pacquiao never looked in trouble but he definitely cruised through a lot of rounds which left him vulnerable on the scorecards. Against Marquez he showed flashes of the form which once made him the pound for pound king and against Rios he won just about every round and could probably have got the stoppage if he'd really gone for it. So while it's difficult to make an argument for Pacuiao still being in his prime I don't think he is anything like as far past it as people are making out, a point I believe he will prove either by stopping Bradley late on or winning a lopsided decision.”
- James Goyder (Pacquiao by decision)
“A motivated, rejuvenated Pacquiao will beat Bradley again, but this time he’ll get the decision he deserves. It won’t be as easy for Pacquiao as their first fight, though. Bradley’s ankle and foot injuries were big factors for much of that 12-round fight. A healthier Bradley will win rounds in this rematch and already has proven he can take Pacquiao’s power. His willingness to trade, especially at close range, still will cost Bradley valuable points on the scorecards. He’ll have his moments. He just won’t win enough rounds to come out ahead in what should be a highly competitive fight.”
- Keith Idec (Pacquiao by decision)
“Pacquiao on points! Pacman can handle the big fight pressure and even thrive on it and will beat Bradley clearly this time around (he won the first fight as well in my book).”
- Per Ake Persson (Pacquiao by decision)
“I think Manny will move his hands more, and look more for contact than explosion. Bradley will be more comfortable but may lose close rounds with judges trying to make sure they get the rematch right. This one might end with debate, though not as much as the first.”
- Cliff Rold (Pacquiao by decision)
“I think the Pac-Bradley fight is founded more on the boxing business, than our sport. Top Rank only has Pacquiao and Bradley as money makers. If Pac does not face Mayweather, we will to see Manny again Bradley (a third) time, because Marquez said he will not give Pacquiao a rematch. So in this fight, I think the business will prevail above sport and Manny will win in 12 rounds. Later we will see another Pacquiao-Bradley fight until the Filipino goes away.”
- Reynaldo Sanchez (Pacquiao by decision)
“One of the toughest picks I've had to make in a while. So many variables come into play but the biggest one in my opinion is still the judging if it goes the distance (which I think it will). I think we'll get a much more exciting fight than the first affair as both men will be aggressive and fireworks will happen. Bradley is better than he was in 2012 and has got used to the spotlight and it'll show in the ring. I do think Manny will be aggressive which will lead to some good countering opportunities for Tim. I think Tim will look like the winner but the judging will go Pacqiuao's favor as his activity and aggressiveness will be rewarded. Controversy will ensue...again.”
- Luis Sandoval (Pacquiao by decision)
“I can't help but think that Manny's career is all but over. His desire is gone, and that was clearly visible even in his first fight with Bradley. Meanwhile, the latter has never been as strong as now, fresh off his clear-cut win over JM Marquez and a spirited survival in the Ruslan Provodnikov fight. Bradley speed and over physical prowess with be decisive in this contest. He will be too fine, too smooth for Pacquaio, who will eat much more jabs and stinging left hands than usual. He would have some success in later rounds but it won't be enough to save this fight for him.
- Alexey Sukachev (Bradley by decision)
Total: Manny Pacquiao 8, Tim Bradley 4
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox