Confused, dumbfounded, speechless. Those were just a few of the words used by the late, great trainer and ringside pundit Emanuel Steward in the aftermath of Tim Bradley’s highly-contentious split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012.
Absurd and criminal were two more adjectives offered by HBO’s unofficial scorer Harold Lederman who had it 119-110 in the Filipino’s favour.
In boxing the best fights are not always made and few get the chance to right a wrong. Yet on April 12 in Las Vegas, both Pacquiao and Bradley have a chance of settling a grievance.
Naturally Pacman felt he was cheated. He lost his WBO welterweight title and saw a seven-year, 15-fight winning streak abruptly halted.
Bradley, meanwhile, who should have basked in the glory of shocking an all-time great, was derided and shunned.
It all makes this rematch – formally announced at a Los Angeles press conference on Tuesday night – about as compelling as anything world-level boxing can realistically muster at present.
Beating Pacquiao should have been the making of Bradley, instead it was the subsequent adversity he faced that transformed him from a sham winner to the champion who could now enter the rematch as a slight favourite.
Short of climbing in with Floyd Mayweather, this is about as tough an assignment as the 33-year-old Filipino congressman could take.
The undefeated American’s confidence is sky-high given that he has beaten Pacquiao, Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez in his last three bouts.
Revisiting the pair’s first fight reveals two things. Firstly, that Pacquiao won, and won decisively. But, secondly, Bradley wasn’t as out of his depth as first appeared.
His movement, boxing ability, handspeed and chin – all assets since augmented by his soaring belief – combined to form a package that gave Pacquiao problems.
The reason everyone felt Bradley lost the fight was that Pacman landed the telling, more powerful punches, particularly his trademark straight left which thudded off Desert Storm’s jaw time and again, especially early on.
Bradley isn’t blessed with power, but if he can be as quick and elusive as he was against Marquez and limit Pacquiao’s success with the left, then he has a very real chance in what will be a close fight. Do not rule out another controversial conclusion.
A second win over the Filipino would put Bradley on a collison course with Mayweather and the life-changing payday that comes with it. The incentives are huge.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, is effectively fighting for his career. After losing to Bradley he was handed a brutal KO defeat by Marquez, before returning to form with a comprehensive decision over Brandon Rios.
But with the ponderous Rios a handpicked foe, it is hard to gauge his level going into a fight which will determine his future at the top level.
Whatever happens, he will retain a huge following – Pacquiao has done more to carry boxing so far this century than anyone. But should he lose to Bradley for a second time, it would drastically diminish his relevance as an elite fighter.
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