The 35 year old Filipino legend returns to an American ring this weekend for his first US fight since being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez back in 2012. Amazingly Pacquiao is without a win in the US since he managed to defeat Marquez, in their third meeting, all the way back in November 2011.
Pacquiao's return to America seems him trying to avenge his most controversial defeat, a much debated decision loss to unbeaten American Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley (31-0-0-1, 12). The bout, for the WBO Welterweight title, is now almost 2 years in the making and is one of this years most eagerly anticipated contest so far.
When the men first met neither was at their best. Pacquiao, although a winner of the cards of ourselves and many independent observers, wasn't his usual self. His fire looked to be on the wane, the destructive freak of nature appeared to have been tamed by something or another and the power, speed, combinations and foot work weren't what we've come to expect of Pacquiao. He still seemed to win but it wasn't the Pacquiao of old and this was plainly obvious in the later rounds when he took his foot off the gas.
At his best Pacquiao is a perpetual punching machine throwing non-stop combinations, darting in and out, circling and trying to set up his monstrous straight left hand. He's always taken a few to land a few but on the whole his package of power, speed, toughness, and explosiveness has seen him inflict more hurt than opponents tend to inflict on him
As for Bradley seemed to be tamed. His skills were their but his footwork was lacking, due to genuine issues with his legs and feet, his indomitable will to win seemed to dissipate and whilst he showed off good body movement he looked like a pale imitation of himself. It was of course Bradley who got the decision but few felt he actually deserved and even fewer felt he had been fighting the real Pacquiao.
Bradley as his best is a sharp punching machine who lacks power but makes up for it in fantastic conditioning, a refusal to lose, a genuine intensity and the ability to do almost anything. He may not be a banger but he can box well off the front foot or back foot as well as brawl when he needs to.
Since their first meeting back in June 2012 both men have fought twice. For Pacquiao those bouts have seen him going 1-1 with the aforementioned loss to Marquez and a dominant victory over Brandon Rios, who was little more than a human punch bag. Bradley however has gone a perfect 2-0 with victories over Ruslan Provodnikov, in what was a pure war, and Juan Manuel Marquez in what was a somewhat tame and forgettable encounter.
For this many this bout is the most vital bout in the career of both men. For Bradley it's a chance to prove he is better than Pacquiao and that the decision 2 years ago, rightly or wrongly, did go to the better fighter. For Pacquiao this is a chance to avenge a man who took his Welterweight title and a man who inflicted his first loss in more than 7 years. A loss for Pacquiao could well be the end of his top level boxing career whilst a victory would see fans clamouring, once again, for Pacquiao vs Mayweather a bout that is still one of the most wanted fights amongst those in the boxing fraternity. For Bradley a victory puts him as a clear top 5 pound-for-pound fighter, he'll be the only man with 2 wins over Pacquiao and he'll be the clear man to beat at 147, aside from Mayweather.
So who are we going for?
We think both men will be determined to make a statement. For Bradley this could drag him in to the wrong type of fight. If Bradley can box with Pacquiao the American could well keep his unbeaten record but if he gets dragged into the mental battle of trying to win a war he's not going to come out on top, he simply doesn't have the power or variation in his work to over-come the more dynamic Pacquiao.
For Pacquiao to win he needs to throw away the "nice guy" mentality that has seemingly become too much a part of his fights in recent years. We need the angry, violent and destructive Pacquiao, the one that battered Miguel Cotto, bludgeoned Erik Morales, smashed Marco Antonio Barrera, dismantled Ricky Hatton and, going back a bit further, iced Chatchai Sasakul.
If Bradley, as he did against Marquez, boxes intelligently on the back foot he should be to give Pacquiao a lot of problems. The American would however need to find an extra gear or two to make Pacquiao look as bad as he made Marquez looked, with Marquez looking his age in that bout. If Bradley fights as he did against Provodnikov he hasn't a chance here and will be stopped.
We're thinking Pacquiao will get Bradley to fight his fight. The men will engage more than in their first fight, Pacquiao will look to make a point of showing his fire and anger and in the final rounds, when both are starting to feel the tempo of the bout, the spitefulness of Pacquiao will return.
Although we know we'll be in the minority we're going to be going with Pacquiao by late stoppage. The words of Bradley, who has commented on Pacquiao lacing the spitefulness he once had, will come back to bite him in the behind and we'll see snarl back in Pacquiao's boxing something that has been missed by many, including ourselves, and we'll see Pacquiao becoming a world champion once again.