Make or break fight

Pacquiao, Bradley rumble for career-defining match

Today’s grudge match between Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and reigning World Boxing Council welterweight champion Timothy Bradley of the United States at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas isn’t just a fight for bragging rights: it is a fight that would define both fighter’s destiny for the rest of their boxing careers.

Pacquiao,  then the reigning WBC champion and owner of a 15-game winning streak,  and Bradley first fought two years ago in  June 9, 2012  in a fight  that the Filipino champion lost via a controversial decision when two of the three judges gave the nod to the American, despite statistics – and the majority of the people watching the fight – saying that Pacquiao threw the more powerful punches and won majority of the 12-rounder.

WEIGHING IN. Boxing champions Manny Pacquiao
and Timothy Bradley show what they got after they
weighed in for their World Boxing Conference
welterweight championship fight today at the MGM
Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP
Pacquiao’s loss to Bradley was followed by his shocking sixth-round knockout defeat to Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez  in December 12 of the same year.

Although Pacquiao fully recovered and went on to regain some of his luster in a unanimous 12-round decision victory over Brandon Rios in December, 2013,  boxing fans  and boxing writers wondered if Pacquiao’s star was on the wane,  citing his advancing age (35) and his inability  (reluctance?) to knock out opponents since stopping Miguel Cotto in 2009.

But  while Pacquiao’s  last three fights left more questions than answers on the Filipino’s ability to regain his footing,  Bradley,  since that highly-disputed win over Pacquiao,  went on a hellish ride and back.

Bradley’s ‘victory’ did not sit well with rabid boxing fans and the boxing community in general. Bradley was ridiculed and mocked by fans and writers alike, and the American admitted that at one point, he had considered committing suicide to end it all.

But Bradley did bounce back, and bounced back big.

 In a year’s span in 2013, the American decisioned Ruslan Provodnikov in a difficult fight that had him suffering from serious concussions and then outboxed Marquez for his second title defense since wresting the belt from Pacquiao.

Vindication for both

 Their journey going into today’s fight fits the fight’s storyline, which adopted the theme VINDICATION,   a word that curiously applies to both fighters’  quest for respectability and redemption.

For Bradley, (31-0, 12 Kos) vindication will come if he wins convincingly in 12 full rounds.  The American acknowledges this,  as he said that intends to knock out Pacquiao to prove that he was, and is, the better fighter.

A victory will also catapult him along the elite in the boxing firmament and would land him fights with bigger purses.

For Pacquiao (55-5, 2 draws, 38 Kos), vindication means putting all doubts to rest and win decisively.  Bradley recently told Pacquiao to his face that the Filipino champion had lost his ‘fire’ and had become too compassionate against his opponents,  and while Pacquaio only smiled at his rival’s taunts,  his trainer Freddie Roach said Bradley’s statements had irked Pacquiao and motivated the Filipino boxer to prove  that he still has that killer instinct that could put any opponent to sleep.

But while Roach said that his ward faces a must-win situation, but both he and his fighter admit that they would not go into the fight looking for a knockout.

“I’m not thinking about a knockout,” Pacquiao said. “My focus is to throw a lot of punches. I’m going to be aggressive. If the knockout comes, it’s a bonus.”

Pacquiao’s drawing power

During Saturday’s weigh-in, Pacquiao proved he remains a popular draw among fight fans, even among Americans and Latino and Mexican fans.

He arrived at the weigh-in area at the MGM Arena to deafening cheers and good wishes, in contrast to the jeering and booing Bradley received.

Both passed the 147-lbs weight limit, with Pacquiao coming in at 145 and Bradley slightly heavier at 145.5.

As in his past fights,  Pacquiao’s second fight against Bradley, will be eagerly awaited by millions of boxing fans in the Philippines.  Boxing writers in the US had constantly been amazed by Pacquiao’s drawing power, as they noted that the entire  Filipino nation virtually stops on its track every time Pacquiao fights.

Sunday’s scene would be a repeat of the familiar—people watching the fight at the comforts of their homes or in plazas and stadiums all over the country where the fight can be watched in real time and for free courtesy of local officials.

Even Malacañang,  which had clashed with the fighting congressman over tax issues last year, wished Pacquiao the best in his fight against Bradley through its deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte.

Valte said that the Palace is confident that Pacquaio would win over Bradley.

 “We are hoping for a knockout victory. We are confident that Manny Pacquiao will win over Timothy Bradley,” Valte said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay also expressed the same confidence for a Pacquaio victory. “He has all our prayers,” Binay said.

Expectedly, Pacquiao also received overwhelming support from his colleagues in the Lower House.

Led by Speaker Feliciano Bemonte, Jr.,  the lawmakers lauded Pacquiao’s  big, fighting heart and all anticipate a big win for the Filipino ring icon.

These include House Deputy Speaker and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla,  Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano,  Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, Rep.  Oscar Rodriguez (3rd District, Pampanga) and Cebu Rep. Gwedolyn Garcia.    With AFP, Maricel V. Cruz

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