LAS VEGAS – It took two years for the rematch to be realized.
And now that it finally dawned upon them, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley vowed not to leave anything in doubt as to who the real winner will be this time around.
Pacquiao, the Philippines’ most beloved son, seeks to regain what he believed is truly his while Bradley, the underrated reigning champion, tries to retain what he believed truly belongs to him as they go mano-a-mano on Saturday night (Sunday, Manila time) for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title.
The match, set for 12 rounds at the MGM Grand here, is expected to settle the controversy that marred the first meeting between the two tough warriors in 2012 in the very same arena where Bradley, fighting with a broken foot and a sprained ankle, took Pacquiao's 147-lb. crown following a stunning split decision.
The boxing superstar from General Santos City and the unbeaten native of Palm Springs, California, had taken separate paths since then. Bradley defended his title twice against marquee opponents Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez, while Pacquiao began showing signs of slowing down after losing to Marquez in a shocking sixth-round knockout before settling for a unanimous decision against Brandon Rios following a year-long layoff.
But somehow, doubts over the result pervaded that a second meeting inside the ring was inevitable.
And before an expected sellout crowd right in the middle of the `Entertainment Capital of the World’, the lean, heavy-hitting Filipino southpaw and the stocky, crafty American guaranteed to throw caution to the wind and resolve the issue between them once and for all.
The 30-year-old Bradley, unbeaten in 31 fights with 12 KOs, has taken things further, saying he’s gonna do something he failed to accomplish in his first encounter against the Pacman.
“I’m confident. I’ve been here before and I’m gonna knock Pacquiao out,” said the outspoken American, who drew a loud chorus of jeers from an animated crowd of 8,000 of mostly Filipinos at the Grand Garden Arena here during the official weigh-in for the fight on Friday.
“I’ve waited two years for this (rematch). It’s the perfect set-up, the perfect time.”
Typical of Pacquiao, owner of a 55-5 record with 38 KOs, the humble eight-time world champion shrugged off Bradley’s threat and simply said he’ll be ready for whatever the champion brings to the table.
“I’m ready for everything,” said the 35-year-old challenger, a 2-1 favorite on the eve of the match. “I have a business to finish.”
“I need to win to prove that I can still fight. I’m not thinking negative.”
Pacquiao, a three-time Fighter of the Year and voted as the most accomplished boxer of the decade past, came in at a slim 145 pounds, while Bradley was a shade heavier at 145.5 pounds.
While he may be the challenger, the fighting congressman from the province of Sarangani is expected to receive the bigger share of the purse at a guaranteed prize of US$20 million. Bradley is set to receive $6 million.
Kenny Bayless, regarded as the best boxing referee today, will be the third man in the ring, while the three judges scoring the bout are Michael Pernick, Glenn Trowbridge, and Craig Metcalfe.