MANILA, Philippines – As Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley met face-to-face for the first time since their controversial fight in 2012, both professed to have something left to prove in the rematch.
Both Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 knockouts) and WBO welterweight titleholder Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) appeared confident as they met the press on Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday in the Philippines) at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif., on the first stop of a two-city tour to promote their April 12 rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., which will be shown live on HBO pay-per-view.
In their first fight, Bradley defeated Pacquiao by a split-decision to take Pacquiao’s WBO title, though the verdict was ridiculed and sparked outrage by many who felt Pacquiao deserved the win. Both fighters have weathered ups-and-downs in the 19 months since that fight.
Pacquiao was knocked out in six rounds later that year by Juan Manuel Marquez before returning a year later to defeat former WBA lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios by decision this past November in Macau. Bradley returned the following year to defeat Ruslan Provodnikov by decision in a punishing fight where he was knocked down twice before outboxing Marquez to win a decision.
Pacquiao, 35, was flanked by trainer Freddie Roach and strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune, who rejoins the team for the first time since being dismissed acrimoniously following Pacquiao’s fight with Jorge Solis in 2007.
The Sarangani congressional representative from General Santos City, Philippines promised a return of the aggressive style that had made him a fan favorite and one of the most feared finishers in the sport. Once lauded as one of the biggest punchers in boxing, Pacquiao has not knocked out an opponent since stopping Miguel Cotto in 12 rounds in 2009.
“One thing that I can assure this fight is going to be a good fight,” said Pacquiao, a former eight-division world champion. “Both of us have something to prove for this fight.
“I’m really thankful to God that I have another chance to fight aggressively and have strength back like what I did in the last fight with Rios. I assure that the Manny Pacquiao, the aggressiveness and the young Manny Pacquiao you will see on April 12 by God’s grace.”
Bradley, 30, of Palm Springs, Calif., said that he felt disrespected by the fans and media after their first fight and that that was what was driving him in the rematch. Of 51 media members polled immediately after, 48 said that Pacquiao deserved the victory.
“This fight is basically redemption for me,” said Bradley, who had also been a champion at 140 pounds. “I feel deep in my heart that I won the first fight. I know everybody out here don’t feel that I won the fight. I didn’t get any credit for the first fight. I’m going to beat Manny Pacquiao to get the credit that I didn’t get in the first fight and that’s the bottom line.
“Manny said he’s going to be the fierce Manny Pacquiao from before when he first came on the scene. That’s the Manny Pacquiao I want to see on April 12.”
Bradley says that he will begin training camp on Monday with trainer Joel Diaz at his gym in Indio, Calif. Bradley says that his training camps are usually nine weeks long but that he’ll be cutting this camp short a week. “I’m already in pretty good shape,” said Bradley.
The stakes are high for Pacquiao, who is competing on American soil for the first time since November 2012. A loss for Pacquiao would hurt his marketability further and erase any hopes of making the elusive Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.
“Very important this fight to me because I want to maintain my name in the top and to prove that I can still fight, that my careers not done yet,” said Pacquiao.
Pacquiao opened as a slight favorite at the MGM Grand sportsbook at -180 while Bradley’s line is at +160.
Pacquiao is guaranteed a purse of $20 million, according to Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com, which is $6 million less than he earned in their first fight. Bradley’s purse will be $6 million, which is $1 million less than he earned for their first fight.
Pacquiao and Bradley will head to New York next to make the press rounds on Thursday before heading to their respective training camps. – Rappler.com with reports from Jhay Oh Otamias