C.J. Ross won’t be a judge this time. That’s the leading reason Saturday’s rematch between Manny Pacquiao and still-unbeaten Timothy Bradley can’t possibly be a replica of the June 2012 meeting, in which Pacquiao dominated the fight visually and statistically but Bradley emerged as the shocking winner by split decision.
Ross, discredited into retirement by her draw verdict in the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo alvarez fight last September, and Duane Ford both scored seven rounds for Bradley and five for Pacquiao in the first bout, despite Pacquiao’s landing nearly 100 more punches, many of them hard left crosses.
The seventh and eighth rounds, in which Pacquiao coasted the first two minutes but scored heavily throughout the final 60 seconds, both went to Bradley. So those rounds were pivotal to the upset and are also pivotal to the two main story lines for the rematch.
The first is that the controversial nature of Bradley’s victory has come to haunt him. He ratcheted his street cred by getting into a war with then-unheralded Ruslan Provodnikov, and enhanced his credibility with many others by outpointing the legendary Juan Manuel Marquez, but the Pacquiao outcome still stands out.
It was horrible," Bradley told ESPN.com. "I sat in bed with my wife [Monica] and we cried together because it's supposed to be the happiest moment of our life and all these bad things are happening to us and all these people saying these negative things about me.
"And the more they said, the more you start to believe it. It was horrible, it was a horrible time. Thoughts of [suicide] crossed my mind."
Meanwhile, Pacquiao, a congressman in the Philippines, seems to have lost some killer instinct, so that’s the other story line, one on which Bradley harped to the point of bullying in an HBO “Faceoff.” Pacquiao isn’t stopping his opponents and seems unconcerned about it, not to mention fairly blasé about the Bradley injustice and the shocking knockout loss to Marquez, in which Pacquiao pressed for a knockout and got careless.
Trainer Freddie Roach blames Pacquiao’s relative reticence on the religious makeover Manny underwent a couple of years ago.
“Manny's told me, 'If I don't need to knock them out, I really don't want to hurt them,' " Roach told the Los Angeles Times. “I've told him that's not a great idea in boxing. … People want to see knockouts, and you can get hit the longer you let it go."
But Pacquiao said religion has not changed or hindered his boxing. "It's helped me. I stopped gambling, stopped drinking, stopped with the girls.”
He also denies that he’s gone soft on his opponents."It's just happened like that," Pacquiao said. "I want all my fights to be a knockout, but you can't control what happens in the fight. I'll convince people this weekend, prove to them I still have the killer instinct."
His future marketability depends on it. Pacquiao is 35. If he can fight as dynamically as in his past three fights, he’ll win the decision this time, although Bradley’s abilities as a ring general could once again sway judges his way. So a Pacquiao victory is probably going to be a close call that signifies the impending end of a great career.