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From the moment ring announcer Michael Buffer announced the judges' decision following the welterweight world title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr. nearly two years ago it was inevitable that there would be a rematch.
The reason was not because the June 2012 showdown was such a compelling action fight filled with drama. Instead it was because Bradley, seemingly beaten easily by a dominant Pacquiao, had his hand raised as the split decision winner. In boxing, controversy usually means one thing -- an eventual rematch.
|After a controversial fight in 2012, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr. are ready for their April rematch.|
And on Tuesday, a little more than a week after they agreed to terms for the sequel, Pacquiao and Bradley met the media at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., to formally announce their April 12 (HBO PPV) rematch in Las Vegas, the one everyone saw coming from the moment their 2012 fight concluded. It will take place in the same MGM Grand Garden Arena ring as the first fight.
That first fight has everything to do with the second fight the way Bradley sees it.
"This fight is basically redemption for me," Bradley said. "I feel deep in my heart I won the first fight. They don't feel I won the fight and I didn't get any credit. This fight is basically redemption for me. I'm gonna beat Manny Pacquiao and get the credit I didn't get in the first fight. That's the bottom line."
Said Joel Diaz, Bradley's trainer, "This is a fight which will give us peace of mind after the controversy of our first fight. We have to win and make it clear."
Bradley and Diaz are just about the only ones who felt like Bradley beat Pacquiao. The decision unleashed a storm of worldwide controversy over the scoring by the two judges who had it for Bradley -- Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, both of whom have since resigned as professional boxing judges.
"I remember last time believing that I won the first against Tim Bradley," said Pacquiao, who did not complain about the decision, instead letting everyone else voice their displeasure for him. "I thought I was leading after every round. I thought I won the fight easily. I controlled the fight every round. I had a feeling in training camp that he would run from me once he felt my power and he did after third or fourth round.
"I was very surprised by the decision. But that's part of the game. He got the decision and my title."
So severe was the criticism of the result, 115-113 for Bradley on those two scorecards and 115-113 for Pacquiao on judge Jerry Roth's card, that the WBO, which sanctioned the title fight, held an independent review of the video and all of the judges scored it for Pacquiao.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, strongly believed Pacquiao won, going so far to ask the Nevada attorney general to investigate the judges, a probe that tuned up nothing. Bradley, even though he had nothing to do with the scoring, received death threats from angry Pacquiao fans. It was a mess.
With emotions too raw over the outcome and Arum realizing an immediate rematch probably was a tough sell, mainly because of how one-sided the fight seemed to be, Bradley and Pacquiao embarked on separate courses that have now led back to one another naturally, not in a manner in which the rematch feels forced.
"To judge a fight as to whether it is competitive or not, there is only one true test -- the sportsbooks in Las Vegas," Arum said. "And those sportsbooks have this fight as close to an even-money fight as possible. So the people who really stand to profit or lose based on the outcome of the fight have made it a virtual pick 'em fight, and that speaks volumes to everyone. [This isn't] just the promoter saying the fight is competitive, but the people who do this for a living, making the lines."
After the loss to Bradley, Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs), the 35-year-old Filipino icon who has won world titles in a boxing-record eight weight divisions, faced his great rival Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time in December 2012 and was shockingly knocked out cold in the sixth round. But in November, Pacquiao returned from the 11-month layoff and easily outpointed Brandon Rios in a performance that let everyone know that he still had something left.
"In my fight against Rios I proved I can still fight at the high level everyone expects from me," Pacquiao said. "I showed I can still control a fight as well as I ever have."
Bradley, meanwhile, earned immeasurable respect from fight fans last March when he survived a brutal slugfest with Ruslan Provodnikov -- the consensus fight of the year -- to win a decision and retain the title he had gotten in the Pacquiao fight. Then Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs), 30, of Palm Springs, Calif., outboxed Marquez in October in perhaps his career-best performance.
"I am impressed with what Bradley has done since our fight," Pacquiao said. "He is a different fighter now since we fought. He has more experience at this level and as a welterweight champion. He fought extremely well against Marquez. I knew Tim would beat him utilizing his speed, but I am sill faster than Bradley.
"The only way Bradley can beat me this time is to knock me out. He cannot outbox me. I will be the aggressor. I will throw a lot of punches at him -- more than I threw against Rios -- and I will land them. Last time I was too nice. This time, I will finish what I start. I want to get back that belt he won off of me."
Bradley yearns for redemption, but revenge is the name of the game for Pacquiao.