It’s impossible for me to feel anything but disappointed by the announcement that Manny Pacquiao’s return bout in April will be a third fight with Timothy Bradley. Despite the bizarre judges’ decision in June 2012 that awarded Bradley a split decision, I had Pacquiao winning eight rounds. I had him winning nine in their April 2014 rematch. Neither fight was particularly exciting. It’s tough to feel any enthusiasm for a rubbermatch when most of the world believes that the series should really be 2-0.
Bradley is a talented fighter and as tough as they come. I have as much respect and appreciation for him as I do for any boxer. He was my choice for 2015’s Comeback Fighter of the Year. He’s got the WBO welterweight belt and I’d circle my calendar in eager anticipation, if he was matched against anybody in the current welterweight top 10, aside from Pacquiao.
Pacquiao has been one of the great boxing stars of this century and his return to action will be the biggest boxing story of the first part of 2016. But it’s a shame that all that ink is going to get spent re-hashing such a well-worn storyline.
The opponent I wanted to see Pacquiao face in his return was Terence Crawford, an undefeated, two-division champion and a burgeoning pound-for-pound star. Crawford is the WBO champ at 140 pounds, which I believe would be the best weight for Pacquiao at this point in his career. It’s always extremely compelling to see an aging legend like Pacquiao in the ring with a potential superstar like Crawford.
Of course, I view these matters from the perspective of a diehard fan, not from the perspective of a Hall-of-Fame promoter like Bob Arum. Bradley is the more familiar name to the casual boxing fans who are crucial for driving pay-per-view sales. Even though Bradley’s win over Pacquiao was one of the most criticized decisions in boxing history, four years is long time in the boxing world, and many fans will simply remember that Bradley won on the cards, and not that most observers disagreed with the verdict.
A lot will be made of Bradley’s new partnership with trainer Teddy Atlas, as well. Atlas is a great boxing brain and one of the sport’s more charismatic talkers. His participation will certainly help sell this fight.