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The video from the weigh-in offers at least one noticeable difference between both fighters. While Manny Pacquiao struggles to gain definition on his abdominal muscles in the final pump-off (yeah, I came up with that), Timothy Bradley seems to effortlessly expose a solid six-pack on his belly while he smiles at the hundreds of cameras in front of him during the final public appearance before their fight on Saturday, a rematch of their controversial first fight in 2012.
The real fight looming in the background, however, will be to see who packs the hardest punch in a fight in which they both have something to prove. That is one difference that could become a deciding factor in the rest of their careers, as they both will be playing what appears to be a final card in their ambition to face the best fighter of our times in Floyd Mayweather.
Because, although their boxing skills are way above average and not being questioned at all, their ability to score a decisive victory in this rematch is what will increase their separate chances of earning a chance to face Mayweather, a fighter who has expressed his will to fight only a handful of times before finally retiring in two years time.
Bradley (31-0, 12 KO), of Palm Springs, Calif., is not precisely known as a puncher, and he bears the brunt of the burden, as he takes on a fighter who has not scored a stoppage since 2009 with the mission of scoring a more decisive victory than the tainted one he got in their initial encounter.
It is still hard to understand how the judges from their first fight saw Bradley earning a victory in a bout that is now widely considered as one of the biggest robberies in all of boxing, but one thing is certain: Bradley will have to look much better and more active in this rematch if he is ever going to earn the respect of the fans, who even after seeing him win his two fights since then (against Ruslan Provodnikov in a terrific war and against Juan Manuel Marquez in a solid domination) still refuse to give him credit.
For that reason, Pacquiao, (55-5-2, 38 KO), is the obvious favorite in this rematch, even before his devastating KO loss against Marquez in his fight immediately after losing to Bradley.
No other fighter has ever survived such huge odds against him. He wasn’t supposed to make it in the US when he first arrived here as a young, hungry fighter raised in the streets of Manila. He was not supposed to beat Oscar De la Hoya, a fighter much bigger and experienced than him. And even when he finally became the instant favorite in his fights, he was still not supposed to steamroll Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Ricky Hatton and so many other tough fighters who figured to give him at least a very tough challenge. But he did, and he has plenty of gas in his karma tank to overcome Bradley even more decisively this time.
Even so, their biggest fight remains in the future. And we even got to sample a little bit of that future encounter during this week, when an angry Bob Arum, from Top Rank, bitterly complained about the MGM Grand posting huge ads for the upcoming Mayweather-Maidana clash around their property even during the buildup of Pacquiao-Bradley, claiming that those ads (sponsored by Mexican beer giant Corona) conflicted with his own ads for Pacquiao-Bradley, sponsored by the also Mexican brewing giant Tecate. The ads were since removed, but the Six Pack showdown that started at the weigh-in has now extended beyond the ring as the Mexican beer wars spilled out of the arena and into the MGM Grand Lobby.
And the war for a slot in Mayweather’s agenda will continue well after this fight, as both fighters gamble their last chance to entice the fighter known as Money to a multi-million dollar, career-defining fight.
The rest of the card:
Raymundo Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KOs) vs. Arash Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KOs), lightweights, 12 rounds
Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KOs) vs. Jessie Vargas (23-0, 9 KOs), jr. welterweights, 12 rounds
Bryan Vasquez (32-1, 17 KOs) vs. José Felix Jr. (26-0-1, 12 KOs), jr. lightweights, 12 rounds