Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley will get the chance to settle the score between them after deciding to fight each other for the third – and probably – last time on April 9 in Las Vegas.
The two split their first two fights with Bradley winning the first on a disputable split verdict in 2012 and Pacquiao exacting payback on a unanimous decision in the rematch in 2014.
“Everything’s done and contracts have already been set out to the fighters,” said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, whose Top Rank Inc. is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016.
Press conferences in Los Angeles and New York “in the third week of January”, Arum revealed, will take place with Pacquiao (57-6-2 with 38 KOs) and Bradley (31-1-1 with 13 KOs) in attendance.
Bradley was actually one of three or four guys Pacquiao eyed as a foe. The others included Terence Crawford, British Amir Khan and latecomer Adrien Broner.
The undefeated Crawford was also deliberated on but even though his stock is rising, the Nebraska native hasn’t reached that level yet of an elite fighter like Bradley has. Khan and Broner were scratched off as they are not promoted by Top Rank.
Arum, who turned 84 recently, has booked the MGM Grand for Pacquiao’s much-awaited ring return but is cautious not to hype it as the Filipino star’s farewell fight.
“Anything can happen,” said Arum, unsure whether Pacquiao is indeed serious in calling it quits after the Bradley rubber match to fully devote his time on his political career.
And it could very well be the 37-year-old Pacquiao’s final stand if he looks past Bradley, whose stock rose after deciding to tap a new trainer in Teddy Atlas.
Atlas served as an assistant to Cus D’Amato, who molded a troublemaker named Mike Tyson back in Catskill, New York in the late 1970s until the first part of the 1980s.
Under Atlas, Bradley morphed into a different fighter and his decision to hire the New York native worked wonders when he knocked out the rugged and rock-hard Brandon Rios with a body shot last November, something Pacquiao couldn’t do when he fought him in 2013.
“Bradley is not only different but a better fighter now,” said Arum.
This early, the 59-year-old Atlas has started dissecting Pacquiao and has a clear idea of what to do.
“I already looked at it. I don’t believe in waiting,” Atlas told ESPN. “When this fight was first discussed, I looked at it and I see what I should see and I see why Pacquiao was able to be effective and why Tim was able to be effective at the times when he was effective.”
Pacquiao, who is running for a Senate seat in the May elections, is coming off an injury on his right rotator cuff that needed surgery following the defeat to Floyd Mayweather.
Since suffering a one-punch knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez in late-2012, Pacquiao hasn’t been pretty active, having only fought four times, the last being the Mayweather megamatch last May.
But Mike Koncz, who serves as Pacquiao’s adviser, insists Pacquiao needs to get away from the maddening political scene in the Philippines to concentrate on beating Bradley in stunning fashion.
Swan song or not, Pacquiao is in for a rough night.