Make or break for Pacquiao
By Abac Cordero Updated Sunday April 13, 2014 - 12:00am

Graphics by Eugene Bacasmas

LAS VEGAS - Manny Pacquiao puts his reputation and his boxing career on the line when he faces undefeated American Timothy Bradley in a highly-awaited rematch he cannot afford to lose on Saturday evening (Sunday noon in Manila) at the MGM Grand here.

Pacquiao is undeniably the most exciting boxer of his generation. But two successive defeats in 2012 plus the fact that he hasn't scored a knockout since 2009 have left a lot of people asking and guessing if he still is the same old vicious fighter.

The 35-year-old Pacquiao bounced back from his losses to Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez by beating Brandon Rios in Macau last November. It was a one-sided contest and yet people were not satisfied with Pacquiao's victory.

Bradley said Pacquiao had several chances to put Rios away but each time the American claimed that Pacquiao backed off. This made him think and say that Pacquiao has either lost his killer instinct or has become too compassionate inside the ring.

"His motivation isn't there anymore," said Bradley a couple of days ago.

The moment the fight was sealed, Bradley kept on saying that Pacquiao is no longer the same and will never be the same. This also cemented his belief that he fully deserved his victory over Pacquiao in 2012 even though nine out of 10 people believed that the Filipino won.

When he climbs into the ring Saturday evening, Pacquiao will need to prove a lot of things.

"My time is not yet up. My journey continues. I know I need to win so that my journey as a boxer continues. This is my time to prove that I can still continue boxing," said Pacquiao, also out to regain the WBO welterweight title he lost to Bradley in their first meeting.

Pacquiao worked harder and longer in training than in his previous fights. But it's not all about whether he still has the speed and the power, but if he still has the killer instinct that carried him to 38 knockout victories out of a total of 55 wins.

"I'm prepared. I'm very happy with the result of my fight with Rios. But here I believe that I need to win to prove that I can still continue to fight," said Pacquiao, the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions.

Pacquiao doesn't only need a victory here. He needs an impressive win, one that will leave no doubts and prove that he did win the first fight. If he knocks Bradley out, then he also proves that he still has the killer instinct in him.

A few times the past few days here, Pacquiao was asked by the media what would happen in case he doesn't win the fight. He gave the same answer to the same question.

"I always think positive - not negative. If your mind is set on the winning side then you think positive," he said.

The betting lines in this glitzy gambling capital of the world put Pacquiao at -260, meaning you need $260 to win $100, and Bradley at +210, meaning every $100 wager pays a handsome dividend of $210. It's almost 2-1.

Because of the outcome of their first fight, the betting public is leaning on a fight that will go the distance. But those who enjoy a closer look at the two camps say that this time, the judges won't have a say on the final result.

Bradley said he will go for the knockout.

"I'm gonna knock that guy out. That's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna knock him out," said the 30-year-old Bradley on the eve of the fight, a sequel of the 2012 showdown that had Bradley winning in the eyes of two of the three judges.

"He has to prove it in the ring. It's hard to say any word but you have to prove it in the ring," said Pacquiao after the official weigh-in where he tipped the scales at 145 and Bradley just a shade heavier at 145.5.

Bradley said he can box and he can brawl but he will never run.

And if the undefeated boxer from Palm Springs does, Pacquiao said he's ready to make the adjustments.

"I'm ready for that whatever his style is inside the ring," said Pacquiao.

Bradley said he expects Pacquiao to come right at him and that he's ready to face the Filipino head-on.

"My punches will be a lot harder. I should be able to find those rooms to punch. Pacquiao hasn't lost a step. I saw the Rios fight and he was sensational. But this is my time. I know why I'm here," he said.

Pacquiao vowed to show no compassion inside the ring this time.

"This time around I think I have to finish the business first. I have to do all I can do," he said.

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