Manny Pacquiao Vs. Timothy Bradley Rematch Booked: An Analysis

[Jun. 9, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Timothy Bradley Jr (left) punches Manny Pacquiao during the 2nd round of a welterweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports]

Late last week, Top Rank and HBO finalized the next fight for their biggest (yet very possibly dimming) pay-per-view star, Manny Pacquiao: a rematch with Timothy Bradley on April 12, it what amounts to the best welterweight opponent on the merits that Pac could snag. What Bradley might not necessarily be is the best available opponent to turn the ring into a napalm testing field or make the cash register melt.

Let's talk about the first part first. Bradley's was TQBR's Fighter of the Year in 2013 and not an unpopular choice elsewhere, either. Yes, he only squeaked by both opponents he beat, but one of them was the burgeoning Ruslan Provodnikov (who would cement his status as a real threat to contenders with a win over Mike Alvarado) and the other was a top 5 pound-for-pounder in Juan Manuel Marquez. Now Bradley's in the same company. He can win a brawl or a boxing match. He is a grotesequely bulging-bicep'ed, washboard ab'ed incarnation of willpower itself. And he's the best welterweight not named Floyd Mayweather, who won't fight Pacquiao and vice versa.

Bradley is better now than when he first faced Pacquiao; Pacquiao, while showing he had plenty of fight left against Brandon Rios, isn't better off for getting sleepified by Marquez since he met Bradley in 2012. While few souls honestly believed Bradley beat Pacquiao then, it was not a fight without stretches of competitiveness, and might have had even more such stretches had Bradley not injured his foot. While every Pacquiao fight since he beat Oscar De La Hoya in 2008 has seen fans and writers pick against him, they've usually been the strict minority and the utterances have been greeted with scoffs or gasps. This time? Pacquiao will probably come in to the ring as the betting favorite, but Bradley will be a VERY popular pick.

As  for the money and the action: With his Fighter of the Year campaign, Bradley probably has earned himself some of the commercial appeal that long evaded him. He did solid ratings against Provodnikov and Bradley-Marquez was profitable on PPV, even if Marquez's Mexican fan base carried a heavy load. He's got an intensity, candor, knack for colorful speech and charismatic self-belief that make him likeable, even if he's heard boos at the end of his last three fights. He's also American and black, and both can work for his marketability. But there's little evidence of a vast, fully realized fan base right now. Another Marquez rematch for Pac would surely do better numbers than Pac-Bradley II, and, of course, so would Mayweather-Pacquiao. But neither of those fights are happening — Marquez is still being petulant about Pacquiao deserving a rematch — so Pacquiao-Bradley II is the most financially viable fight for both men right now. Top Rank's Bob Arum is predicting the fight will do better than the first one (900,000 buys) because of Bradley's growth, but I'd be surprised if it equaled the first's buy rate, based on the half-million figure Pacquiao did against Rios (yeah, yeah, it was in China and that made a difference) and all the other reasons Pacquiao's PPV rate could be eroding overall.

There are other business-related reasons the fight is happening. Bradley is an ambitious lad, and might like to break him off a piece of Mayweather if he beats Pacquiao again — and he'd have the best argument for it, by far, if he did. (His argument is already pretty good right this second. Mayweather and Bradley are the #1 and #2 welterweights in the world.) It sounded like Top Rank had wanted to lock Bradley down as a condition of the Pacquiao rematch, and Mayweather has said he refuses to work with Top Rank, so there was some balking. This kind of thing recently led Robert Guerrero to seek the end of his contract with Golden Boy Promotions, citing a violation of the Muhammad Ali Act. But a deal was worked out to keep Bradley with Top Rank.

Whether the rematch will be enjoyable outside its competitive quality is another thing. The first fight wasn't a riot — it was somewhat strategic thanks to Bradley being cautious and thanks to his injury, and thanks to Pacquiao taking his foot off the gas after a while like he was bored or something. Bradley has been in traditionally exciting fights before, obviously against Provodnikov but also a few others. Thing is, Bradley showed against Marquez that the stupidly brave version of him we witnessed against Provodnikov isn't who he was going to be going forward. Bradley could very well play it smart with Pacquiao, too, and Pacquiao is in a long phase of his career where his killer instinct has been replaced by a "compassionate" approach (it goes in quotes because beating the hell out of someone for 12 rounds isn't any more compassionate, and probably less so, than knocking him out cleanly). It could be a somewhat violence-free affair.

Under the circumstances (it's exhausting to have to live with "under the circumstances" in front of everything, as a boxing fan), it's a worthy fight. It'll be even more worthwhile if Top Rank bucks its recent trend of horrendous PPV undercards. A Pacquiao win would do wonders for his flagging reputation; a Bradley win could mint a new boxing superstar, given the vampiric nature of a win over a PPV attraction. Neither would be bad for the sport, even if it would set up the winner to be in the boxing world's conversation for a Mayweather fight that never is to be.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.