It was just over eleven months ago that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather were set to face off in the 'Fight of the Century,' with three of boxing's four alphabet world championships on the line. The fight that the boxing world had clamoured over for the best part of the last six years was duly won by the exceptional Mayweather, who extended his unbeaten record to 48-0, before retiring 49-0 four months later, following his decision win against Andre Berto.
On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao will supposedly bow out of boxing, following a distinguished twenty-one-year career that has seen him capture world titles in a record eight divisions, gaining pound-for-pound number one status along the way. He has fought in some of the best fights of the twentieth century, scored countless sensational knockouts, namely that of Ricky Hatton in May 2009, and become the icon of the Philippines, so desperately needed following the disastrous tsunami of Boxing Day 2004.
He is set to fight Timothy Bradley, a man he has faced on a previous two occasions, winning one, and losing the other in very controversial fashion by split-decision in June 2012. It marked an 'annus-horribilis' for Pacquiao, who went on to get brutally KO'd by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth fight in December.
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Yet, he responded well, with victories over Brandon Rios, the aforementioned Bradley, and Chris Algieri, before facing Mayweather in their titanic battle last year. Therefore, the question is rightly posed? Why is Pacquiao-Bradley III so irrelevant, especially when one considers he is technically coming off the back of possibly the biggest fight in the history of boxing.
The truth lies in the fact that we have already seen Pacquiao-Bradley twice and the rubber match is somewhat ineffectual, especially considering neither previous fight set the world alight. As mentioned briefly above, the first will go down as one of the worst decisions in boxing history, with a routine points win for Pacquiao manufactured by two judges into a decision win for Bradley. The second, in April 2014, was a routine Pacquiao victory with the correct decision, in which he regained his WBO welterweight championship from the man that had so controversially taken it away.
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The option by Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, to once again select an in-house fighter as Pacquiao's opponent needn't have been as negatively received as the Bradley selection has been. A number of top operators exist within his contingent, notably that of Terence Crawford, who is touted as being a future leader of the sport, whilst holding the WBO super-lightweight championship. Opting to fight Britain's Kell Brook, who holds the IBF welterweight title was also mooted, whilst names such as Adrien Broner and Amir Khan, as ever fluttered about.
No world title is on the line on Saturday night. Bradley recently vacated his WBO welterweight strap in order to face Pacquiao, which was far more financially lucrative than the sanctioning bodies mandatory challenger, Sadam Ali.
The WBO will, therefore, allow the contest to take place for their WBO international welterweight championship, under the title of 'Battle of Super Champions,' with the belt commissioned for the fight costing around $100,000. It fits with the recent trend amongst boxing's governing bodies, whereby ludicrous world championships are seemingly made by the day.
This is not to say that a world championship must be at stake to make the fight worth watching. Pacquiao-Khan would have provided compelling viewing for audiences both sides of the Atlantic, as would Pacquiao-Crawford if it was contested as a non-title welterweight fight. The point being, Pacquiao-Bradley III would have held more significance had an alphabet belt been on the line.
Aside from this, Pacquiao's recent remarks regarding same-sex relationships whilst running as a Conservative Christian for a position on the Philippine Senate in May have sparked outrage worldwide. He referred to people engaging in same-sex relationships as 'worse than animals,' citing Biblical narrative in defence.
The comments led to Nike dropping the athlete, labelling his thoughts 'abhorrent.' It marks a fall from grace from Pacquiao, who was so often regarded as a hero of the people, and it is yet to be seen as to whether the comments will hinder his election campaign.
With regard to the U.K., Saturday night will be of certain significance, as Anthony Joshua will challenge Charles Martin for the IBF heavyweight championship. The world's attention will likely divert to the heavyweight clash, with the hope of seeing Joshua come of age on a truly defining night in London. Pacquiao's legacy has already been written, and Saturday's clash with Bradley is nothing more than a farewell for 'Pacman.' His relegation to Premier Sports, rather than fighting on Sky Box Office or Britain's premium boxing network Boxnation cements the irrelevancy of his last hurrah.
When the history books come to be written, Manny Pacquiao will stand only behind Floyd Mayweather in terms of his generation's finest fighters. His fan-friendly style, beaming smile, combined with a resume that boasts a list of names rarely comparable, cement him as one of his generation's most likeable fighters who was willing to fight anyone.
Pacquiao doesn't need Saturday night, neither does Bradley for that matter. Win, lose or draw (which would be somewhat fitting), Pacquiao will retire as one of the greats. Sadly, the boxing wheel on which he was once a considerable cog, began turning in his foreseeable absence a long time ago.
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