Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 knockouts), in what he has said could be his final fight, is seeking to restore personal and public confidence in his skills following his disappointing showing 11 months ago against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- a defeat by unanimous decision.
He blew a kiss to the crowd, then weighed in Friday at MGM Grand Garden Arena at 145.5 pounds.
Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs), trying to produce a clean victory over his rival after a disputed split-decision triumph in 2012 and a clear loss in 2014, weighed in at 146.5 pounds for the HBO pay-per-view bout.
“I didn’t imagine this [third fight], but I feel this is what God had in store for me,” Bradley said. “It’s another opportunity to show the fans that I’m the top pound-for-pound fighter, that I can beat Manny Pacquiao.”
Bradley’s confidence is rooted in improvements made by trainer Teddy Atlas, the ESPN analyst who directed a masterful showing in Bradley’s ninth-round knockout of former lightweight champion Brandon Rios in November.
Hearing the more vocal support for Pacquiao from a far smaller crowd than the throng who showed for the Mayweather-Pacquiao weigh-in, Bradley said, “Get ready for the whuppin’. I think there’s going to be a lot of disappointed fans out there.”
Bettors are buying it, as Pacquiao’s favored status has shrunk this week. He's now a 2-to-1 favorite.
A victory by Bradley leaves him positioned for appealing possibilities, including a fight against Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at 154 pounds or a rematch with Las Vegas’ Jessie Vargas, who recently captured the World Boxing Organization welterweight belt that was once held by Bradley.
Pacquiao, 37, says he plans to return to the Philippines to campaign for a Senate seat that polls show he is favored to win in the upcoming election.
Should he perform strongly against Bradley, however, the tug to return to the ring will be strong.
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, noted that Pacquiao ate breakfast and lunch Friday and still weighed 1.5 pounds less than the welterweight limit.
Roach said he believes Pacquiao’s best weight is 140 pounds, and the trainer said that with a win, he would lobby Pacquiao to fight unbeaten light-welterweight world champion Terence Crawford in the fall.
Asked why he has something to prove, Pacquiao said, “I feel that way because that’s what the fans are waiting for this fight, [to] enjoy themselves. Expect more action in the ring, a good fight [compared] to the last fight we had [against Mayweather]. I’ll try to bring out the fight I had in training.”
If he can't, he might definitively be blowing another kiss goodbye to boxing.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter: @LATimespugmire