Manny Pacquiao beat Timothy Bradley in the pair’s June 9 bout. There is no disputing that. Despite what two inept judges ultimately decided, Pacquiao was and is the rightful winner of that match. That shouldn’t even be debatable at this point.

What does remain debatable, however, is how we should view the Filipino champ after that fight. On one hand, he absolutely dominated Bradley for about 95 percent of the proceedings. He landed more punches (253-159) at a higher percentage (34-19). He landed more power punches (190-108) at a higher percentage (39-28). He landed more punches in more rounds (10-2). By any reasonable measure – Pacquiao fought the better fight.

That said, despite the fact that was clearly the superior boxer throughout, Pacquiao was unable to knock Bradley out. Even when the latter fighter was hobbled and could barely stand, for whatever reason, Pacquiao couldn’t put him away. The Filipino champ hasn’t recorded a knockout since 2009, but it wasn’t until that fateful night three and a half months ago that it really came back to bite him.   

And it’s likely that inability to put his overmatched, inferior opponent away that explains why Pacquiao isn’t as heavy a favorite for his upcoming Dec. 8 bout versus Juan Manuel Marquez as he was for their showdown last November.

As noted by  ABS-CBN, Pacquiao is -400 heading into his next match, and Marquez is +300. That’s a far cry from the -700 and +500 they were at, respectively, on their last go-round. Now, obviously the heart that Marquez showed in the pair’s third match has a lot do with that, but Pacquiao’s inability to put Bradley away likely played a part, too.

Pacquiao addressed the need to knock Marquez out at a recent press conference.

"My focus this time is to go for the knockout," Pacquiao said (via Jackson Sun). "I am a good counter-puncher, too. But that makes for a boring fight. I want to make the fight exciting. I don't want the fans to be bored."

But more important than fan attentiveness is the message that Pacquiao sends with a win – if he can get it.

"I need to be more aggressive in this fight," Pacquiao said. "I want a win that isn't close like the last three. It has to be a decisive victory."

The less-than-stellar odds in this one reflect a growing sentiment that Pacquiao is losing whatever it was that made him who he was. He can either dispel that theory in December with a strong showing, or prove it to be true with a weak one.

We’ll find out what’s what soon enough.

(Kudos ABS-CBN)

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