At 35 and a veteran of 19 years as a professional fighter, Manny Pacquiao has played a major role in a fair share of big-time fights.
But the Filipino icon counts Saturday's rematch with Timothy Bradley Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) as the most important fight of his career.
Pacquiao (50-5-2, 38 KOs) enters the bout seeking revenge from their first controversial first bout, won by Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) via split decision.
Just six months removed from a bounce-back victory over Brandon Rios, Pacquiao recently took the time to talk with ESPN.com about what motivates him to keep going:
How important was it for you to look that good in your victory against Rios?
It was important because I like to show that I am still the best fighter in the world and to prove that I can still fight. After a long layoff of one year, I was able to be strong and dominate the fight.
In what ways have you changed as a fighter in the two years since your first fight against Bradley?
I think now I am more smart and not as reckless. I just want to dominate.
Bradley has done more trash-talk about you in the buildup to this fight than we are used to seeing. Would you categorize him as overconfident?
No, I don't think so. I think you have to believe in yourself if you are to win the fight. And I believe that I will really win the fight also. For me, boxing is just a sport. I like sportsmanship and I respect my opponent.
Which fighter entering the rematch has more to lose?
Both of us, because he is the champion now and I am challenging for his belt, but I am also fighting for the most important fight of my career.
How did you score the first fight against Bradley after getting a chance to rewatch it?
I scored it the same -- I thought I won every round.
You were very humble in the way you accepted defeat upon hearing the decision in your first fight against Bradley. How difficult was that to do considering how clear it appeared you had won?
It's part of boxing. I respect the judges. I respect their opinion. But, you know, in my heart, I believe I won that fight. But sometimes it doesn't go your way. You can't get mad at anybody. You can't get mad at Bradley because it wasn't his decision. You can't get mad at anyone -- just accept it and move forward.
What do you think the judges saw that allowed two of them to score it for Bradley?
I honestly don't know. I respect their decision, but it made me feel like they were scoring a track meet.
You have been quoted as saying you underestimated Bradley in the first fight. In what ways was that true?
I thought he showed that he is a top fighter and landed some clean shots. He showed that he was very tough.
In what way did Bradley impress you the most in the first fight?
His toughness. I hit him with a couple of hard shots a few times and he didn't get knocked down.
In hindsight, how much of a distraction was Game 7 of the Celtics-Heat NBA playoff series, causing you to hold up the start of your fight with Bradley?
I didn't think about that. I was just enjoying basketball. It was not an issue.
What strategy did Bradley employ in his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez that gave him so much success?
He was just outboxing Marquez. He boxed him like when Marquez fought Floyd Mayweather.
There has been plenty of talk about you having lost your killer instinct. If that's true, how do you get that back?
I don't think I ever lost it. I'm a fighter and different fights are different. This is a bigger weight class now, and it's just different styles in different fights. In the beginning when I was fighting at 140 and 135, I was stronger. And now [my opponents'] styles are different now. I fought [Antonio] Margarito and different guys who are bigger and tougher.
Which of your victories do you consider to have been the toughest?
I would say the Margarito fight because he was so much bigger. In the beginning, when I was younger, cutting weight was very tough, but when you fight bigger guys it's very tough because they are just heavy. [Margarito] was very, very strong.
The one fight in which it appeared you were forced to absorb the most damage was in the early rounds against Miguel Cotto. What drove you to overcome such a difficult challenge?
Miguel was a very strong puncher. I wanted to show that I could take his punch in the beginning, in the early rounds. So I tried to go toe-to-toe with him.
So many fighters today are focused more on getting big paydays against opponents who offer less risk. Why have you been so consistent in matching yourself against difficult opponents?
My job is to please the fans. They spend so much money on tickets and pay-per-view. I want to give them a good fight and good show so that they don't feel like their money is wasted. They work hard for their money and I appreciate that. That's why I like to pick good fights for me.
Considering your history of being unable to make a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., how difficult is it as a fighter to endure today's network and promotional cold war?
It's a little frustrating, but I have fought anybody and everybody that they put in front of me so if [the Mayweather] fight happens, so be it. If not, I am satisfied.
There's plenty at stake for both fighters entering this rematch, but what's your greatest source of motivation?
Obviously, the most important for me is fighting for God, because I want to honor him with everything that I do. And that includes fighting. I want to fight to the best of my abilities to win the fight and also for my countrymen, and to the fans of boxing all over the world. They have been supporting me for so many years. I want to give the people a good fight.