Manny Pacquiao will return to the ring April 9 to meet welterweight champion Timothy Bradley Jr. for a third time, the fighters' promoter, Bob Arum, said Wednesday.
And although Pacquiao is seeking election to the Philippine Senate, he and Arum have agreed not to market this as his final bout.
FOR THE RECORD:
Boxing: In the Dec. 30 Sports section, an article about the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. bout identified Al Haymon as boxer Amir Khan's promoter. Haymon is Khan's advisor.
Pacquiao has repeatedly said he's hopeful to return with an impressive performance and then work to talk unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. out of retirement for a rematch.
Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 knockouts) has been sidelined since his May 2 unanimous-decision loss to Mayweather Jr. in their record-selling, long-awaited bout in which Pacquiao reaggravated a shoulder injury suffered in training.
On his Facebook page this week, Pacquiao, 37, declared the surgically repaired shoulder "100 percent" in a Q and A with fans.
Pacquiao has appeared to have his way with Bradley in both their June 2012 and April 2014 meetings, although judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford scored the 2012 bout for Bradley in what was considered a dubious decision.
Yet, the 32-year-old Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs) was impressive on Nov. 7, successfully defending his World Boxing Organization welterweight belt with a ninth-round technical knockout of Brandon Rios in Las Vegas.
"We haven't seen this fight already, because this is a new Bradley," Arum said.
"I don't know that Manny has to prove anything other than he's better than the current Bradley and his new coach. The Bradley who beat Rios was better than the Bradley I've seen of the last five years. Can that Bradley beat Manny Pacquiao? I don't know, but I think it's a close fight and he's still coming off an injury."
The Rios fight marked Bradley's first with trainer Teddy Atlas, the former Mike Tyson cornerman and current ESPN analyst who coaxed a masterful boxing performance from Bradley after the champion was hit too often in fights preceding it.
Atlas and Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach will certainly engage in verbal warfare preceding this bout.
Arum said the Pacquiao-Bradley deal has been verbally agreed upon by both fighters, and that contracts are being sent, with news conferences scheduled in Los Angeles and New York in January. Pacquiao is expected to begin training at Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood by Feb. 1, Arum said.
Pacquiao was expected to announce whether he'd choose Bradley, junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford or former 140-pound champion Amir Khan earlier this month, but then told Arum he needed more time.
"We have the deals … Manny approved it … and now the paperwork is being prepared," Arum said.
"I'm not going to advertise it as his last fight. It could be his last fight. But I'm not going to put myself in position where he changes his mind and goes on to fight in November, and then everyone says I'm a huckster. If it's his last fight, it's his last fight and it can be relevant as such after …. I'm not certain it is.
"Mayweather is retired, so I take him as his word. I could say, 'B.S., he's retired,' but how do I know that? He's retired? OK, he's retired."
Arum said Crawford, who he promotes, and Khan, handled by Arum's adversary Al Haymon, were rejected by cable and satellite distributors for not being "that well known yet."
"They didn't feel Khan would do anything," Arum said. "[Khan] has a spotty record, hasn't done great ratings. Why would we feel he'd do well on pay-per-view?"
Arum said he's seeking to place a super-middleweight title fight between his unbeaten challenger Gilberto Ramirez and Arthur Abraham on the Pacquiao-Bradley undercard, along with a possible heavyweight bout between Ike Ibeabuchi and Andy Ruiz. He said Crawford will fight on HBO twice between now and July and then be available for a possible Pacquiao pay-per-view card later in 2016.