Bradley out to win his 'Super Bowl'
There is a reason why Manny Pacquiao is about a 5-to-1 favorite to retain his welterweight title against Timothy Bradley Jr. on Saturday night: because he's an all-time great fighter.
I recognize and appreciate all that Pacquiao has done, but past glory doesn't win fights. So although Pacquiao remains an excellent fighter -- one of the best -- he has looked slightly diminished in his recent fights, especially in his November trilogy match with Juan Manuel Marquez, a fight many strongly believe he lost. At best, Pacquiao looked as bad as he has in years.
I look at Bradley and see the livest 'dog in a Pacquiao fight that I've seen in years. Bradley has a lot going for him. First and foremost, he's an excellent fighter. He has won multiple junior welterweight titles, he's undefeated and, more important, he's undefeated against quality opponents.
He's a guy who went overseas to win his title, against Junior Witter, on the champion's British turf -- when Witter was still good. Bradley showed his heart and resiliency when he got off the deck twice against Kendall Holt, a tremendous puncher, and won to unify belts. Bradley also basically shut out Lamont Peterson, who later beat Amir Khan in a title fight. And Bradley won another unification fight, against Devon Alexander, taking his unbeaten record.
Bradley is also 28 -- five years younger than Pacman, who is entering his 60th fight. Bradley won't be troubled by moving up one division. Pacquiao is a small welterweight. The size, in this case, doesn't matter. Bradley is also close to his opponent in terms of speed, which is almost always a major Pacquiao advantage. Not in this fight.
When is the last time Pacquiao faced a quality younger man in his prime who could match his speed? You'll be thinking for a while.
Since moving up to junior welterweight and beyond, Pacquiao has etched great names on his ledger: Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito and Ricky Hatton. Not one of them was in his prime when Pacquiao defeated them. Bradley is.
I also love Bradley's intangibles. This is his Super Bowl. This fight can change his life and make him a star. Talking to him, you almost feel as though he can taste it -- that's how badly he wants it. He is as up for this fight as any fighter I've ever seen.
Pacquiao? He's ready, but to him, I believe, this is just another fight. It's not in his top five, maybe not even his top 10, most significant fights of his career. That have-to-have-it attitude that Bradley has can make a world of a difference in a tight fight.
Pacquiao has a significant power advantage, but Bradley has good enough movement and quickness to avoid any prolonged toe-to-toe action that could put him in jeopardy. Bradley is intelligent and should be able to effectively pick his spots to gamble, but he won't deviate from the controlled game plan devised by underrated trainer Joel Diaz.
I believe this one will result in a close upset decision victory for Bradley. See you in November for the rematch.
Pacquiao still superior to live dog
Make no mistake about it: Timothy Bradley Jr. is a live dog in this fight. He's undefeated and he's hungry. He's a nice guy to talk to, and his personal life seems completely centered, but he carries around a chip on his shoulder the size of a log. He feels he deserved an opportunity like this a long time ago, and he has no intention of letting this chance slip through his fingers.
He won't show up to lie down or make up the numbers. He isn't even coming just to fight. He's coming here to win, and to knock out Manny Pacquiao in the process.
That's going to make for a great fight. But it also contains the seeds of Bradley's destruction.
When Pacquiao has struggled or looked less than dominant lately, it has been against opponents who don't want to throw punches (Joshua Clottey), who spend the night backpedaling out of harm's way (Shane Mosley) or who draw his sting and respond with fast counters (Juan Manuel Marquez).
Bradley doesn't completely fit any of those molds; he can move, he can fight from range and he can counter, but he isn't by any means a reluctant warrior and his greatest success comes from pressuring his opponents to the extent that they implode. He can do that rapidly (see: Campbell, Nate) or over the course of several rounds (see: Alexander, Devon), but ultimately his preferred game is to seek and destroy, to bob and weave under his foe's fusillade and use a range-finding jab to work inside and then let loose. That works exceptionally well against boxers like Alexander or Junior Witter, but it's the kind of strategy that will have Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach licking their lips in anticipation.
Bradley is fast, but not as fast as Pacquiao. He can hit hard, but nothing like as hard as Pacquiao hits. He uses footwork to generate angles from which to punch, but not as well as Pacquiao does. He can alter the distance and trajectory of his assault, but not with the same degree of versatility and unpredictability that Pacquiao can. Bradley doesn't do anything exceptionally well, but he is a very skilled fighter who does a lot of things very, very well. Unfortunately, few -- if any -- of them are things he does as effectively as Manny.
It'll be an interesting and enjoyable contest for a while, and Bradley can discomfit Pacquiao with his bob-and-weave game and sudden attacks. (And don't discount the potential impact of that potent Bradley dome.) But once Pacquiao begins timing his opponent and landing with authority, there will be only one ending. I see the Filipino buzzsaw stunning Bradley a couple of times in the second half of the fight, then taking over and stopping him around the eighth or ninth round.
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