Manny Pacquiao currently has a welterweight championship (among the titles he has earned in a record eight divisions), careers in politics and entertainment, and perhaps the largest worldwide following in boxing, which has led to countless commercial and charitable opportunities (and commitments) for the Filipino superstar.
So it's little wonder that some believe Pacquiao's focus has wandered in recent years, a theory bolstered by what could be characterized as a dip in his performance (a tough day at the office in his most recent outing, a majority decision against Juan Manuel Marquez; no knockouts in his past four fights). Even the fighter's trainer, Freddie Roach, described Pacquiao as "distracted" before the Marquez fight, when his well-publicized personal and family turmoil came to a head.
At age 33, having fought in so many savage battles and pushed his body to advance so many rungs up the ladder to the welterweight division, Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) remains near -- if not at -- the top of his game. But the margin for error is miniscule for elite fighters, and the slightest slip from his peak against an opponent the caliber of junior welterweight champ Timothy Bradley Jr. (28-0, 12 KOs) -- whom Pacquiao will face June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) -- could grease the skids to Pacquiao's first defeat since his 2005 war with Erik Morales.
ESPN.com enlisted HBO to engage Pacquiao in a conversation to get his thoughts on his storied career, what lies ahead and, specifically, the Bradley bout. As part of an ongoing feature ahead of the fight, we will provide periodic updates with Pacquiao's responses.
On why Marquez and his style seem to give Pacquiao trouble, whether he'll give Marquez a fourth fight, and if there are any options besides Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. after the Bradley fight:
I get asked a lot about my fights with Juan Manuel Marquez. Our trilogy has been as exciting for us as it has been for boxing fans. Juan really understands how to fight southpaws. He's a very smart man and an excellent fighter. His deliberate and patient style of fighting is a product that comes from experience, and experience against great opposition. He's a brilliant counterpuncher.
My trainer, Freddie Roach, has said many times that Juan is the only smart one out there -- the only fighter who has figured me out.
I know the fans want to see a fourth fight between us, and I can understand why. Right now, I can only focus on the task at hand, and that's defending my title against Timothy Bradley. Just because Bradley is moving up in weight doesn't mean he is at a disadvantage. Believe me, I know. I've moved up in weight a few times myself. No one has ever beaten him -- no one. Freddie and I have four weeks of very hard training to prepare for this fight. I cannot afford to be distracted by thinking of other fights. That is a lesson experience has taught me.
Friday, May 11
On Bradley's strengths in this matchup, Pacquiao's own advantages and whether he has any concerns about Bradley's physical style and penchant for head clashes:
Timothy Bradley brings a lot of weapons to a fight. He has youth, an aggressive style and a state of mind that only a world champion possesses. No matter how much talent a fighter has, his game is raised by being a world champion. Tim has always found a way to win. He has great determination and can adapt and change his game plan in mid-fight.
Bradley seems to be improving with every fight. His victories over Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander, who were undefeated when he fought them, were very impressive. He knows how to impose his will on his opponents. He turns fights into wars.
I have speed and power to counter Bradley. My experience against Hall of Fame-caliber opposition is also an advantage for me. I have learned so much from fighting legends such as Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez. I also have the best teacher in my trainer, Freddie Roach.
I do have concerns about Bradley's fighting style. Anytime a southpaw fights an orthodox-style boxer head-butts are bound to happen, but with Bradley it's more of a concern because he tends to lead with his head. Hopefully we will have a good referee who will not let him do that. Regardless, it's my job to be prepared for anything he may bring.