5 keys for Manny Pacquiao
Plotting a path to victory against Timothy Bradley Jr.
Among other things, Saturday's sneaky-good main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will give us a chance to see Manny Pacquiao in with a fighter who resembles Floyd Mayweather Jr., however remotely, in speed, mobility and defensive slickness.
In recent years, Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) has chosen brawlers over boxers, fighters who will stand their ground rather than force him to give chase. But in Timothy Bradley Jr. (28-0, 12 KOs), Pacquiao has on his hands a defense-first, pinpoint-accurate undefeated champion who is supremely confident in his skills and can pile up points against the best fighters in the business.
Whether this bout is a prelude to a long-awaited Pacquiao-Mayweather fight remains to be seen. That aside, just watching Pacquiao take on a proven, in-his-prime champ who has the tools to make him look bad will be refreshing enough. Shane Mosley was supposed to pose a similar challenge, but Bradley, 28, has the skills and the youth (i.e., energy) to keep Pacquiao engaged throughout a fight. Bradley has everything to gain in a challenge that could catapult him to the upper reaches of the pound-for-pound list and earn him the keys to the most lucrative fights in the sport today.
With the stage set, here are five keys to victory for Pacquiao on Saturday:
|Pacquiao has it, sure, but does Bradley have as much? Unlikely. It's often said that speed is power, but if there is a poster boy for the opposite view of this notion, it has to be Bradley. Pacquiao may not float like a butterfly, but he does sting like a bee, while Bradley represents the flip side of that famous line of pugilist poetry. If Pacquiao forgets about trying to outscore Bradley and puts some beef behind every punch, the effect will be felt by Bradley sooner rather than later.|
A streak for the ages
|Pacquiao is in the midst of a tremendous winning streak that has already reached legendary proportions. He doesn't just take fights; he faces the best possible opponents out there time after time, without warm-up bouts in between. He has become proficient at the fine art of winning big fights. He is in his element, while Bradley will be stepping into uncharted territory in this, the biggest fight of his life -- before and after, quite likely. The sure bet is that Pacquiao will respond better to this pressure and come out on top. Once again.|
Closest to the real thing
|Pacquiao has to do something to show that he is capable of beating Mayweather in order to drum up a fight against him. Beating Bradley decisively will be as close as he will get to facing a guy with a similar skill set at this level of competition and at the weight where that fight should be made. Pacquiao knows this, and he surely is treating this fight as a dress rehearsal for the biggest fight in history, if it's ever allowed to happen. He will leave nothing to chance and will be ready to look great, or avoid looking bad, against a slick, fast, mobile fighter to keep the dream match with Mayweather alive. Not good news for Bradley.|
More is better
|Pacquiao throws dozens of punches from all angles, and he keeps the pressure on like no other fighter in the business. Bradley is surely aware of this, but the question is whether he is prepared for the monsoon of blows that Pacquiao will rain on him round after round. The smart bet is that he isn't and that Bradley will resort to backpedaling sometime during the home stretch, trying to salvage whatever advantage he had built earlier on. Big mistake. Pacquiao will read him easily and close in for the kill with another whirlwind of leather to put the first notch in Bradley's loss column.|
May the force be with you
|Of the fighter characteristics we analyze, most can be effectively measured up or weighed. Except for one. Deep inside, Pacquiao has a weapon that has never failed him, one he can count on whenever he's in trouble or needs to dig up that extra strength to finish a fight. This could be a huge key. When we talk about heart -- and just so we're clear, that's exactly what we're doing -- we're essentially judging any gap in fortitude between fighters. So here's our take on Saturday's main event: As long as the bout remains a boxing match, it will be competitive. Once it turns into a fight, we move into Pacquiao's territory.|
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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