5 keys for Timothy Bradley Jr.
Plotting a path to victory for Timothy Bradley Jr. against Manny Pacquiao
Among other things, Saturday's sneaky-good main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will give us a chance, finally, to see Manny Pacquiao in the ring with a fighter who resembles Floyd Mayweather Jr. (however remotely) in his 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 Bradley on Saturday:
Raise the bar
|Both Pacquiao and Bradley are busy fighters, always in excellent shape and throwing dozens of punches per round. But Bradley lacks the power to do significant damage, which will be evident against Pacquiao -- a guy who routinely dishes out more than he takes (and he can take a lot). Bradley needs to make the fight about quantity rather than quality. Since his power isn't there, he'll have to score substantially greater punch numbers and make Pacquiao try to match his output. If nothing else, it's a good start.|
Take Manny to the Octagon
|Just because he's fighting in a ring doesn't mean Bradley has to settle for only four angles. In Pacquiao's third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, this past November, it was painfully clear that PacMan's defense isn't as sharp as it used to be. And truth be told, it was never all that sharp in the first place -- but Marquez made it look even worse. Marquez's lead right hand followed by a left uppercut wreaked havoc upstairs, and Pacquiao had no answer for it. The lesson to be learned? Bradley needs to work from all angles, bring his entire repertoire into play -- not just the old 1-2-then-hook. It may be risky, and Bradley might have to improvise on the spot, but the variety will pay off.|
Run for the hills
|Bradley's early dawn runs on the edge of the desert look great on camera. But he shouldn't slow down after stepping into the ring Saturday just because he'll have an audience and a change of scenery. Fans will hate to hear this, but that doesn't make it any less effective a strategy: Bradley can stand and trade leather in the middle of the ring if he wants to, but sooner or later he'll have to get on his bike and ride hard -- away from the wrath of PacMan. It's not going to be pretty, and he'll be remembered for the wrong reasons if he wins like this, but the option must remain on the table if Bradley wants a win.|
Start printing those posters
|Bradley already has had a mock poster made up for a Pacquiao rematch fight, placing it in a conspicuous spot in his gym for motivational purposes. He needs to take it to the next level: start booking sparring partners, setting up training camp and printing those posters in bulk. Why? Because he'll need all the help he can get against Pacquiao, a fighter known for eroding his opponents' confidence round by round. (Watch Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales take the count, without any attempt to stand up, basically conceding their fights to Pacquiao.) Bradley has never lacked faith in himself, but this time he'll need all he can muster.|
Work the count
|Sometimes we get caught up trying to split a fight into imaginary segments -- quarters, thirds, etc. -- and assigning portions of it to each fighter in advance. It's common to hear predictions suggesting that one fighter will dominate the first half, the other will respond in the homestretch, and so forth. Bradley needs to keep the judges guessing, managing his own pace, without any sort of preconceived notion of continuity. Dominate two rounds, take a rest for one if necessary, win three more overwhelmingly. Be unpredictable. Don't throw all strikes early. Toss Manny a few balls and see if he can keep up later. Pacquiao is used to being in control at all times, and if Bradley takes that away from him, it could bother his rhythm enough to give Bradley the openings he needs.|
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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