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Friday, June 8, 2012
Experts' picks: Pacquiao-Bradley

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN

In the span of a few short months, Timothy Bradley Jr. has been transformed from a virtual unknown into a dangerous opponent who has a legitimate shot to topple welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao on Saturday in Las Vegas. The spin-mongering of the promotional machine driving the show had a hand in the metamorphosis, but in any case it's all perception. Then, as now, Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) is a young, unbeaten titlist in a rough-and-tumble division who has a diverse skill set and a bottomless gas tank. Save for perhaps Juan Manuel Marquez, that's a far more formidable challenge than anything Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) has faced in recent years.

Below, our panel of ESPN.com boxing experts picks the winner of the main event, predicts the knockout of the night and pinpoints the fighter each believes has the chance to help himself more than any other on Saturday.

Dan Rafael's analysis

Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr.: I like that Bradley is five years younger, fresher, in his prime (Pacquiao isn't), skilled, undefeated against quality opposition and has similar speed to Pacquiao (a factor Pacquiao hasn't faced in ages). But what I love are Bradley's intangibles. He's so focused and desperately hungry to win the biggest fight of his life. Pacquiao? This isn't his fifth-biggest fight. Maybe not his 10th-biggest. The level of intensity goes to Bradley. It could be the difference in a tight decision win.

Knockout of the night: Guillermo Rigondeaux will defend his junior featherweight title for the first time Saturday against Teon Kennedy. This should be easy work for Rigondeaux, as the two fighters are in different leagues. Rigondeaux, maybe the greatest amateur ever, is a big leaguer who can do everything. Kennedy is more Triple-A. He'll try hard to go for it, which will play into Rigondeaux's powerful hands. He just might turn Kennedy's lights out.

Wild card: If Bradley pulls the upset over Pacquiao, he will launch himself to stardom. He will have beaten an iconic opponent in a history-making win. He'll owe Pacquiao a contractual rematch in November, which will put millions more into Bradley's bank account and -- win or lose a rematch -- still make him viable for huge fights down the road. If he beats Pacquiao, he'll be on top of the world. Even if Bradley loses Saturday, a good performance will raise his stock.

Kieran Mulvaney's analysis

Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr.: Bradley is coming to fight. He's undefeated and hungry, and he'll likely do what he always does: bob and weave his way inside then look to unleash straight punches. Alas, that's just what Pacquiao likes in an opponent, and it'll play into Pacquiao's hands. After an exciting opening few rounds, expect Pacquiao to seize the opportunity, hurt Bradley in the second half of the fight and stop him around the eighth.

Knockout of the night: Outside of Pacquiao, the man most likely to score an impressive stoppage is Jorge Arce. Sure, his opponent, Jesus Rojas, has never been stopped, but Rojas has never been in with anyone of the caliber of "Travieso." Rojas may last a few rounds if the Mexican lets him, but expect Arce to drop him and drown him in the deep waters of the second half of the fight.

Wild card: Guillermo Rigondeaux is a phenomenal talent, but in his previous exposure to a pay-per-view audience in November 2010, he and Ricardo Cordoba stunk out the joint. Since then, Rigondeaux has put together back-to-back dominant performances, and in Teon Kennedy -- a young and willing but limited opponent -- he'll have the perfect foe to showcase his sensational skills.

Michael Woods' analysis

Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr.: May I remind you that the last time Bradley fought at 147 pounds he won but made it clear he's better suited for 140? In July 2010, Bradley dabbled at welter, winning a unanimous decision against Luis Carlos Abregu, but went right back to 140 afterward. People, Bradley cannot hurt Manny Pacquiao at welterweight, not with his most hellacious toss, not even if Manny doesn't see it coming. Yes, Bradley is a pit bull. He will be in Manny's grill, punching and pestering and butting for 12 rounds. He has Hall of Fame stamina. But that's the only HOF-caliber thing going for him. He's a solid pugilist and an immensely likable fellow, but Bradley squares up and loops his punches too much, and Pacquiao, the more nimble athlete and accurate puncher, is going to pick him apart.

Knockout of the night: Jorge Arce is never in a bad bout. The little rumbler, an ex-junior flyweight, fly, bantam and super bantam champ, will be stalking the out-of-his-depth Rojas, who has never been eight rounds. Saturday at the MGM, Arce will make sure Rojas goes another night without seeing Round 8. Keep an eye out for the left hook to the body and then the left hook to the head, followed by a right-hand finisher.

Wild card: I can see Mike Jones, the 29 year-old Philly fighter, elevating himself more than anyone else Saturday. He has the right guy in front of him: Randall Bailey is 37, hasn't fought since September 2011, generally loses step-up fights and has a solid name. Jones has been making a living taking step-aside money, but on Saturday I expect him to force "The Knockout King" to step aside so he can snag a vacant welterweight crown.