MANILA, Philippines – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is a 4-1 favorite to win against Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley this Saturday night (Sunday morning Manila time) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada – but the odds don’t accurately depict how close this fight really is. The momentum shift is in favor of Pacquiao as fans look back on the trail of devastation he’s left during his historic climb through multiple weight classes.
Still stuck in the minds of ‘Pacmaniacs’ are his thrilling victories against Oscar Dela Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto as well as earlier accomplishments against rivals Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.
But Pacquiao hasn’t particularly dazzled in recent fights. Against Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito whom he both failed to stop within the distance, Pacquiao has appeared mortal. He also struggled with arch-nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez last November, wherein the Mexican utilized polished counter-punching techniques to consistently frustrate Pacquiao for the 3rd time in all 3 fights of their trilogy.
Pacquiao beat them all – no doubt – but looks human now more than ever in comparison to his super-human efforts against Dela Hoya, Hatton and Cotto.
Tim Bradley, on the other hand, is riding on a wave of confidence which started by capturing the WBC Light Welterweight title against England’s Junior Witter — a fight in which he was a live underdog much like the way he is now against Pacquiao. Bradley electrified the crowd with a gutty performance and was able to run away with a narrow Split Decision in taking the belt.
Since then, Bradley has posted victories against hard-hitting Kendall Holt, Devon Alexander and the always crafty Joel Casamayor.
Bradley is a ‘put-your-head-down-and-fight’ kind of fighter. He’ll bury his head deep into an opponent’s chest and bang from the inside with an array of hooks and uppercuts which Pacquiao is at times succeptible to. Aside from sheer toughness, Bradley also has decent boxing skills featuring a solid jab to keep enemies at bay and good head movement to avoid absorbing too much punishment.
It’s certainly an interesting clash of styles to say the least. Let’s take a closer look.
Pacquiao does not have one-punch knockout power despite the way he wins his fights. The way he stops guys is by smothering them with combinations. It’s his speed and conditioning that poses so many problems for his opponents, not his power. This is not to say he is devoid of power which is definitely not the case. However, it has not carried well through his ascent into the higher weight divisions.
What Pacquiao does have is power that earns the respect of his adversaries – knowing at any time he can catch someone on the button and send them crashing to the canvass. But more often than not, Pacquiao overwhelms his opponents with volume punching and constant pressure, never letting any of them really get into a groove, always keeping them on the back foot. Then he catches them with a punch they don’t see. Sensing blood, Pacquiao knows how to finish the job and will gladly take the stoppage should the opportunity arise.
Bradley, who at 28 wins, has only 12 knockouts to his name, is not a real threat to Pacquiao in terms of power. He’s a solid puncher, but not much else.
EDGE TO PACQUIAO
This is where Pacquiao truly shines. At 147 pounds, you’d be hard pressed to find a fighter faster than Manny Pacquiao. Speed kills – a mantra repeated over and over by his trainer Freddie Roach – and that it does.
Pacquiao’s fast hands and nimble feet are troublesome for any opponent, as well as his unorthodox punching angles. Bradley’s thick skull may be able to handle Pacquiao’s power, but Pacquiao’s speed will prove the difference. The leather on those Cleto Reyes branded gloves will cut Bradley up like salami, and it won’t be a pretty sight.
Bradley has decent speed as well, but not nearly as obviously dominant as the Filipino’s.
If Pacquiao comes away from this fight as the victor, experts will point to his speed as being the main reason for the win.
EDGE TO PACQUIAO
Bradley’s pugilistic skills are a mix of a workman-like offense and a tenacity for defense. He slips and catches punches with his guard as good as anybody and he counter-punches pretty decently. Part of his defensive scheme – and perhaps the most significant – is his stonewall durability. Timothy Bradley is rock solid. He absorbs punishment like no other due to his superior conditioning.
He can be caught with a stray punch yes, and he has been sent to the canvas before, but his resiliency allows him to get back up, recover well and remain standing. In firefights, Bradley likes to grit his teeth and give as good as he gets.
Pacquiao is pedestrian on defense to say the least. He has very little head movement and usually gets caught with his hands down.
Indeed, Manny Pacquiao’s best defense is his offense. Pacquiao’s not only fast with his hands but also super quick on his feet. He’ll dart in to rip off his combinations and dart back out of harm’s way before an opponent can retaliate. Both his speed and power are used together to offset any attack an opponent can come up with. If a foe comes at Pacquiao with a 2-punch combination, Pacquiao will answer with a 4- or 5-punch combination of his own.
This fight won’t be about defense though. It’s all about who can land more punches. Yes, in this fan-friendly fight, defense takes a back seat.
Freddie Roach’s influence has undoubtedly improved Pacquiao’s overall game in terms of technique and strategy. Their boxer-trainer tag team has produced numerous key gameplans that were executed to near perfection. But, at times, Pacquiao abandons his corner’s instructions and tends to follow his opponent around the ring instead of cutting them off. When Pacquiao gets frustrated, he stalks and plods – this bodes well for challengers who have even a shred of boxing ability.
Bradley is no Floyd Mayweather, or a Juan Manuel Marquez, but he does have a good fundamentals. He’ll box if he needs to and he’ll surely attempt to play matador given the success Marquez had with that particular strategy. Whether it will be effective or not remains to be seen but it’s safe to say Bradley will try to lead Pacquiao into committing mistakes so he can capitalize on them.
SLIGHT EDGE TO BRADLEY
Sometimes, fights are not decided by power, speed or anything else that can be seen by the naked eye. Sometimes, fights are won on sheer heart and determination.
The hardest workers are often rewarded with an infinite reservoir of energy and toughness – no matter how hard they get hit, they always seem to find a way through it. Fighters who have the most to fight for, and the most to lose, always have that second wind to rely on when the going gets tough.
Manny Pacquiao, for the longest time, has fought with the weight of an entire nation sitting squarely on his shoulders. It’s enough to make any lesser man crumble under the enormous pressure. For years, he’s relied on his heart to carry him through tough situations.
But on Sunday, he faces Tim Bradley.
One glimpse at Tim Bradley and you can see the heart and determination oozing out of his aura. His confidence is glaring and he’s ready to go. If there’s anyone who can outwork the Pacman, it would surely be Bradley – and right now seems like the perfect chance for him to catch Pacquiao on the slide.
For the first time in a long time, I give this category to the other guy across the ring – slightly hesitant yet carefully thought through – and though it may not be enough to score a victory, you know what they say.
Never underestimate the heart of a champion.
SLIGHT EDGE TO BRADLEY
It will be a war from beginning to end. Pacquiao will use his superior hand speed and quickness to turn Bradley into a confused shell of a defense, weary of Pacquiao’s powerful straight left hand and sneaky right hook – but it will take some time to reach this point.
In the early rounds, it will be dead even as Bradley will stand right in front of Pacquiao and match him fire with fire. It will be tough, and some rounds will be close but by the middle rounds, Pacquiao’s pressure and combination punching will take its toll on Bradley who would be all too willing to exchange. In the end, Bradley’s toughness will be put to the test.
It will be an exciting fight for however long it lasts, and it won’t be a landslide victory for Manny Pacquiao but he’s expected to gut it out for a late round stoppage. By round 9, Pacquiao will either have broken Bradley’s spirit, or his rock solid defense, whichever comes first.
Pacquiao will look to get Bradley out of the ring in rounds 10 through 11, enroute to a TKO victory.
Pacquiao by TKO11 – Rappler.com
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