Pacquiao a 2-1 favorite
LAS VEGAS—The time has come for Manny Pacquiao to reclaim his crown.
And he’s fully armed to crush whatever resistance Timothy Bradley will put up in their battle for the World Boxing Organization welterweight crown on Saturday night (Sunday in Manila) at MGM Grand Garden Arena here.
If the American champion chooses to engage in a dogfight, Pacquiao is likely to knock him out.
If Bradley opts to run, Pacquiao vowed to hunt him down and finish him off.
And if Bradley tries to box, Pacquiao will overpower him with jabs and combinations.
Bradley, 30, needs to find a novel way to thwart Pacquiao’s wrath in a rematch that took 19 months to happen.
Otherwise, the American’s immaculate 31-0 slate will be stained and Pacquiao (55-5-2, with 38 knockouts) will be hailed as the true winner of their first showdown, which Bradley won by a dubious split decision.
According to Bradley, he’s not the same guy anymore. He’s gotten a lot better and grown more confident after notching impressive victories over tough Russian Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez, whose stunning sixth round knockout of Pacquiao on Dec. 8, 2012 shocked the boxing world.
Trying to get into Pacquiao’s mind, Bradley taunted Pacquiao repeatedly in the fight buildup, claiming that the eight-division world champion’s killer instinct is gone.
During the official weigh-in on Friday, Bradley was at it again, announcing that he would knock Pacquiao out, eliciting boos from the predominantly Filipino crowd.
As a testament to the hard work they put in, both breezed through the 147-pound limit with Pacquiao checking in at 145 and Bradley tipping the scales at 145.5.
Bradley got what he wanted. Pacquiao is irritated and is itching for revenge.
True to his nature, however, Pacquiao refused to predict a knockout over Bradley.
Pacquiao’s actions during training camp betrayed his true intention.
Working harder than ever, the 35-year-old Pacquiao was able to rekindle the fire and get into superb shape that longtime mentor Freddie Roach said is vintage Pacquiao.
That’s why the Hall of Fame trainer believes Bradley’s head is on the chopping block.
Despite his back-to-back setbacks to Bradley and Marquez, Pacquiao remains a 2-1 favorite to topple Bradley from his perch.
Team Pacquiao insiders claim that their fighter remains as agile and mobile as ever, with more stamina as well.
The congressman of Sarangani province has definitely benefited from the training methods (plyometrics) that his new strength and conditioning coach, Justin Fortune, infused into his training regimen.
Reports from the Bradley camp, headed by trainer Joel Diaz, are likewise glowing.
Bradley, who again became a vegetarian in the course of his eight-month preparation for the most important fight of his career, claims that he’s capable of going full throttle for 15 rounds, although the duel is only set for 12.
Roach himself grudgingly concedes Bradley is a better fighter now. Along with the rest of the boxing world, Roach gained new respect for Bradley last year following his sensational victory over Provodnikov, also trained by Roach, and a crisp win over Marquez.
“Bradley is a better fighter than some people give him credit for, and we know he has a lot of heart,” Roach said. “That doesn’t change the fact that Manny has a plan that will beat him again, this time for real.”
The controversial split decision over Pacquiao that many believed Bradley did not deserve had left the American thinking of not just ending his fight career but also his life, he said. He never imagined he would have to avenge a victory.
He hadn’t even left MGM Grand Garden ring before learning that practically nobody agreed with the two judges who gave him that split decision.
To be part of greatness
Bradley said he thought of suicide in the middle of a depression that followed the controversial fight. But after death threats, depression and a remarkable personal transformation, Bradley said he intends to let out two years of humiliation and frustration when he steps into the ring for the second time with Pacquiao.
“I always believed you only get one chance, but this is my second chance here,” he said. It’s my second chance to be a part of greatness and defeat a guy like Manny Pacquiao, who is one of the top fighters of all time.”
Bradley’s offensive strengths are in volume punching and combinations, making up for his lack of knockout power with superior counterpunching skills. He expects Pacquiao to come straight at him, and Bradley realizes the best response to Pacman’s aggression is smart counterpunching in the style of Marquez, who was beaten by Bradley’s own tactical skills last fall.
“Manny is going to try to get me to fight with him,” Bradley said. “He’s going to try to knock me out, try to get me to exchange with him. I know that already. But the fact that I’ve got so many dimensions, I may fight with him, I may outbox him, I may move on him.”
Pacquiao got to the top with dizzying speed and all-angles punching ability, charging through a long list of talented, larger opponents. The speed still seems to be there, but seemingly everyone outside Wild Card Boxing Club doubts Pacquiao’s ability to finish what his speed starts.
And at Friday’s raucous weigh-in, Bradley—who has stopped only one opponent in seven years—said a knockout is the best way to erase the 2012 decision from his mind.
“I’ve got to knock him out,” Bradley said. “That’s what I have to do.”
Bradley’s boast of scoring a knockout over Pacquiao, however, isn’t being taken seriously owing to only 12 stoppages in his ledger.
Though Pacquiao hasn’t knocked out an opponent since he halted Miguel Cotto in 2009, he’s given the edge if ever the bout goes shorter.
Pacquiao has promised to show up with the same ferocity that sent Oscar De La Hoya, boxing’s former poster boy, and Briton Ricky Hatton into retirement.
Though aware of Pacquiao’s accomplishments, Bradley, who will receive his biggest purse ever of $6 million, insists that these hardly matter as he’s driven by hunger for recognition from boxing fans worldwide.
Clinging to his story that wearing no socks led to injuries on both his ankles in the first fight, Bradley said he’s ready to dominate Pacquiao, who’s guaranteed $20 million, as no one had done before.
But Pacquiao feels the same way. He wants a decisive win so judges can’t give the fight to Bradley, like what the now-retired C.J. Ross and Duane Ford did in 2012 when they gave Bradley 115-113 scores, negating the similar 115-113 score for Pacquiao of Jerry Roth.
Following the controversy, the supervising Nevada State Athletic Commission appointed Kenny Bayless, who is acceptable to both camps, to be the third man on the ring. The three judges, on the other hand, were ferreted out from a list of preselected names.
Search, destroy mission
Pacquiao said he and Roach have devised a fight strategy that exploits his recognized edge in speed and power.
Diaz, on the other hand, claims that Bradley has an answer for whatever Pacquiao will bring to the ring, using Marquez-Pacquiao 4 as blueprint of their plan.
Don’t tell that to Pacquiao, however. He has the skills and the ability to adjust as the battle progresses.
He is on a search and destroy mission. With reports from AP and AFP
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