Manny Pacquiao remains the odds-on favorite to retain his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight championship Sunday (Manila time) against American challenger Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley Jr., but not everyone is ready to bet their rent money on the Filipino.
It is said that a champion is only as good as his last fight and Pacquiao struggled big time against Juan Manuel Marquez in their third meeting in November, barely dodging the bullet with a majority decision victory. Before Marquez, Pacquiao also looked pedestrian in victories over an ancient Shane Mosley, a one-dimensional Antonio Margarito and a defense-minded Joshua Clottey. No less than trainer Freddie Roach has been quoted as saying that he will advise Pacquiao to archive the gloves for good if he produces another ordinary performance against Bradley.
The heat is on for Pacquiao to come up with an electrifying performance against Bradley. Bradley is unbeaten in 28 fights and is definitely no pushover, which means the Filipino ring icon will have his work cut out for him when they finally meet eyeball-to-eyeball in the ring.
Here are the five factors that may decide Pacquiao vs. Bradley:
QUALITY OF OPPOSITION
Pacquiao has blitzed past some of the best fighters in the punch-for-pay business. It should be emphasized that Pacquiao defeated fistic stars spread in eight weight categories. We’re talking about guys like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.
For his part, Bradley has never been in a fight against an established champion. Names like Nate Campbell, Miguel Vazquez, Junior Witter sound more like Larry, Curly and Moe when compared to the champions Pacquiao had fought. In his last fight on November 12, Bradley was paired with a 40-year-old Joel Casamayor of Cuba and still failed to impress in an 8th round technical knockout win.
AGE/ PHYSICAL CONDITION
Pacquiao is 33 years old and has been throwing leather since 1995. That’s a lot of fistic mileage. While Pacquiao remains a force to be reckoned with, it cannot be denied that the cracks in the armor are beginning to show. Pacquiao injured his ear in the demanding fight with Cotto and even though Clottey threw only a handful of punches, he still gave Pacquiao a black eye.
Not a few are also wondering just how fit Pacquiao will be going into the Bradley fight after conditioning coach Alex Ariza bolted their training camp to join WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
Bradley is five years younger at 28 and has been boxing as a pro for only eight years. Bradley takes pride in showing up for his fights with a well-chiselled body. Heck, if the fight with Pacquiao is a bodybuilding contest, Bradley will win hands down. A vegetarian since 2008, Bradley claims the change in his diet has also improved his strength and endurance.
However, it should be emphasized that Bradley is a natural super lightweight (140 pounds) who is moving up to welterweight (147 pounds) to challenge Pacquiao. Bradley has scaled 147 once in his career and that was two years ago. At 5’6,” Bradley is also a half-inch shorter than Pacquiao.
Pacquiao totes a record of 54-3 with 38 knockouts, but he has gone the 12-round distance in his past four fights. The last time Pacquiao scored a stoppage win was in November 2009, when the referee intervened and stopped his fight with Cotto in the 12th round. The last emphatic knockout win Pacquiao registered was in May 2009, when he left Ricky Hatton unconscious on the canvas in the second round of a super lightweight contest.
Bradley only has 12 knockouts in 28 victories. Unlike Pacquiao, Bradley does not have bone-crunching power. Moreover, at welterweight, Bradley’s power is a big question mark. In his only fight at 147 pounds, he went the distance against Luis Carlos Abregu in 2010.
Even at welterweight, Pacquiao has retained his speed and accuracy. He floored Mosley with one punch in the third round and could have stopped Margarito at super welterweight if he didn’t take pity on the Mexican.
Pacquiao has been knocked out twice, but both occasions happened eons ago. The last fighter to knock the daylights out of Pacquiao was Thailand’s Medgoen Singsurat, who capitalized on the former’s weight problems to score a third round KO win in their 1999 duel for the WBC flyweight crown. Pacquiao’s chin has since withstood the bombs of documented power-hitters like Hatton, Cotto, and Margarito.
Bradley has never been knocked out, but only because he has rarely faced a bona fide puncher. In April 2009, Bradley faced puncher Kendal Holt and was floored in the first round with a vicious left hook (note: Pacquiao is a southpaw whose most lethal punch is the left straight/ hook). Bradley was floored again in the 12th round by Holt before escaping with a decision win.
Both Pacquiao and Bradley offer suspect defense. Pacquiao has a tendency to recklessly lunge in and leave himself open to counterpunches. Bradley tends to throw winging, clubbing blows that leaves his chin susceptible to hooks and uppercuts.
Pacquiao’s footwork though has improved in recent years allowing him to dart in and out with relative ease. While it is Bradley who has the reputation of a boxer, it is Pacquiao who has better lateral movements.
How do you motivate a man who already has everything? Pacquiao already owns an unprecedented eight world titles and has earned enough dough to rival the dollar reserves of the Central Bank of the Philippines. He is a celebrity endorser, a movie actor, a game show host and, oh, a distinguished member of Congress.
Bradley was on the verge of bankruptcy as recently as four years ago and once worked as a waiter to make both ends meet. He turned down a $1.5 million offer to fight WBA super lightweight champion Amir Khan and allowed the WBC to strip him of his super lightweight belt because the foe he really coveted was Pacquiao.
Pacquiao is coming into the fight with a lot of emotional luggage. He made a belated admission that he was going through marital issues during the third fight with Marquez which affected his performance. Just recently, he drew a lot of criticisms for his controversial remarks on same-sex marriage. Many also wonder if Pacquiao’s preaching of the Good Book has made him soft.
PREDICTION: An anti-climactic ending cannot be discounted. There is the possibility of the fight being stopped on cuts, what with Bradley’s habit of lunging in head-first. Owing to Bradley’s head-butting tendencies, Pacquiao will have to occasionally adopt a counterpuncher’s mentality and avoid rushing into Bradley. Considering that Pacquiao is a southpaw and Bradley is a right-hander, a clash of heads is imminent.
While he has never been known as a puncher, Bradley is never shy to mix it up. At times, he is aggressive to a fault. This will be Bradley’s Waterloo. The exchanges should be very entertaining, but Pacquiao’s speed and powerful left cannot be ignored. Bradley has never tasted a major league punch that is delivered with lightning speed and he will get a sampling of it against Pacquiao. Pacquiao figures to pull the curtains down on Bradley within six rounds.