Fight Preview: Pacquiao vs Bradley
Wow, is it the weekend of June 9 already? Pound-for-pound king (or the no. 2 behind Floyd Mayweather Jr, depending on your perspective) Manny Pacquiao is about to face off against undefeated but relatively unknown junior welter champion Timothy Bradley, who is coming up to 147 for the biggest challenge and payday of his career.
This is a weird fight. Bradley is virtually unknown but a lot of people are predicting an upset, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael. Many believe a boxer is only as good as his last fight, and Pacquaio has looked frighteningly human in this last couple of bouts. About a year ago, Pacquiao dominated an over-the-hill Shane Mosley but couldn’t chase him down to knock him out. It was a horrible fight. Then at the end of 2011, he eked out a majority draw in his third encounter with Juan Manuel Marquez, and probably more than half felt Pacquiao not only lost but he lost convincingly.
And there’s been a lot of weird news popping up before this fight. First of all, Pacquiao has apparently had this “calf problem” for a very long time now (read here), even though we didn’t hear about it until after his bouts with Mosley and Marquez. Excuse, perhaps? Secondly, Pacquiao’s long-time conditioning coach, Alex Ariza (the guy credited with his amazing rise through the weight classes), made himself look like a complete douche by causing a major rift through the Pacquiao camp. He apparently left the Pacquiao camp during training to assist a fighter in another country after obtaining Pacquiao’s consent, but he “forgot” to tell Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach or his other client, Amir Khan. Khan has since fired Ariza and Roach apparently said Ariza will not be in Manny’s corner on fight night. Thirdly, Pacquiao caused a mini storm when he was accused of making homophobic remarks during an interview, but as it turned out, he was misleadingly misquoted.
Lastly, and most bizarrely, Pacquiao has apparently re-devoted himself to Catholicism. Hang on, wasn’t he a devout Catholic before? Well, if the articles are to be believed, not really. He was never really that dedicated to his training either, so they say. According to the new stories, Pacquiao was a gambling, drinking, smoking, womanising dick that spent a lot of late nights out during training and frequently came in tired. He was also on the verge of a divorce because his wife Jinkee was sick of his philandering. Now, he has sold all of his bars and nightclubs and has re-dedicated himself to God, and no longer goes out at night. Instead, he studies the Bible whenever he can. This means a happy Pacquiao, a happy Jinkee and a fitter, healthier Manny.
What I find strange is how none of this stuff ever came out earlier. Was there a gag team working overtime to avoid negative press for Pacquiao, or did journalists stop themselves from articles that made Manny appear in a bad light? For years, at least internationally, Pacquiao has had the image of a clean cut saint, but as it turned out, he’s a bit of a hypocrite. Not that it was a surprise. And not that it has anything to do with his ability as a boxer and the other positive things he has done for his country and people. I just find it bewildering that this stuff is coming out now — after Pacquiao has rectified the problem, so to speak.
Bradley, on the other hand, has been called a ‘live underdog.’ He’s young (28 to Pacquiao’s 33), fast (some say just as fast as Pacquiao), super fit, ambitious, hard working and motivated — after all, this is by far the biggest fight of his career, and a magnificent chance to put his name on the world map. A lot of people say he’s never fought anyone on Pacquiao’s level, but his resume is not all that bad. He beat Junior Witter when Witter was still good. He virtually shut out previously unbeaten Lamont Peterson, who went on to beat Amir Khan, a guy who gives Pacquiao fits in sparring. He also handed Devon Alexander his first and only loss. Come to think of it, he’s arguably the first in-prime opponent Pacquiao has faced in a very long time. Could he potentially ‘expose’ Pacquiao as an overrated fighter who looked good because of carefully selected match ups?
That’s why this is such a weird fight. We are supposed to be believe that Pacquiao’s life was in disarray before and that everything is rosy now. But how much of that is marketing and how of it is genuine? And is Bradley a sheltered pretender or the real deal?
Oh, and the weigh-in, which took place earlier today. Bradley, who is coming up from 140, weighed-in at 146 and looked absolutely shredded, whereas Pacquiao came in at the welterweight limit of 147 and to be honest didn’t look as ripped as he did at his peak. This is the heaviest Pacqiuao has ever fought at; remember, when he fought Margarito at a catch weight of 150, he came in at 144. Is this yet another sign that Pacquiao might not be 100% or could be taking Bradley lightly?
I think anything is possible in this fight. Bradley is regarded as a feather-fisted boxer (only 12 KOs from 28 wins and a no contest) so it is unlikely that he can knock Pacquiao out. But a clinical decision in Bradley’s favour is certainly not out of the question. Pacquiao, who is fighting the 6oth bout of his career (54-3-2, with 38KOs), also has the ability to make quick work of Bradley. He is the favourite but only a 3-1 favourite (he was a 6-1 favourite against Mexican great Marquez, and look how that turned out).
Stranger things have happened in boxing, and for some reason I feel uneasy about this fight for Pacquiao. However, after going out on a limb last time and predicting that Miguel Cotto would beat Floyd Mayweather Jr, I’m going to bet on the favourite this time. While it would not blow my mind to see an upset, I think Pacquiao could surprise everyone by putting in a dominant performance against Bradley. I’ve seen some clips of Bradley and he seems a little wild and his defense is suspect (funnily that’s what everyone has said about Pacquiao throughout his career). I think it’s likely Pacquiao will overwhelm him with precision flurries and knock him out by the 10th round.