In a fight the world really didn’t ask for, a multitude of questions have been raised – some require immediate answers, while others will need the next few weeks or maybe even months to resolve.
Tomorrow night, Saturday, April 9, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO’s) will take on American Timothy “The Desert Storm” Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KO’s) in the third and perhaps final bout in their memorable trilogy.
Does Pacquiao have one more good fight in him to offset whatever improvements Bradley has made to his overall game? If so, after over six years, will the once knockout king finally score a stoppage win?
Does Bradley have the right gameplan to outthink Pacquiao after failing in the first two tries?
After a 21-year career of glorious battles and epic showdowns, will this be the final fight in Manny Pacquiao’s career?
While virtually nobody in close-knit boxing circles jumped for joy when this fight was made, the boxing world is still eager in anticipation of what’s to come when the two pugilists climb up atop the ring apron, on the grandest stage of the sport.
A storm is coming
Despite being unclear on matters regarding retirement, postponing any decisions about hanging up the gloves until after the bout, all word coming from the Pacquiao camp is that the Filipino ring icon, boxing’s only eight- division world champion trained like it was his last fight.
Those close to Pacquiao have hinted that the once pound-for-pound king wants to end his career with an emphatic knockout.
Sparring partners Ghislain Maduma and Lydell Rhodes have both attested to Pacquiao’s incredible speed and power during sparring sessions behind closed doors at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood.
Speed and power, of course, have and will always be Pacquiao’s greatest assets. They will serve as the equalizer against Bradley’s superior boxing skills.
There is no doubt who the better ring tactician is — and in case you’re still wondering, it’s Bradley. The former junior welterweight and welterweight champion is technical, intelligent and extremely resilient, all qualities of opponents who have given Pacquiao fits most of his career. But the one thing that throws all of that out the window is Pacquiao’s tremendous speed and thudding knockout power.
As Bradley discovered in the first two bouts, skill and determination can only take a fighter so far, before talent comes into play. And there’s no doubt that Pacquiao is the more talented fighter. In fact, there exist 24 rounds of proof.
In the first two fights, Pacquiao’s rapid in-and-out movement and lightning quick hands stifled Bradley, constantly leaving him one step behind at all times. More so, Pacquiao’s power has kept Bradley honest all throughout, rendering him oftentimes tentative and unsure when firing his combinations. It’s this effect that has brought Pacquiao to success for over 21 years.
If word is true and Pacquiao has had a great camp in the lead up to this fight, look for the Filipino to once again shine on the biggest stage of boxing with his trademark speed and relentlessness.
In the words of Jim Lampley, “Manny Pacquiao is a storm!”
A corner makes a world of difference
Many people ask what’s changed in Bradley since the last two fights. The 32-year old hasn’t offered much to Pacquiao in terms of resistance after two encounters with him atop the ring, but there’s one key difference in this third bout — legendary trainer Teddy Atlas.
While Bradley’s former coach Joel Diaz was certainly an amazing cornerman by all means, Atlas achieved legendary status after having an influential hand in the careers of boxing greats Michael Moorer, Alexander Povetkin and the one and only “Iron” Mike Tyson.
His knowledge and wisdom of the sport of boxing, as well as his more than audible voice in the corner will prove to be the x-factor for the man they call The Desert Storm.
Against a two-fisted beast like Pacquiao, Bradley will most definitely come under heavy fire sooner or later and it will be Atlas’ job to maintain in Bradley a level head. There is a gameplan, assuredly, one that Bradley will attempt to follow to a tee, but when the going gets rough and they eventually will, it’s on Atlas to re-calibrate Bradley’s approach mid-fight.
For his immense upside, Bradley is somewhat of an underachiever. He’s only lost one time in his professional career and was once considered among the top five fighters in boxing regardless of weight class. Pacquiao had a lot to do with that, but the way Bradley reacts to aggression is different from most technical fighters.
When Bradley gets hit, he doesn’t cower away into a defensive shell like one fighter we know. When Bradley gets hit, he fires back. That’s the warrior in him.
Bradley’s resiliency and resolve is top notch, and he might as well be perhaps the toughest and most rugged man in boxing. Bradley proved against Provodnikov and all throughout his career that he can take punishment in stride, and still find ways to win. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Bradley may have a chin made of iron and the hardest noggin’ of all time.
If Bradley can somehow neutralize Pacquiao’s speed and power advantages this third time with the help of Atlas in his corner, and constantly in his ear, he has a good chance to accomplish what he set out to do in the first two fights and that’s to outbox Pacquiao.
Look for Bradley to turn in a smart, conservative and intelligent performance against a guy who many say already has one foot out the door. If Pacquiao isn’t up for a fight, if he no longer has the desire to put work in round after round, then Bradley might have the slightest of opportunities to steal a victory from underneath him.
Conclusion: Deja Vu
Those looking for a different outcome will be disappointed. Pacquiao’s popularity took a major hit earlier this year after he made a few controversial comments about a sensitive topic unrelated to boxing and there certainly those out there hoping he would lose — as if it’s some form of bad karma. But Pacquiao-Bradley is shaping up to be much of the same banana.
Look for Pacquiao to start fast, blitzing Bradley with speedy combinations while Bradley tries his best to skirt danger and avoid a slugfest. Teddy Atlas will say all the right things at all the right times, it’s characteristic of him to do so, and it will help Bradley get through some difficult situations.
But once again, Pacquiao’s speed and power will serve to remain his equalizer. In tip top condition, Pacquiao keeps Bradley at the end of his two-fisted attack, beating the American to the punch in almost every instance.
In the end, the fight will end up being boxing’s version of the iPhone 6 SE. It’s faster, and perhaps even more furious, albeit in a smaller package.
After 12 rounds of action, look for Pacquiao’s hand raised in victory, winning the fight in much the same way he’s won all the fights in his career — with his imposing physicality.
Prediction: Manny Pacquiao by 12-round unanimous decision – By Carlos Cinco
Follow this writer on Twitter: @CarlosCincoFCB