LAS VEGAS — By Sunday, Manny Pacquiao will be dethroned as WBO welterweight titleholder, and preparing for a rematch on Nov. 10 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
At least, that’s what Tim Bradley stated earlier this week during the final press conference touting Saturday night’s clash with Pacquiao at the MGM.
“This is a ticket right here for the next fight on November 10. I’m already predicting the future guys right here,” said Bradley, holding the approximately 6-foot long, three-foot high replica of a “Bradley-Pacquiao 2” fight ticket overhead which read, Section 1, Row A, Seat No. 1,as he spoke from a podium.
“So make sure you all get a picture of that right there. And then we’ll talk, on June 10, because that’s when the tickets will go on sale for the rematch.”
Bold words for a 28-year-old who is rising in weight to face Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 knockouts), an eight-division titlewinner who is in his 60th career fight, having last suffered defeat against Erik Morales by unanimous decision in March of 2005.
Pacqauiao is after his 16th consecutive victory and his ninth stoppage during that run. During that time, Pacquiao has twice stopped Morales, earned split- and majority decisions over Juan Manuel Marquez, knocked out Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton, and decisioned Marco Antonio Barrera, whom he also had knocked out in 2003.
Bradley’s trainer, Joel Diaz, dismisses Pacquiao’s fights against Hatton, De La Hoya and Cotto as well as his decision over Joshua Clottey as being those over fighters who were either past their prime, “had come from a previous beating,” or else were sapped by negotiated catchweights.
Diaz also argues that Pacquiao has a lot more mileage and “wear and tear” on his body than Bradley, whom he says has been tested against younger fighters who were on the rise at the time of their meetings.
Bradley does not believe that Pacquiao has “one-punch knockout power” like Holt, a bout during which he had to rise from two knockdowns in order to win a decision. Bradley also does not believe that Pacquiao has faced a boxer with his overall skills and athleticism.
“I think that Manny has to worry about my right hand, and my movement. My movement is going to kill him. It’s going to throw him off. He needs a fighter that stands in front of him, you know,” said Bradley.
“Most of the guys that he’s faced, they stand right in front of him and they come forward. But when you’ve got a guy that can be right here one minute and be over there the next minute, and weave over here now, it’s a lot more difficult, because he has to find me.”
But wresting the crown won’t be easy for 5-foot-6 Bradley, who is both the shorter man by half an inch and the lighter man — he weighed in at 146 pounds compared to Pacquiao’s career-high 147.
Three fights back, in November of 2010, Pacquiao rose into the junior middleweight division, where he unanimously decision a much larger, much harder puncher in Antonio Margarito. The win earned Pacquiao the WBC’s belt and his eighth title over as many weight divisions.
Pacquiao used his speed and power to overwhelm Margarito, who suffered a fractured right orbital bone that required surgery to repair as a result of the damage he absorbed in the fight.
Pacquiao weighed in at just 144.5 for Margarito, and was out-weighed by nearly 20 pounds when they entered the ring despite having required Margarito to weigh in at a contracted catchweight of 150 pounds.
Pacquiao believes that he will, yet again, be swifter and stronger than Bradley, 28, in spite of the younger man’s muscular physique.
“I believe that my advantage I believe is my speed,” said Pacquiao, 33. “I’m faster than him, and of course, my power also.”
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, elaborated on his fighter’s assertion.
“Our advantage is speed, lateral movement with Bradley. When I say speed, I don’t mean hand speed, I mean foot speed. He’s in and out a lot, you don’t know when Manny’s going to come to you. It could be a feint or you don’t know when he’s going to attack you,” said Roach.
:That’s why he’s been so successful. He doesn’t necessarily have a rhythm. He’s always changing. We had sparring partners who were punchers and sparring partners who ran, and I don’t think that Bradley is that fast on his feet. If Bradley does try not to engage, we’ll have to take the fight to him, and we’re prepared for that.”
In addition, Roach said that Pacquiao’s faith-based lifestyle changes, which include no longer gambling and womanizing, facilitated a more focused training regimen than in the past.
Pacquiao is also quietely motivated, said Roach, to erase the notion that he is “done as a fighter” in the wake of his lackluster majority decision victory over nemisis Marquez in November.
“I think that a lot of people think that Manny’s all done. That’s the fire that we have, is that he wants to prove them wrong. So I think that he’s 100 percent up for the fight,” said Roach.
“Manny doesn’t take anyone lightly. If he was fighting me, he wouldn’t take me lightlty. Manny’s trained really well for the fight. We brought in four, new sparring partners. The Russian guys were really strong, good punchers.”
The referee for the fight is Robert Byrd, with the judges being Duane Ford, C.J. Ross and Jerry Roth. But Diaz said the gameplan for Bradley (28-0, 12 KOS) is not to make the mistakes that Marquez did in failing to convince the judges that he, indeed, has won the fight.
“I felt like Marquez won that fight, but that night, he was also fighting the judges. We’re going to go in the same way, knowing that we’re not only fighting Manny, but also, the judges. We’re not going to go in there and just look pretty and box. We have to beat him to convince the judges. Everything that Marquez did was right. He had the right plan, he just didn’t do enough to convince the judges,” said Diaz.
“He was coming back with one- and two-punch counters, and you need to counter in combination. You can’t just feel comfortable against a Manny Pacquiao and say, ‘I got this.’ You have to throw him off his game plan, finish to the body, and you have to come forward. If you have to win, you have to go forward, but you have to move in at angles.”
In the end, Bradley insists that he will be ready for whatever there is to offer from Pacquiao, who represents the third consecutive southpaw Bradley has faced.
“The later rounds, I think that definitely favors me. I start pretty fast, but not as fast as Pacquiao. But midway through the fight, I start to figure guys out. The tide will start to change and I become pretty much the aggressor. I’m smaller, I’m quicker and he’s been facing bigger guys. He’s not used to facing someone who is as quick as him and who is smart,” said Bradley.
“I’m someone that can brawl, someone that can mix it up. Somebody who has a chin. Granted, his last few opponents have been quality opponents, but they’ve been all over the hill. Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, he was strong, but he was slow as molasses. I’m not slow. Neither am I scared of Pacquiao. They come in there giving him too much respect. he’s in a fight. He’s in for a real fight.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org