By Jake Donovan
After months of hype, the time has come for what on paper figures to be among the stiffest challenges in the Hall-of-Fame worthy career of Manny Pacquiao. The full-time fighter and Congressman takes on Tim Bradley this Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The venue is a home away from home for Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38KO), who was last seen fighting for his life in his third bout with longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez. The Filipino superstar was as much as a 9-1 favorite to dispatch his foe in their 143 lb. catchweight bout, but Marquez once again proved to have his number. Pacquiao escaped with a majority decision that was roundly booed after the scores were announced and well into his in-ring post-fight interview.
All three fights with Marquez have gone that route, as the final scores in each remain the source of heated debate to this very day.
Such has not been the case with Bradley (28-0, 12KO), who has won all of his bouts without controversy. Sadly for the sculpted Californian, most of his fights have also come without fanfare as the majority of his career has been stuck playing to ballrooms and empty venues.
Bradley received a major upgrade in exposure when signing with Top Rank last year. His first fight came on the Pacquiao-Marquez III undercard, scoring an 8th round stoppage of Joel Casamayor. Top Rank made it clear when signing Bradley that while a Pacquiao fight was eventually in store, there was no guarantee of it happening right away.
As luck would have it, Bradley found himself in the right place at the right time. Pacquiao sifted through potential opponents for the penciled-in June 9 date, but was forced to settle on Bradley almost by process of elimination once opportunities to face the likes of Lamont Peterson and Miguel Cotto fell through.
All of that leads to Saturday evening, in which both fighters are confident of victory. Bradley has relished in the role of underdog, not at all worried about the 4-1 odds posted that says he can’t emerge victorious this weekend. Pacquiao has been his usual humble self, not offering much in the way of quotes but instead wishing all well and that he plans to be ready for what his younger and fresher opponent has to offer.
Who is right? We won’t find out until the final bell rings but the staff at Boxingscene.com attempts to peek into the future. Read on for all staff predictions.
“This is a tough fight for me to choose from. I think Pac wins by early KO in the 1st 3 rounds or we get one hell of a close, competitive fight. My gut says to choose the latter. I take Pacquiao 7 rounds to 5”
– Ryan Burton
“It’s been a long time since Pacquiao has looked like PACQUIAO. Stylistically, Bradley should have been at a disadvantage in several past fights (as well as this one) yet always finds a way to win. I’ll go out on a limb and say he finds a way to upset the odds and the boxing public, eking out a hard fought and well-earned split decision.”
– Jake Donovan
“Manny Pacquiao because he’s a boss! But seriously, I like Pacquiao by decision to prove he still has what it takes to be the best fighter in the world.”
- Nina Mariah Donovan
“Bradley is a brave and tough competitor who promises an intense, action-filled challenge, but it says here that he won’t have the pop in his punches or the cleverness in his footwork to deter Pacquiao from a usual pattern of withering punishment. A late stoppage is a real possibility, but we'll go with a wide scorecard verdict instead - somewhere in the 116-112 or 117-111 neighborhood.”
– Lyle Fitzsimmons
“For all the work and belief that Bradley has in himself the fact remains he has not seen anyone like Pacquiao. He will do well for the most part but at some point Manny will connect and it will be with devastating circumstances. Bradley squares when he pressures and it plays right into Manny's hands.”
– Ernest Gabion
“Bradley W12 – Right place and right style at the right time. Bradley will not give Pac the space he needs to operate, and his willingness to get his hands dirty and make this a fight will give Manny fits.”
– Thomas Gerbasi
“Manny Pacquiao TKO11 Timothy Bradley. It's the perfect storm for "Desert Storm" in that Bradley is in his prime while Pacquiao has put together a couple of subpar performances by his lofty standards. But after a furious tempest in the first eight rounds from Bradley that I foresee will give us an evenly competitive battle, I expect Pacquiao to take over in the last third of the fight and wear his valiant foe down with a signature accumulation of punches.”
– Ryan Maquinana
“Bradley's confidence is at a fever pitch but what worries me about him is that he often likes to stay aggressive and fight on the inside, a recipe that has spelled doom for past Pacquiao opponents. Still, I like Bradley to give a great account of himself over the course of twelve rounds in a fight that will have the public debating but one that will see the judges favoring Pacquiao.”
- Chris Robinson
“Pacquiao Dec. Bradley: This should be a fantastic fight. If it ends up the Fight of the Year, it would be no suprrise here. Both men are aggressive in different ways and bring speed both ways. Both have something to prove, Bradley being at the big dance for the first time and Pacquiao returning from two lesser outings. I think the need to prove will end up favoring Pacquiao who has more experience and knows his window of prime is closing. I see Pacquiao outlanding Bradley often enough, and maybe stinging his man just a bit more, en route to a decision that could have some debate.”
– Cliff Rold
“When the fight was first announced I picked Manny and pictured him giving us one of his vintage dominant performances. But that damn Tim Bradley really started making me think twice and got me believing he had a chance to pull the upset. Even with his incredible physique and confidence, I don't think his will is going to be enough to overcome Pacquiao. I think things start shaky for Bradley who then works himself back into the fight only to fall apart at the end. Pacquiao TKO10 in a thrilling affair.”
– Luis Sandoval
“Pacquiao UD12 Bradley. I just cannot see this fight as an even match-up. Bradley is good, no doubt about it. He is even wonderful at what he is doing with his amazing balance, determination and workrate. And his chin is pretty good too. There are two problems, however: he doesn't have a gun to bother the Pinoy king (1), and his limit is clearly seen here (2). Bradley is a very good champion, which was proven well over years in his fights versus Alexander, Witter and Peterson. But he isn't great (yet or whatever), and we saw why against Luis Carlos Abregu and Kendall Holt. In this fight, Bradley will try to press Pacman, and why he shouldn't, and he will pay a big price for that on the inside. Pacquiao will dominate him with harder, faster punches though it will not be easy, but he won't stop him due to a lack of hunger and Tim's chin. Scores like 117-109 or 117-110 will be expected as well as some knockdowns from the Pac's left hand.”
– Alexey Sukachev
Total: Manny Pacquiao 9, Tim Bradley 2
The welterweight title fight between Pacquiao and Bradley headlines a four-fight pay-per-view telecast, beginning at 9PM ET/6PM PT. Those wishing to order and watch online can do so by visiting Top Rank’s website at http://www.toprank.tv . For those who opt to watch via traditional means should do so by following instructions in accordance with their cable or satellite provider.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]