By Jake Donovan
It stands to reason that even if Manny Pacquiao thought he was in an easy fight that he would still praise his opponent and speak as if it’s the toughest fight of his life. The genuinely good-natured Filipino icon rarely has a bad word to say about any of his in-ring opponents and has learned through the years how to properly handle his global superstar status.
Part of that comes with the suggestion that the 33-year old southpaw is perhaps programmed to say all of the right things. Even if that’s the case, there’s no reason to say anything bad about an opponent with the skill and class of unbeaten 140 lb. titlist Tim Bradley.
In fact, as the past seven years of his pro career has shown, there’s every reason to grant him the utmost respect both in and out of the ring. With that comes the belief from Pacquiao that his June 9 showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas represents a serious threat to his status as arguably the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38KO) insists. “Tim Bradley is a strong fighter, loves to fight toe-to-toe and is an undefeated fighter. There is going to be a lot of action in the ring.”
Bradley is unbeaten (28-0, 12KO) and in the prime of his career, regarded by many as among the best ten fighters in the world, pound-for-pound. Those who dismiss the threat of an upset point to the Californian moving up in weight, believing he will be out of his element.
The same was thought of Juan Manuel Marquez’ chances in agreeing to a catchweight for his third clash with longtime rival Pacquiao last November. Marquez looked bloated and lethargic in losing virtually every round to an unretired Floyd Mayweather in their Sept. ’09 welterweight bout, and more of the same was expected against Pacquiao.
Instead, Marquez bulked up the right way and fought well enough for many in the industry to claim robbery in Pacquiao narrowly escaping with a disputed majority decision. The verdict was met with a chorus of boos from the sold out crowd at the very same venue that will host the June 9 showdown versus Bradley.
There were talks of a possible fourth fight with Marquez, but was met with criticism, largely from those demanding a long-awaited showdown with unbeaten pound-for-pound rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. to finally materialize. When those plans once again died at the negotiating table, Top Rank sought the next best challenge for the sport’s biggest box office attraction.
“He’s a good fighter, he’s a very good fighter,” promoter Bob Arum says of Bradley, whom he signed last year. “People ask me why I would risk putting him against Manny Pacquiao. That’s what the public wants to know. The public doesn’t want to see anything but a really great competitive fight.
“Tim Bradley has the hand speed, the foot speed and the game plan to be very competitive with Manny Pacquiao. That’s why we made this fight, because it’s going to be very entertaining for the fans.”
Plans have already been confirmed for Pacquiao’s 10-week training camp, which is set to begin shortly after the conclusion of the coast-to-coast press tour, which wraps up today in New York City.
After that, it’s all business.
The thought of a tough fight is actually music to the ears of Pacquiao’s camp, who – despite the constant three-ring circus that appears to be the Filipino’s life – looks forward to nothing more than embracing a stiff challenge.
“It’s nice to be fighting a fighter who is undefeated and not worried about losing that zero and willing to challenge us,” notes Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. The latter part is an obvious shot at Mayweather, though all focus remains on the guy in front of them. “I’ve watched him fight many times. He’s aggressive. We’re going to have to be at our best and train our asses off in order to win this one.”
Now 17 years deep into his pro career, therecord breaking superstar/congressman is keenly aware of the effort it will take – in the gym and on fight night – in order to keep alive his seven-year, 15-fight win streak.
“We’re going to train hard – 10 weeks of training for this fight,” Pacquiao promises. I hope the same thing of Tim Bradley; that he trains hard so we give the people a good fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]