By Keith Idec
If anyone would know how much killer instinct Manny Pacquiao possesses entering his rematch against Timothy Bradley, it’s Julian Rodriguez.
The 19-year-old Rodriguez, a promising junior welterweight prospect promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., was one of Pacquiao’s three sparring partners throughout the Filipino superstar’s recently completed training camp at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. Rodriguez sparred 10 times against Pacquiao, for four-to-six rounds per session.
“I don’t think he lost his killer instinct,” Rodriguez said. “He still has it. It’s still there. He just chooses when to let go. And I feel like Bradley really got under his skin during all these press conferences and everything. I feel like Manny’s really going to show Bradley that he still has it. You can definitely see the fire in him.”
Rodriguez, a 2013 national Golden Gloves champion at 141 pounds, never felt as though the powerful Pacquiao was holding back during their spirited sparring sessions. The Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., native didn’t sense slippage in the 35-year-old Pacquiao’s skill set, either.
“He’s still quick,” Rodriguez said. “He’s still really agile. He’s not done yet. He’s not showing any signs of old age. When I look at videos of him fighting five years ago or so, nothing really changed.”
Rodriguez anticipates Pacquiao’s preparation to translate into a dominant win over Bradley in their WBO welterweight championship rematch Saturday night at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT; HBO Pay-Per-View; $69.99 in HD).
“I feel like Bradley, because of the whole controversy in their first fight, can do two things” Rodriguez said. “He’s either going to be smart about the fight and try to box. Or he can try to win this fight convincingly because everyone thinks he lost the first fight. I don’t know if Bradley is going to try to push Manny, walk him down, try to bang him out and make a statement, or if he’s going to box him. If he tries to bang with Manny, Manny will cut him up with sharp punches. I saw all the techniques Freddie Roach was working on with him. If Bradley goes to exchange with him, I think within five or six rounds Pacquiao will stop him. Bradley’s tough, but if Bradley decides to box, I still think Manny will dominate him.”
Rodriguez (3-0, 2 KOs) will return to the ring April 19 in Orlando, Fla. He is scheduled to oppose Puerto Rico’s Luis Santiago (4-1, 1 KO) in four-round fight at Bahia Shrine Temple.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.