Manny Pacquiao has earned the right to be heavily favored against Timothy Bradley. In his unparalleled run through eight weight classes, Pacquiao has left a trail of battered and bruised champions and future Hall of Fame fighters in his wake.
Of course, with unparalleled accomplishments come unrelenting expectations. Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), 33, faces a stern test in the undefeated, 28-year-old Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs)—a two-time unified junior welterweight champion and brash challenger with unflinching self-belief.
Bradley’s confidence, of course, is well founded, and Pacquiao is likely in for a competitive fight with several hotly contested rounds. Pacquiao certainly has the tools to win this fight, so let’s find out what he needs to do, specifically, to avoid the upset.
Circle to the Right
As a southpaw fighting an orthodox boxer in Bradley, Pacquiao needs to circle to his right to create openings and shorten the distance that his devastating straight left hand and hook need to travel to tag Bradley.
In his controversial majority decision win in his last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao got baited into aimlessly stalking Marquez without consciously controlling the ring’s geography. This helped lead Pacquiao into eating a plethora of right-hand counter-punches, while also limiting the effectiveness of Pacquiao’s strongest punch (his left hand).
If Pacquiao circles to his right against Bradley, he will create angles for his straight left-hand punch, while also distancing himself from Bradley’s right hand, which happens to be the challenger’s strongest shot.
An important tactical battle to watch for in this struggle for ring generalship is foot placement. Pacquiao will need to get his right foot outside of Bradley’s lead left in order to create optimal punching angles. Pacquiao’s fleet movement and exceptional lateral agility should help him accomplish this.
Bradley is known for making opponents fight at his pace, which generally consists of either sharp boxing with measured flurries or mauling inside fighting that can completely disrupt an opponent’s rhythm and negate their power. To avoid this, Pacquiao must apply aggressive, yet intelligent pressure.
Pacquiao has a massive advantage over Bradley in mega-fight experience, and it would behoove Pac-Man to step on the gas pedal before Bradley settles into a rhythm. What Pacquiao needs to be careful of, however, is not applying pressure to the point of stepping inside the natural range of his punches, which could negate his power.
By putting Bradley on his back foot, Pacquiao can use pressure to create angles for his combinations and negate the effectiveness of Bradley’s flurries. Bradley isn’t a strong puncher to begin with, and boxing in retreat will further sap his power and allow Pacquiao to walk through punches to land his stronger blows.
Applying pressure might also force a breakdown in Bradley’s fundamentals if he tries to reverse the tide by attacking. Bradley can be reckless in heated exchanges, and intelligent pressure from Pacquiao could force Bradley into desperate or sloppy maneuvers that can then be countered.
Use Feints and Lateral Movement
Pacquiao must maintain an appropriate range for his punches to maximize his power advantage. To do this, Pacquiao must use his dizzying feints to freeze Bradley, which should allow Pacquiao to either advance, move laterally or retreat in order to established the appropriate range for a renewed assault.
In order to sustain an optimal punching range, Pacquiao needs to combine his advances with lateral movement. Other than his naturally endowed speed, Pacquiao’s unconventional punching angles are what make his shots so devastating. By combining feints with laterally movement, Pacquiao should be able to sidestep Bradley’s right hand and looping hooks.
Pacquiao’s unparalleled six-plus punch combinations will have a better chance of bothering and hurting Bradley if they come from unconventional angles, and part of this has to do with balance. By moving and feinting, Pacquiao will uproot Bradley by forcing him to shift and react to unaccustomed angles.
Bradley has a solid chin, excellent stamina and is hard to hit because of his compact frame and fighting style. If Pacquiao gets Bradley off-balance, however, the champ will have opportunities to hurt or knock “Desert Storm” down.
This category is sort of an umbrella encompassing the aforementioned. What is ultimately important is that Pacquiao is advancing and retreating at his discretion. To do this, Pacquiao must combine the above-described circling, intelligent pressure and trickery.
Bradley is most effective when dictating whether he is countering off his back foot or swarming his opponent with crafty inside fighting. To negate this, Pacquiao must first make Bradley respect his power. If Pacquiao is able to land cleanly, especially with his left hand, this should take care of itself.
Pacquiao also has an obscenely high work rate for a welterweight. According to CompuBox, Pacquiao—in his seven fights leading up to his third fight with Marquez—averaged 79 punches thrown per round with 27 connects.
Pacquiao also connected on 48 percent of his power shots over that stretch, averaging 23 connects per rounds, which nearly doubled the welterweight average of 13.
While Bradley has a solid work rate, Pacquiao’s pace is torrential. If Pacquiao can force Bradley to sustain a greater punch output than he is accustomed to, it will create more exchanges where Pacquiao’s straighter and more powerful blows will make the difference.