If the Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley bout is thrilling, that's not a good sign for the champion. Bradley's WBO welterweight title is on the line on Saturday when he rematches Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
His best bet is to make the bout as commercially unappealing as possible.
Bradley won the title on a controversial split decision in June 2012.
Bradley Wants Respect
He's eager to prove he is indeed a better fighter than the Filipino legend. Per Leighton Gin of The Desert Sun, Bradley didn't feel much satisfaction in his win.
Bradley said, "I got the win, but it felt like I lost because I didn't get any credit from the fans. It's very important to get the credit from the fans."
If he looks too hard for a decisive victory, he may find trouble. Bradley is a tough fighter; he proved that when he endured several clubbing blows from Ruslan Provodnikov in the 2013 Fight of the Year. But he doesn't have the firepower to engage in a slugfest with Pacquiao.
The challenger isn't the KO artist he once was. In fact, Pacquiao hasn't stopped an opponent since 2009. But he still would be the more dangerous puncher of the two in this matchup.
Because of this dynamic, Bradley needs to box smart. He must strategically pick his moments to engage Pacquiao. Bradley is the superior boxer.
He's an excellent counterpuncher. Believe it or not, he's also slightly quicker than Pacquiao.
If he listens to his trainer Joel Diaz, he'll use these advantages to earn a clear unanimous-decision victory over Pacquiao.
There is some cause for concern on this front.
Bradley Must Control His Emotions
Bradley has been talking as if he's going to slug it out with Pacquiao. Per Douglass Fischer of The Ring Magazine, Bradley doesn't sound like a fighter looking to out-point his opponent:
Sometimes that type of rhetoric is simply part of the pre-fight hype and has little to nothing to do with a fighter's strategy.
The reason it could be a preview into Saturday's bout is because of how anxious Bradley is to prove he's better than Pacquiao. His emotions could get the best of him.
In fact, that's what happened to him in the Provodnikov fight. Bradley wanted so bad to make a statement in hopes of winning over the fans that he allowed himself to be dragged into a brawl.
Bradley talked about that in a segment from the HBO series 24/7 preceding his bout with Juan Manuel Marquez in Oct. 2013:
It nearly cost him his title and his spotless professional record.
Provodnikov hurt Bradley early and knocked him down in the final round. Were it not for Bradley's masterful boxing in the rounds in between, he would have lost the fight. Bradley must keep his cool and stay focused.
He's not the only one with a ton on the line.
Pacquiao's Aggressiveness Will Be Double-Edged Sword
Pacquiao's entire career and standing as a main pay-per-view draw might be at stake. Cindy Boren of The Washington Post writes:
Fortunes in boxing quickly change and Pacquiao’s bashing at the hands of Marquez, coupled with his controversial split decision loss (though most thought he won) to Bradley in June of 2012 has tainted the Pacquiao brand. When he traveled to Macao, China, and won a wide decision against Brandon Rios last November, the fight did only 475,000 pay-per-view buys, his lowest output since he drew 206,000 buys in 2008.
Critics doubt Pacquiao's ability to finish opponents, and even wonder if he can take another big shot after the brutal defeat from Marquez. For the first time in a long while, Pacquiao will be desperate.
While that factor will make him dangerous, it'll also make him more vulnerable. Group Pacquiao's desire to dazzle fans, his bruised pride, his tendency for careless defense and Bradley's low KO rate together, and we should see Manny come out firing at a high rate.
Bradley is smart. He'll be prepared for the onslaught.
He'll box early and only exchange when necessary, but ultimately, Pacquiao's wind will fade. Over his last five bouts, he simply hasn't been the same fighter in later rounds.
Bradley will outwork and frustrate him en route to victory.
Whatever happens on Saturday shouldn't diminish the accomplishments of either fighter's career. But this is not a good matchup for Pacquiao at this stage of his journey.
Perhaps in his prime, he would easily defeat Bradley. But on Saturday night, Bradley will be the better man, and there won't be any doubt.
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