Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pacquiao vs. Bradley: Pre-bell Banter

By Spencer Pyke & Adam Maher

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Spencer's prediction: For the second time in just over a month, a boxing mega-bout will include an undefeated fighter and a World Champion. One of the most popular athletes in the world, 33-year-old Manny Pacquiao, enters the ring tonight in Las Vegas to defend his WBO Welterweight Championship Belt against undefeated 28-year-old Timothy Bradley.  

After struggling against Antonio Manuel Marquez in his previous bout, Pacquiao (54-3-2) has undergone a spiritual transformation in which he's omitted booze, gambling and women (besides his wife) from his life to be a more focused man of God in and out of the ring. Manny has repeatedly told the media that he was not fully prepared for the Marquez fight, that his side "underestimated" their opponent, a mistake reminiscent of Muhammad Ali's early 30s.

Perfect through 29 fights, the Indio, California native, WBO Light Welterweight Champion, Bradley, enters the biggest fight of his professional career exuding an amount of confidence that only an undefeated fighter could.  A family man, the young, fast and athletic Bradley is “ready to shock the world” Saturday night. In order to achieve his goal, Desert Storm knows he will have to "earn it" in the toughest contest of his simmering career.

Manny's Hall of Fame-bound trainer, Freddie Roach, has persistently said that Pac-Man is as prepared as ever and his “attitude adjustment” has played a major role in that.  Bradley does have the reach and age advantage, but Pacquiao's punching power and record makes him pound-for-pound one of, if not the best, fighter in the world.

Accompanied by family and friends alike, both fighters ascend on the MGM Grand this Saturday night to take part in a battle that will have a career-changing outcome.  A fighter will reach his ascent to the top or one will remain there.

My heart wants the American Bradley to win, but my mind is pushing me in the opposite direction.

With all that said, expect the fighters' opposing styles; Bradley is orthodox while Pacquiao is a southpaw, to play a role. Pacquiao will be patient and capitalize off slip-ups from the offensive-minded Bradley, landing combos late in the fight. The bout will go the distance due to the challenger’s impeccable fitness but in the end, we will see Pacquiao’s hand raised for a remarkable 55th time.      

Afterthought: Now that my prediction is out of the way, I have a bone to pick.  Many have said that a Pacquiao loss will ruin boxing because the Money Mayweather / Pac-Man fight would have no importance.  I could not disagree more. If Bradley wins, we have two undefeated American Champs in him and Money May.  If Pacquiao wins, we will undoubtedly see the fight that everyone in the world has been waiting for.  Until then, boxing fans will have to wait and see what happens, much like Money Mayweather himself, who is some four miles down the road from the MGM Grand, incarcerated.

Adam's prediction: Last night, starting at 1:00 am, I watched for the second time all four episodes of HBO's 24/7 Pacquiao Bradley series, directly followed by the recording of the live weigh-in. I took everything in that I could, and after watching the series, my prediction remained the same as it was before I on-demanded that HBO HD: Bradley is going to win this fight.

Pacquiao lost the Marquez fight. I thought it was wrong that he won then, and I still feel as strong about it. Manny's camp has made their excuses, saying that they "underestimated their opponent" time and time again - as they clearly were left with a bad taste in their mouth after the Marquez bout. A taste so bad that Manny has completely changed his entire lifestyle. He is now a devout Christian church leader, has given up drinking, "women," the works. His camp has followed suit. The days of the boys standing on the deck smoking cigars and drinking into the night at Manny's Mandalay Bay suite, making plans to hit the strip club are sadly over.

How will that translate into the ring? At 33, isn't it a bit late in his boxing career to be making such drastic lifestyle changes? And isn't it a bit unsettling to see Manny weighing in at an un-muscular, career-heaviest 147 lbs? Not to mention Manny's divided ring corner of trainers (Ariza and Roach are teetering on the word despise, even though they say they've "resolved" their differences to accommodate Manny's preferences). Manny has made a career out of class-shifting, but to make so many changes when facing such a crazy motivated and young Timothy Bradley? After all, Muhammad Ali was just 24 when he changed his name and declared himself a righteous man of the Islam faith in 1964 after assuming the Championship from Sonny Liston - long before he started "under-preparing" for fights. Right, I'm pretty sure that's when Ali started developing brain malfunctions more commonly known to Freddie Roach, sadly, as Parkinson's Syndrome.

Roach doesn't seem to think so, though, claiming that Bradley "won't win a round" to HBO's Max Kellerman during the weigh-in coverage.

Manny's stablemate, Amir Khan, agrees with me via ESPN. Notice how Amir dances around his very weak prediction.

"I'm always going to back my training partner in this fight because he's been in with better competition and reigned for such a long time," Khan said.

"But it's going to be a tough fight. I don't think Manny will knock him out. I feel it's going to go the distance because there's no doubt Bradley will come to fight. Seeing him train on HBO's 24/7, he seems focused and confident.

"Manny's not performed at his best in his last few fights, so that might be on Bradley's side. No matter what, it's going to be one of those tough and crazy fights that boxing fans want to see."

A lot has been made of Bradley's inexperience in the limelight and his low-percentage of KOs (12-28). Watching him smile-off the boos at the weigh-in was reminiscent of a once Miami-bound Chris Bosh. Eager to make the next step in his career no matter who or what was against or with him. Tim's work ethic is also similar to Bosh's. Focused and flamboyant, yet measured. Shooting for hours before game time, Bradley has been known to run marathons just days before his big fights.

"I want to push my body to every limit to see what it can do," to paraphrase Bradley.

Boxing has been somewhat stagnant in the past five years. Pacquiao and Mayweather have been reluctant to fight each other, both seen as the world's best fighters for quite a long time. Bradley offers hope to the minority of fans that want to see both Pacquiao and Mayweather go down in flames at Lost Wages' MGM Grand. If Bradley can beat Pacman, don't be surprised to see him take down Floyd very soon as well.

Wouldn't that be something? It's going to happen.

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