By: The Boxing Prophet Richard Solomon
Have we begun to see the slow, inexorable decline of Manny Pacquiao? I think there are legitimate concerns across a number of fronts, all of which make this a dangerous fight for him. Pacquiao has ongoing issues with his leg cramps, his body may be wearing down a bit after taking on so many bigger and stronger opponents and his commitment to fighting, as well as his overall emotional and mental dedication to training, may also be reaching its collective breaking point. Pacquiao continues to move closer to a full-time political career and distractions, as always, abound in his personal life. However, I don’t think Pacquiao has fallen very far. There’s clearly an end in sight, but our last image of him in the ring shouldn’t be the standard-bearer of how we consider him today. Juan Manuel Marquez has his number and he always has. His combination of precise counter-punching, along with his combative spirit and all around technical skill, ensure that he will always be an ideal foil to Pacquiao’s aggressive, dynamic offense.
Timothy Bradley does pose concerns of his own, of course. He’s never tasted defeat as a professional and he’s fought back from the brink and against adversity to score impressive wins. He went to the UK and fought Junior Witter in his backyard to capture his first title. He came up off the deck after a vicious knockdown to steal a victory from Kendall Holt. He easily controlled an undefeated Lamont Peterson, who of course just rose to prominence with a surprising win over Amir Khan. While he didn’t capture the public’s imagination, he still established himself as the better fighter against Devon Alexander. The credentials, skills and toughness are there. He’s more than willing to make things a bit rough-and-tumble if that is an advantage. Bradley is also deceptively quick. His hand speed isn’t blazing, but he puts himself in the right position with his footwork and he showcases strong timing and intuition when unleashing his attack. If he’s to win this fight, he’ll need to stay behind a constant double jab. Bradley actually has a slight reach advantage, so he should be able to pop his jab off while coming forward to get inside of Pacquiao’s power punches. That should help him to neutralize Pacquiao’s favorite shot, his lead straight left. Once he’s inside, it’s time to tie him up, hold onto him, keep him out of rhythm, push him off…all of those rough, ugly tactics with which he can excel. The key will be to get off first and to stay behind the jab at all times. Bradley can’t trade with Pacquiao; he’s not a power puncher and I think his chin would eventually betray him. He’d be wise to borrow a page from Marquez and prioritize establishing outside foot position, while perhaps keeping Pacquiao a bit off balance by stepping on his foot for good measure.
I fully expect Pacquiao to try to use his own jab a bit more than usual instead of relying solely on the straight left. He’ll showcase some of that trademark in-and-out offense which has always been so effective for him. Bradley is there to be hit and Pacquiao will happily abide him. It will be easy enough with his lightning quick straight shots. Once he’s more comfortable, Manny should also be able to finish off his punches with zinging hooks. He’ll have to focus on getting in and out quickly though, so as not to be tied up and roughed up on the inside. That means he may end up sticking solely with the straight stuff unless Bradley looks like he’s on his way out.
Sometime back around 2008 I swore off picking against Bradley. The guy finds a way to win – he just does and it’s probably his biggest strength in the ring. Of course, that kind of stance has to come with an exception clause of sorts. I’ll never pick against Bradley…unless he faces Pacquiao or Mayweather. That’s where we are here, and make no mistake about it… I’m tempted to take Bradley against what is perhaps a physically and emotionally tired Manny Pacquiao – especially given the favorable odds, taking Bradley as an upset winner has had me thinking. Ultimately, though, I’m going to be exercising that exception clause. Bradley’s best chance to win is to make this an ugly affair and he’s capable of doing that. However, to succeed he’ll have to get in Pacquiao’s face and that means walking through the incoming fire. Bradley has been dropped and hurt before and the sheer speed and unexpected approach of Pacquiao’s shots will make them hard for him to avoid.
Prediction: I expect some holding, headbutts and havoc. This is what will help Bradley to survive the full length of the encounter. Both men will show signs of a struggle, but Pacquiao will outwork and land more effective shots than Bradley. Your winner by a relatively close but clear unanimous decision: Manny Pacquiao.
Until next time, The “BOXING PROPHET” has spoken!!!!