BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
I’ve read just about everything concerning Manny Pacquiao over the past many months; religious rants and gay marriage opinions galore etc. etc. etc.
But I’ve read little about the strategy he will employ for his upcoming bout with undefeated WBO Jr. Welterweight Champ Tim Bradley. The fight will be held at welterweight for Pacquiao’s WBO strap this Saturday, June 9th.
Photos: Credit Chris Farina/Top Rank
I absolutely realize the consensus out there. All Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO’s) has to do is be Manny, and a victory will surely follow.
Well, I ain’t buying into that theory at all.
If anything, it seems like Pac Man might be distracted with all the press, praying and politics he’s been ravaging. Plus, I’m in the percentage that feels like Pac Man lost his last fight, a majority decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez. And although Pac contains he underestimated Marquez (although I can’t see how after their history) and skipped valuable training and strength conditioning, it looked like the Filipino might be slipping at points during their last contest. Even his marriage has been brought up as a distraction but I’m not even going there.
I thought Marquez counter-punched beautifully and used subtle footwork that had Pac Man reaching all night long. And Marquez got robbed. But still, Marquez is a different boxer than Tim Bradley.
Bradley (28-0, 12 KO’s) is a fresh, skilled, young fighter, and an under the radar 3-time world champion. He has said of the fight, “Money is nothing… I want The Throne!” and it’s this kind of driven devotion that has hallmarked his near-spotless but hard road career.
The fight won’t be too big for Bradley either. He has fought in hostile territory before. In his first fight away from his home state of California, Bradley marched into Nottingham Arena in the UK and dominated Junior Witter over 12-rounds to win the WBC Jr. welterweight title in 2008. Witter was supposedly one of the games best, longtime kept secrets, and this was supposed to be somewhat of a coming out party for him. The fight was aired in the US on Showtime on Witter’s merit, not Bradley’s. But Tim showed no awe and proceeded to kick Witter’s ass in his own backyard, even dropping the heavily favored former champ on his can in his own corner in round six.
Bradley faced some adversity in 2009 when he fought in a WBO/WBC unification bout and was dropped in the first round by hard-hitting Kendall Holt. By all rights, Tim was out cold until he hit the mat. But because of Bradley’s over-the-top conditioning, he bounced directly back and took the fight to Holt, winning a unanimous decision. Since then, it has taken five tough victories and three years thereafter to strike it “lucky” enough to earn a fight with Pacquiao.
Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter, but this time he may have bitten off more than he can fit in his agenda-filled gullet. If Manny thinks just showing up is going to earn him an automatic victory, I call bullshit.
In my eyes, Tim Bradley reminds me of a “Mini-Evander Holyfield” in the former heavyweight champ’s prime.
One reason is obvious: the use of his head. With Pac’s southpaw stance and Bradley’s orthodox attack, headbutts could be a factor, and like Holyfield, it would be Bradley who comes out of one (if it were to happen) unscathed. The same cannot be said of Pacquiao. Emanuel Steward once told me, “Tim Bradley uses his head like a third fist… even better than Evander Holyfield”. That’s because Bradley keeps a tight defense and rolls out of multi-punch combinations with the top of his dome exposed and chin tucked. They will exchange, so don’t expect Tim to change what has worked in his favor over the years, legal or not. Head clashes happen in most fights. It’s the boxer who can overcome them that usually gets the victory.
The second reason Bradley reminds me of Holyfield is because of the “I keep proving people wrong” attitude/theme of his career. The former heavyweight champ was considered “too small” and “too slow” to compete with the likes of Buster Douglas, Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe, but his historic career said otherwise. Bradley has the same mental makeup, has said very similar things as Holyfield about being considered “too small and slow” and proven all critics wrong thus far.
And like Holyfield, Tim can straight-up box too, and with a gameplan in place. This is a facet of Holyfield and Bradley’s game that was/has been always highly underrated in their biggest fights. Bradley adjusts well, his handspeed is better-than-advertised and his willpower is not to be underestimated. And like Holyfield, Bradley isn’t considered a puncher, but he has always had enough pop to gain respect from opponents. Holyfield similarities aside, Bradley is as game as an opponent Pac Man has faced in years.
All these components that surround Bradley’s game and Pacquiao’s preservation have me extremely intrigued, especially when it comes to Pac’s full attention to, and on this particular fight.
Sure, there is always the chance, and in many circles, the probability that Bradley may walk into the buzzsaw we’re used to seeing that is Pac Man, especially seven pounds north of Tim’s usual fighting weight. And if Bradley engages early, this whole article may be for nothing. But as a lot of you know out there, I don’t write about fights or boxers I don’t feel compelled to write about.
Timothy Bradley’s story compels me. And from what we’ve seen of his career, if Pacquiao comes into this fight at anything other than one-hundred percent and completely focused, Tim Bradley could pull off the upset.
And to end this thing, I have to say that I’m as huge a Pacquiao fan as it gets. But as a fan of the sport, I’m sick of hearing about whose fault it is that he and Floyd Mayweather Jr. aren’t fighting.
If Tim Bradley can defeat Manny Pacquiao, not only should we rejoice this admirable young man’s (potential) victory, but also we can ALL finally walk away gently through the minefield that is the topic of Pacquiao-Mayweather, at least for a little while.
ENJOY THE FIGHT!!!
– Philip H. Anselmo is the singer and song writer for multiple Heavy Metal acts (Pantera/Down/SJR/Arson Anthem) and the new Down EP will be out this Fall 2012. And watch for Philip’s solo record, “Philip H. Anselmo: ‘Walk Through Exits Only’, out later this year, or early next. Also keep up with Anselmo’s record label, housecore records at thehousecorerecords.com.