By Ivan G. Goldman
Both the Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley camps have studied their opponent’s tapes long into the night and know how they plan to beat the other fighter into submission June 9. It’s not too soon for us to start looking at how they match up.
Photo: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
First, forget Pacquiao’s tax problems. You can bet he will, at least as far as this fight is concerned.
Now for the real issues: Yes, Pacquiao is at least a little faster, but analysts rarely mention that the quicker fighter isn’t quicker at every moment of the contest. In the space of twelve violent rounds Pacquiao will at some points let his concentration lapse and look less superhuman. And Bradley will have particularly explosive moments. He will time Pac Man and try to clock him when he’s open, especially when he has one arm extended. That’s how George Foreman kayoed much quicker Michael Moorer.
Pacquiao, a naturally bigger man, will be helped by the 147-pound limit, but the differences aren’t stark. He came in at 143 for his last contest, three pounds over Bradley’s 140. They’re both excellent athletes who can perform with impressive back-and-forth dexterity. Pacquiao hits harder, and if his combinations start hitting home, it could be goodnight Tim. Bradley’s record of 28-0 (12) reveals he’s not a particularly powerful puncher. If he can’t get Pac Man’s respect he’s going to have a long night — or an abbreviated one.
Body punches will play a pivotal role. They say the body doesn’t move as easily as the head, but Pacquiao’s phenomenal footwork makes his trunk harder to attack. Which brings us to age. Floyd Mayweather against Miguel Cotto went to the ropes because at 35 he couldn’t dance as he did at 25. Bradley, with his fine amateur background, is hitting his peak at 28. He seems to bring his best every time out. Pacquiao, at 33, could be starting a slight descent. His last bout against Juan Manuel Marquez clearly wasn’t one of his better nights. But Bradley can’t come close to matching his list of victories over world-class opponents. Pacquiao’s stopped better fighters — Cotto, for example — than Bradley ever faced.
Unfortunately, you can’t assess one of Bradley’s upcoming contests without discussing the head clashes that always seem to end up in his favor. A nice guy in street clothes, inside the ropes he swings his rock-hard bald head around like a lottery ball. If he can get his man to keep watching his cranium instead of his fists, he’s already gained an advantage.
Because Pacquiao is a southpaw, in some ways he’s more susceptible to this kind of attack. Fighters using opposite stances are more likely to get entangled, which can camouflage butting fouls. Southpaw Devon Alexander was so cut and bruised by rough Bradley tactics that their fight was stopped in round ten, with Bradley getting a technical decision.
But Pac Man and Freddie Roach won’t show up helpless. Pacquiao will be waiting inside with crushing uppercuts and right hooks. And don’t be surprised if you see Pacquiao throw some congressional elbows to teach Bradley the proper distance. Also, head-butters take their eyes off the target while executing their attempted smashes, which can create an opening for a savvy opponent with Pacquiao’s speed.
The typical referee’s response to billy-goat charges is a generic warning to both fighters: “Watch your heads.” It mostly tells a dirty fighter that he’s getting away with it. The referee needs to jump in or at least call it whenever he sees a fighter’s head go out in front of his gloves. He’s got to issue warnings and take points when they’re ignored. Still, this terrific match is unlikely to be decided by fouls. Both men set up combinations with teeth-rattling jabs and come to fight. If Bradley prevails he’s an automatic superstar and could see Mayweather in his future. If Pacquiao prevails, as I expect he will, much will depend on how he does it. If he looks great and stops the very talented Bradley, don’t be surprised if undefeated Mayweather discovers this is an excellent time to retire.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE