This rematch between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao is one of the most difficult fights to predict in years. The boxing media and fans are split, “I’m not sure. I don’t know” has been a typical answer from fellow members of the press. Even the writers and reporters who have made a pick are far from being completely assured. You can add this writer to that list. It is just an extremely difficult match up to predict.
Manny Pacquiao did not put forth the best effort he could have given in his first fight with Timothy Bradley. Timothy Bradley has improved as a fighter in the two years since he received the highly disputed decision victory over Pacquiao. That means both men have the ability to raise their games heading into Saturday night. Which gives this rematch the potential to be superior to the two’s first fight in 2012. As a matter of fact, each man is so desperate to prove themselves against one another, that it would be a surprise if the sequel does not surpass the original.
Immediately following Manny Pacquiao’s horrific knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, everybody wondered if the Filipino slugger would ever be the same. It seemed highly unlikely that Pacquiao could ever be the same, physically and mentally. In Pacquiao’s first performance since, this past November against Brandon Rios, Pacquiao still showed the elite level of athleticism that made him special. Shutting the strong, though one-dimensional, Rios out through twelve. What Pacquiao did not flash however, was the same aggressiveness and fury that were his trademarks throughout one of the most memorable runs in boxing history. What is important to remember is that a mental state can always be found and return. Physical decline knows no reversal.
Timothy Bradley’s psyche and confidence are through the roof. Bradley did, after all, beat Marquez coming off the KO of Pacquiao and beat him in more convincing fashion than Pacquiao ever could. Bradley has demonstrated exceptional versatility in his past two bouts. He went life and death, fighting like Rocky Balboa at times to hold on for a victory over Ruslan Provodnikov. Then outsmarted a genius fighter in Juan Manuel Marquez. For Pacquiao, Bradley will need to implement much of the strategy deployed against Marquez. The problem with that however, is Bradley’s trainer Joel Diaz has been talking war all fight week. “This Saturday you are going to get the fight of the year”, Joel told BRB in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
If Diaz was being honest, and not deceptive, then there is more reason for concern if you are a Timothy Bradley fan. Bradley almost got himself knocked out trying to brawl with Ruslan Provodnikov. Pacquiao flourishes in that type of fight. The last thing you want to do with Manny Pacquiao is get into exchanges. Pacquiao carries not only great power in his left hand but also speed becoming the deadly punch that you did not see coming. Pacquiao was able to land his left hand often against Bradley, despite not throwing the same amount of punches he normally does. If Bradley is going to exchange, it will give Pacquiao many opportunities to land his sunday punch.
Freddie Roach had his doubts when asked about the comment Diaz made referring to a possible fight of the year. Freddie said, “He probably just told you that, so you could come tell me that. (Laughs) They’re going to run and box all night, I know it.”
If Diaz was sincere, Roach’s reply was, “We pray for that type of fight.”
If Bradley is indeed going to box and try to outsmart Pacquiao, than he stands a good chance of decisively defeating two legends in a row. The problem with that is, Bradley attempted trying to outbox an inconsistent Pacquiao already without much success. Bradley has without questioned improved. He can box better now than at any other point in his career. But it is Pacquiao who is the faster, more agile man. An advantage Bradley held against Marquez that he will not posses over Pacquiao.
Maybe it is wishful thinking or hope to think that Manny Pacquiao could somehow still be the same fighter. After not only getting KO’d by Marquez, but also having a decade’s worth of ring wars, how in the hell could Pacquiao be the same fighter? Who knows, maybe he is not. Maybe this is the end of Manny Pacquiao as an elite fighter, and Bradley will pummel him out of the pound for pound list. Maybe this writer’s eyes are deceiving himself, but when looking at Pacquiao prepare, the talent is still all there.
The old adage in boxing goes, “Every great fighter has one last great fight in them.” Last time we all checked, Pacquiao was a great fighter. When was the last time he had a truly great performance? It has been some time, has it not? Well if Manny loses this fight, there is big chance he will never be in a fight of this magnitude again. So that great performance must come now. Manny will bring everything out of himself, which he did not do in his first encounter with Bradley, and even up the score. On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao returns to glory.
BRB’S FINAL PICK: MANNY PACQUIAO, UNANIMOUS DECISION.