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Roundtable Preview: Pacquiao vs. Bradley

Photos: Chris Farina / Top Rank

Photos: Chris Farina / Top Rank

It’s been nearly two years since Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley shared a ring together.  In June 2012, Pacquiao put on, what many ringside observers felt, was one of his better performances, as he appeared to outbox the unbeaten Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  However, when the scores were read, it was Bradley who would go on to earn a split decision win, in one of the most controversial decisions in boxing.

The resulting road for each fighter would drastically change for each fighter, as Bradley would go on to defend his title twice, outpointing both Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez, in what was another upset victory.  Pacquiao however, would suffer a devastating knockout loss to Marquez in his next fight, then come back late last year to get an easy decision win over Brandon Rios.  That their rematch sees an equal amount of writers picking Bradley to win as well as Pacquiao, speaks volumes to where each fighter stands going into Saturday night.  Surely, Bradley has increased his stock while Pacquiao’s is truly laying in the balance.

As we prepare to watch the rematch this Saturday in Las Vegas, we sit down with a few of our staff writers to discuss the fight and offer our own predictions.

Looking back at the first fight, who won in  your opinion and why?

Bradley_Pacquiao_120609_002aAli Shakoor: Pacquiao won the fight due to landing the cleaner and harder blows.  I tend to favor those attributes when I judge a fight, over ineffective “activity”.  I think Manny won about 8 rounds.  However I don’t believe the decision was such the abomination, the way so many have treated it.  Bradley was very active and confident, particularly later in the fight.  If you watch the fight without listening to the biased HBO announcing slobbering all over Manny, I think you’ll see a more competitive fight.

Martin Gallegos: I had Manny Pacquiao winning the first fight fairly easily. After watching the fight over numerous times, the most rounds I could give to Bradley is four. The reason I had the fight for Pacquiao was that he was the aggressor the enitre night. While he did take some rounds off, Pacquiao still landed almost double the amount of total punches that Bradley did.

Moses Vered: Pacquiao clearly won, hands down, and I don’t care what CJ Ross and Duane Ford thought they saw. Bradley won 3 rounds at most maybe 4 if your generous.

Patrick Cassidy: I think it was fairly obvious that it was Manny Pacquiao. I genuinely thought it was the best performance we had seen out Manny since the Hatton fight a few years back and thought that this was the beginning of Pacquiao’s “rebirth” if you will. It just seemed like Bradley was a bit lost “in the moment”, if you will. Pacquiao was able to deliver the type of free-flowing combo’s that we had grown to expect and the left was finding its home. Bradley, meanwhile, for much of the fight had lost his routine rhythm and only found it by the time the scores should have been in the bag for Pacquiao.

Matt Knowles: It’s amazing how a biased crowd (and an insanely biased HBO announce team) can influence the home viewing experience in boxing. When I first watched De La Hoya-Mosley II, I cried robbery! After a second viewing with the sound turned down, I felt that the judges got it right. Same goes for Mayweather’s first squabble with Castillo, which I now consider the most misunderstood match of the new era (Floyd schooled ’em, people!).

Upon 1st viewing of the 1st PacMan-Desert Storm encounter in June ’12, I had the match 116-112 Pacquiao, and was disgusted with the split decision win in favor of Bradley. Once again, the rabid one-sided crowd and announce crew had swayed me, as my 2nd viewing produced a 115-113 tally for Bradley.  It seemed to me that the crowd went berserk with every left hand that Pacquiao threw, while Bradley was landing combos upstairs & down at a rapid rate in retaliation, with no fan reaction whatsoever. It was a close match, no doubt, but the right man won that night.

Since the fight, we’ve see Pacquiao get knocked out and beat Rios by decision. How does Pacquiao look to you going into this fight?

Ali Shakoor: I think Manny is a different fighter.  He certainly doesn’t have the pop and aggression that he showed against Cotto in 2009; which frankly hasn’t been there since Manny received a lot of damage versus the larger Cheato in Cowboys Stadium back in 2010. Rios was made to order and a make or break fight for Manny, so I honestly don’t know how he’ll look versus Bradley at this point.  Manny is also an “old” 35 in boxing years, with a lot of wars sprinkled across his 19 years in the game.

Patrick Cassidy: I don’t think there’s any question that he’s towards the twilight years of his career. However, as we’ve seen recently with Miguel Cotto, that does not mean that he is ineffective or shot by any stretch. He’s still a big puncher, he’s been in enough “megafights” that nerves are no issue and he’s still fairly calm. Even though Rios was a tailor-made opponent for him, I was impressed with how lighter Pacquaio looked and fought. I think some of the bulk that he had begun to put on had been affecting his output.

Martin Gallegos: To me, Pacquiao has regressed since the Bradley fight and has been regressing even before that. The Rios fight was a good performance, but that style was tailor-made for Pacquiao.

Moses Vered: As odd as it may sound, I still think it’s pretty much the same Pacquiao. Is he as devastating with his aggression as he was in 2009? No. But most thought he beat Bradley handily and he was a few punches away from finishing Marquez before he got caught. Still an elite level fighter.

Matt Knowles: One word…OLD. His electric reflexes and footwork were nowhere to be found when he crosses paths for the 4th time against his greatest rival in Mr. Marquez, and the Rios bout was simply perfect match-making in order to bolster Pacquiao’s record & confidence. Don’t let the OLD opinion get things twisted; Manny is still an awesome athlete who can compete with just about any top-10 welterweight on the planet not named Floyd. All things considered, he just doesn’t look to be the same animal that ran through the division like a buzz-saw a few years back.

On the flipside, Bradley decisioned Provodnikov and Marquez.  Has he gotten better and do you see him different going into this fight than you did the first time?

Bradley_Marquez_131012_001aAli Shakoor: I think he’s gotten better. He has fully grown into the welterweight division since the first fight. Also, the heart and courage he showed against Provodnikov, along with the “boxing lesson” he put on against a still elite Marquez, really has Bradley at the stage of his career where he is in-prime and at the top of his game.

Martin Gallegos: Just like Pacquiao has regressed pretty much every fight, Bradley has been improving in every fight, in my opinion. While his “win” over Pacquiao is questioned by many, it was a legit win in Bradley’s eyes and it has given him a boost in confidence. His fight with Provodnikov was incredible considering he basically fought a good amount of that fight with a concussion. His out-boxing of Juan Manuel Marquez was brilliant. I gave Bradley very little chance in his first fight with Pacquiao, that’s not the case this time around.

Matt Knowles: This has been my arguing point on the rematch from the moment it was signed; since the first bout, Pacquiao has simply gotten older, while Bradley has simply gotten better. The war with Ruslan showed the boxing world that the kid is now a man, who is able to dig deep & take care of business in the trenches in order to defeat a stronger foe. The Marquez match reinforced the fact that Bradley has elite boxing skills and the ability to out-think one of the smartest pugilists of our generation. I do see him as a different fighter now, compared to two years ago, in the sense that he is right smack-dab in the middle of his boxing prime.

Moses Vered: Bradley has improved and he has shown he is a true warrior when he needs to be, such as when he faced “The Siberian Rocky”. He also showed strategic intelligence in the Marquez fight. This version of Bradley is much more seasoned.

Patrick Cassidy: I don’t think Bradley has necessarily gotten any better since the first fight, but I do think he’s more comfortable being a top-level prize fighter. Aside from the Junior Witter fight when he took Witter’s title from him in his backyard, I don’t think he had ever had a truly marquee fight coming into the Pacquiao fight. All his other fights had been in small casinos or empty football stadiums. I think he’s comfortable in his skin, now, and is prepared to fully execute whatever gameplan they have in store for Manny.

Does Pacquiao have to look for a knockout in this fight?

Ali Shakoor: Nope.  Bradley is a brilliant counter puncher and very fast.  When fighting a boxer with an IQ of Bradley, Manny has to be very patient and rely on his experience and technique.  The caveat here, is that if Manny has Bradley legitimately hurt along the ropes on in the corner, he’ll have to close the show.  Otherwise, Bradley will recuperate and adjust.

Patrick Cassidy: No, Manny needs to simply ensure that he avoids the routine and ugly clinches of Bradley, maintain a solid pace and look for enough left hands to leave an emphatic mark on the judges. A knockout, obviously, won’t hurt but Bradley is certainly no leviathan that needs to be knocked out in order to secure a victory.

Martin Gallegos: I wouldn’t say he has to look for a knockout, but he does have to stay aggressive for 12 rounds applying pressure like the old Manny Pacquiao. If the knockout happens, it happens.

Matt Knowles: I don’t believe either fighter has to look for a knockout victory, nor do I believe that either of them will press the issue and make themselves vulnerable to a counter attack. I would assume that PacMan has learned his lesson from the Marquez debacle, while Bradley has rarely shown any offense-first tendencies. If Pacquiao decides that he needs a KO and fights in such a fashion, Bradley will take ’em apart with crosses and body blows.

Moses Vered: Not necessarily. Pacquiao should fight his fight and stay busy in the later rounds, so if he does that, he should win. Inept judging is what cost him the first fight, not his performance.

Should Bradley be worried about make-up rounds? In other words, judges giving Pacquiao close rounds to make up for the last fight?

Patrick Cassidy: Yes. He shouldn’t have to, but it’s the way Vegas judges often operated, unfortunately. I personally think many of the rounds that he was given against Pacquiao were due to the harsh condemnations Vegas judges received when they scored Pac/Marquez III so blatantly in the favor of Manny Pacquiao. These individuals are human and in the tight-knit, incestuous world of boxing out in Las Vegas these criticisms do have an effect.

Bradley_mediaDay_140403_006aAli Shakoor: Bradley needs to just fight a smart fight. He can’t worry about things out of his control. He’s a very experienced and versatile fighter.  He should just let his talent shine through.  The last time Bradley tried to make a “point” in the ring, Ruslan Provodnikov severely concussed him and put his career in peril. Bradley can’t repeat such a mistake.

Moses Vered: It’s very possible. Bradley needs to win the rounds clearly and unfortunately he doesn’t have the power to score a knockdown or two, and that will hurt his chances in a close fight.

Martin Gallegos: Judging by the recent 24/7 episode, Bradley already seems worried about that. He says he can’t let the fight go to a decision. Whether or not that’s just him throwing smoke in the air, I do believe if rounds are close this time around, judges will lean towards Pacquiao. Bradley’s boxing skills will have to be at their best.

Matt Knowles: What’s more profitable than a Vegas rematch? You guessed it: a Vegas trilogy! If the powers-that-be have any influence on the esteemed judging panel in this match, it will be in favor of The PacMan, an attraction who (along with his welterweight arch-nemesis Money Mayweather) has held the town together financially through a variety of economic fluctuations over the past decade. Prizefighting is all about money, and a relevant Manny Pacquiao means big money for Las Vegas. Long story short: yes, Bradley should be concerned, and will want to control the action from the first bell through the final round to ensure that he earns a more decisive W this time around.

What does each fighter have to do to ensure a win?

Moses Vered: For the Pacman, stay busy and if you hurt Bradley finish him. For Bradley to win, he needs to fight the perfect fight. Defense will be key and he needs to outwork Pacquiao in every round.

Ali ShakoorBradley needs to avoid his tendency to brawl with wide punches.  He just needs to fight a smart fight and rely on his boxing skills and movement.  Let Manny be the aggressor and counter.  Also, Manny has shown a tendency to get frustrated and flustered in the ring on occasion.  If Bradley has any dirty tricks up his sleeve, this is the fight to show them.  Manny simply needs to fight all three minutes of every round, like he did against Rios.  He must be patient and rely on his angles, speed, and natural power. He most certainly can’t show any mercy, if he has Bradley legitimately hurt.

Martin Gallegos: For Manny Pacquiao to win he needs to stay aggressive for 12 full rounds. He can’t take rounds off like he did the first time around. While Pacquiao displayed good boxing skills against Brandon Rios, he needs to cut the ring off and keep this fight on the inside. For Tim Bradley to win, he needs to utilize a similar gameplan that he used against Marquez, which is to keep the fight on the outside. Bradley will have to neutralize Pacquiao’s attack and keep moving.

Matt Knowles: Win every second of every round of the match! Realistically, the only way that this one avoids any type of speculation and/or controversy is if somebody gets dropped for a clear 10-count, which is a highly doubtful outcome. The most likely outcome is a 12 round decision involving a number of toss-up rounds, so I am personally preparing for another one of those “black-eye-for-boxing” disputes on Monday morning. If either guy is going to ensure a win, they will have to either dominate all 36 minutes of action while scoring multiple knockdowns, or flatten the other guy for 10 consecutive seconds.

Patrick Cassidy: Bradley needs to turn this into the methodical, inside fight that he executed against the likes of Marquez and Alexander. Precision punching, well-timed clinches, and maybe a little dirt when he gets Pacquiao into tight corners. Likewise, Manny needs to avoid those traps, use lateral movement and ensure that his pace is not broken by these tactics.

Who wins and why?

Pacquiao_Bradley_LA PC_140204_001aAli Shakoor: I honestly don’t know.  This is such a 50/50 “pick em” fight to me. I tend to think that the physical and intellectual growth that Bradley has shown since the first fight, will carry the day for him to a very close decision, as long as he doesn’t get reckless.  I don’t think Manny has the same killer instinct, and I don’t think it will return.  Also, and I haven’t seen this little nugget mentioned, but it’s compelling:  Manny stated that Brandon Rios actually HURT him in his last fight, in one of the middle rounds.  Considering that revelation, the Marquez debacle, and Bradley’s improved pop, I question Manny’s punch resistance at this stage of his career.  That being said, Manny is still a great fighter, with plenty enough power and skill to either stop Bradley, or win a close decision.  This is going to be a truly great fight.  I say it’s legit 50/50.  If Ramon has gun to my head, I tend to favor Bradley by close decision with a shocking knockdown of Manny to his credit along the way.

Martin GallegosTim Bradley by split decision. This will be a very close fight. While I did have Pacquiao winning the first fight, I believe Bradley has improved. Also, Bradley fought a majority of that fight on one foot after twisting his ankle early on. Bradley’s boxing ability is superb and unless he fights stupid like he did against Provodnikov for some rounds and turns this into a war, I believe Bradley will be able to out-box Pacquiao this time around. Pacquiao may occasionally land some nice shots, but the jab will carry the day for Tim Bradley.

Matt Knowles: I have a policy of always going with the winner of the 1st bout in the rematch, and I shall stick with the script on this one as well. Both guys brought their A-game in the first encounter, and on two (allegedly) broken feet, Bradley got the nod. For this one, the champ has even more experience and savvy in high level contests, and is in the midst of the best run of his unbeaten career. Pacquiao is a wealthy, accomplished legend of the sport, who is in the twilight of an amazing career, but has clearly seen better days in the squared circle. I expect another competitive, high speed boxing match, with both guys having great moments early. From the middle rounds onward, expect Bradley’s counter-punching and conditioning to take over the contest as he earns another hard fought split decision victory.

Moses VeredPacquiao by UD lets say 116-112. Manny still has the speed and power and a motivated Pacquiao is a very dangerous fighter.

Patrick CassidyBradley. It’s a close fight and the judges’ scores could vary wildly. However, I think Bradley is more prepared for this type of fight and is in a better place mentally this time around. I don’t believe Manny’s legs are strong enough to perform the type of track meet that a fight against an adept inside fighter like Bradley requires. I think Bradley builds up a lead for much of the middle portion of the fight and notches enough late rounds in the face of an attempted Manny comeback to take the fight on the scorecards via majority decision.

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