Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao
Birthplace: Kibawe, Philippines
Resides: General Santos City, Philippines
Height: 5' 6 1/2"
Current World Titles Held: WBO Welterweight (147 lbs.)
Former World Titles Held: WBC Super Welterweight (154 lbs.), Ring Magazine Junior Welterweight (140 lbs.), WBC Lightweight (135 lbs.), The Ring Magazine, WBC Super Featherweight (130 lbs.), The Ring Magazine Featherweight (126 lbs.), IBF Super Bantamweight (122 lbs.), WBC Flyweight (112 lbs.)
Professional Record: 54-3-2, 38 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 14-1-2, 9 KOs
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 7-1-1
Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley
Birthplace: Cathedral City, California
Resides: Palm Springs, California
Height: 5' 6"
Current World Titles Held: WBO Junior Welterweight
Former World Titles Held: WBC Junior Welterweight
Professional Record: 28-0, 12 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 6-0, 1 KO
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 5-0
For what seems like forever, a vocal contingent of boxing fans and scribes have been calling for Manny Pacquiao to fight a quick, shifty boxer with good defense, thinking that someone with that style would give the Filipino superstar the ultimate challenge. Timothy Bradley wasn't the guy they had in mind, but the undefeated American still could pose a serious threat on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Part of the reason that's true is that Pacquiao has rarely seemed more vulnerable. Despite the fact that he hasn't lost since 2005, the eight-division world champion hasn't looked sharp since his lopsided beating of Antonio Margarito. His most recent outing against arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez ended in a narrow majority decision that he was fortunate to win.
There are no such worries for Bradley, who blasted out a shop-worn Joel Casamayor in eight rounds last November. The strength of his game is that he has no weaknesses, bringing above average skills on offense and defense and marrying them with a bottomless gas tank. Bradley is making a move up in weight, but it's not expected to be a big issue for him as he's almost identical in size to Pacquiao.
He's also not lacking in confidence. Bradley called out Pacquiao after his last win, and he made some decisions over the past year or so that seemed questionable at the time but ended up putting him on the verge of a very big payday and possible mainstream stardom. That, of course, depends on him winning - something he obviously believes he can do, as he showed off a mock ticket to a rematch with Pac-Man earlier this week.
If Pac-Man can still summon up something resembling his prime form, Bradley's ticket probably won't do him much good. A fit and focused Manny produces a whirlwind of punches that can be a handful for anyone, and his close relationship with ace trainer Freddie Roach gives him another advantage that opponents simply can't neutralize.
Both fighters should be prepared to go 12 hard rounds. Pacquiao's last four fights have made it to the final bell, and Bradley hasn't stopped anyone other than the laughably shot Casamayor since 2007.
Pacquiao's Winning Strategy: Attack From Angles
Even for a man who is at or near the top of the list of Earth's best pound-for-pound boxers, it doesn't make much sense to fight in a way that keeps an opponent in his comfort zone. For Pacquiao, that means not standing in front of Bradley and battling him in a linear fashion.
That's usually not a problem for Pacquiao, who has shown an ability to use his movement and timing to come at foes from very unusual angles. In his last two truly stellar performances, against Margarito and Ricky Hatton, it was the places Pac-Man's punches were coming from as much as the speed at which they came that did the damage.
His third bout against Marquez was somewhat different, and while the Mexican master deserves plenty of credit for causing that, Pacquiao also looked like he was fighting in a more straightforward manner. He'll want to do everything he can to come at Bradley from every direction, because that will give Desert Storm something he simply hasn't seen before.
Pacquiao's challenger is younger and may even be quicker, but Manny has more power and a lot more top level experience. If he can also revive the angle-based attack he used not that long ago, he should be in good shape on Saturday.
Bradley's Winning Strategy: Hustle, Hustle, and Oh Yeah, Hustle
It's been an oft-repeated mantra on this site that Bradley has no elite attributes. He's just very solid in all phases of the sport, both physical and mental.
But if there's one thing that Bradley does better than anyone else, it's work. We're not talking about running up obscene punch counts - it's easy to think of fighters who throw more - but a combination of punch output, body movement and foot movement. He's in motion almost all the time, and he never appears to run out of steam.
Bradley is five years younger than Pacquiao and even better off in terms of "ring years." He hasn't been hit a ton like Manny was in some of the wars that took place earlier in his career. Pac-Man almost certainly doesn't want to be expending tons of energy on a constant basis, as he's prefer to be able to attack in short, powerful bursts.
To pull off an enormous win, Bradley can't let him. It's a must for Desert Storm to make the fight his own by making Pacquiao stay continuously active. Bradley says no one can work as hard as he does, so it's time to find out if that includes the fist of the Philippines.
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