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Five things to decide Pacquiao-Bradley

Inside Fights Scott Sawitz
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Saturday night, the second of perhaps the two biggest fights of 2012 goes down: Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley.

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With the looming specter of Floyd Mayweather Jr. (whose win over Miguel Cotto was the year's first big fight) hovering over this fight, Pacquiao has to win to maintain the hope that Pacquiao-Mayweather will finally happen. He’s favored to do so, as well, but Bradley is a tough fighter and Pacquiao is in for a potentially rough night.

There are many factors as to why Bradley could beat Pacquiao, and vice versa, but these five main factors are going to determine who walks away with the WBO welterweight title.

Pacquiao’s mental state: One of the things that didn’t come out until recently was that Pacquiao’s preparation for his last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, which we at Inside Fights scored in favor of Marquez, was delayed significantly becauase of personal problems with his wife. Pacquiao has since claimed to have gone through a religious conversion of sorts, devoting his life to faith and whatnot, but the fact remains that most people thought Pacquiao was given that fight. It’s why we want to see Marquez-Pacquiao 4; Marquez is just the right fighter to take Pacquiao to the limit, it seems.

With talk coming out of his camp about retirement, most notably from trainer Freddie Roach, one has to wonder about Pacquiao’s mental state coming into the fight. Any athlete with retirement on their mind, enough that it’s even brought up by their trainer in a roundabout way, is never good. The champion has discussed how he had a great camp, etc., but the fact remains that Pacquiao has a lot on his plate. He wants to be the president of the Philippines one day and is already a congressman there. While balancing everything out Pacquiao might be burning the candle at both ends.

MANNY PACQUIAO

MANNY'S SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

The key thing is that Pacquiao didn’t look like his old self when he stepped into the ring with Marquez. If that Manny shows up again he could wind up losing badly. If Pacquiao is dialed in to the fight and ready to battle Bradley then we’re in for a treat.

Bradley’s ability to counterpunch: The one thing Marquez showed three times was that the way to keep the champion in check was to counterpunch effectively. Marquez is superb at that, of course, but it’ll be interesting to see how much Bradley studied the tapes of Pacquiao’s fights with Marquez. Bradley is an effective counterpuncher but he doesn’t have Marquez’s ability to fight off the back foot.
If he can do so effectively he can win.

Bradley’s not known as a power puncher, but if he lands in volume without getting lit up by Pacquiao he can win by stealing rounds and making this a matter of points instead. Once he tastes Pacquiao’s power early on, if he opts to try and counterpunch his way out of it, as opposed to making it a marathon like Mosley did, Bradley can win. He has to control his instincts as a young, hungry fighter. He can put himself into spots that are susceptible Pacquiao’s power shots fairly easily.

The key is to effectively counterpunch early, like Marquez did, and not let the cumulative power of Pacquiao’s punching add up. That’s what makes Pacquiao so dangerous — his ability to hit you hard early and not stop until you fall down. Cumulative power shots add up, especially early on, and if Bradley can counter his way out and not absorb a lot of punishment he can win.

Pacquiao’s physical conditioning: The one thing that’s interesting about the champion is that he has enormous calves. If you haven’t seen his legs before find them sometime. If you look at his calves it’s like he’s shoved a bowling ball inside there. He’s got a powerful lower body from his childhood of carrying water up a hill. But the problem with carrying that much muscle is that he can tire quickly. It looked to be a problem in the Marquez fight and has plagued him over the years. If his legs gas it takes out a lot of his punching power.

Whether or not his training regime has been enough to prevent his calves from tiring quickly will be something to watch as the fight progresses. If Pacquiao starts trying to muscle his punches with just his upper body instead of using his footwork to help generate momentum then things could get interesting.

Bradley’s chin: Bradley has never been stopped in his professional career. Pacquiao can’t say that. Bradley’s ability to take a punch will be tested more than anything else. A lot of people are predicting that Pacquiao KO’s him, but the one thing no one knows for sure is if Pacquiao has enough power to do so.

Can he? Probably. He’s knocked out guys with strong chins in the past. But Bradley’s chin might be good enough to keep him standing against Pacquiao. Manny has the power to knock out and drop plenty of fighters but it’ll be interesting to see how Bradley holds up against perhaps the hardest puncher he’s faced in his career.

The power of the moment: The one thing we tend to forget in fights like this is just how powerful the moment can be for some fighters.

Pacquiao needs redemption after the Marquez fight and is looking to send a statement to Mayweather to set up the biggest boxing fight of the modern era. A Pacquiao win could make the Mayweather fight as close to being tenable now as it ever will be. Both men are winding down their careers and the window for both fighting in their prime is closing quickly. And Pacquiao needs to continue winning in order to keep leverage up on his end of things. If he loses to Bradley, Pacquiao-Mayweather doesn’t have as much sizzle. More importantly, Manny doesn’t have financial leverage coming off a loss that he does with a win.

Bradley is in the biggest fight of his career, period. If he beats Pacquiao then he has become a bigger star overnight. With a win over Pacquiao a matchup against Mayweather becomes a battle of unbeatens, albeit not quite as sizzling as the two best fighters of their generation going toe to toe. This is potentially legacy-making for Bradley, to have Pacquiao’s scalp on his list of conquests. That has to weigh on him and might affect the way he fights. If he thinks he can get the knockout, or that he’s ahead on points, he might react differently than he normally would because of the lure of beating one of the two best fighters in the world.
 

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