This weekend sees the first mega fight of the year and the beginning of the big fight season. On Saturday night the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will play host to the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. Ahead of this highly-anticipated rematch Michael McCarthy looks at four of the big questions that may determine the outcome.
1. What lessons can we take from their first meeting?
To put it bluntly, not much. The first fight two years ago was won by Bradley in a highly controversial decision. Most observers felt Pacquiao clearly did enough to win the fight. So Bradley lost, but won. We must also factor in the foot injury Bradley suffered in the 2nd round and the ankle injury he suffered in the 5th. Indeed Bradley left the arena in a wheelchair and X-rays revealed a fracture to his left foot. These injuries severely hampered his ability to move. It’s highly unlikely Bradley will be as unfortunate with injuries this time around. A lot has happened in the careers of each fighter in the two years that have passed. Bradley, despite not getting credit for his victory, has improved a lot since then and remains undefeated. Conversely, Pacquiao’s career appears to be in decline or at least in a plateau stage.
2. What does Pacquiao have left?
This is the biggest question hanging over this fight and the one which will surely be answered on Saturday night. When looking at his recent career it is a long time since Pacquiao decisively beat a legitimate top level guy. Brandon Rios was handpicked to be a glorified punching bag last November in a fight that told us nothing about whether Manny’s still got it. His first meeting with Bradley was sandwiched by two fights with Juan Manuel Marquez- one a controversial majority decision victory, in a fight many people felt he lost, the other a stunning knockout in a fight he definitely lost. Shane Mosley in 2011 was by then far removed from his prime. Then there was Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito in 2010. Neither are top shelf talents.
You really have to go back to his signature victory, a 12 round destruction of Miguel Cotto, to find the last time Pacman truly shone against a top opponent. There is no doubting the fact that that version of Manny is gone for good. He looked good in spells against Marquez in December 2012 but was also dropped hard before he suffered the brutal KO. Rios never possessed the speed or technical ability to trouble Pacquioa on his return last November. This fight against a legitimate, unbeaten welterweight will give us a true indication of where Manny is at this point of his career.
3. Can Bradley get a decision?
Given the fact he got what many consider a gift of a decision in their last meeting, this may seem like a strange question. However, that decision caused such controversy that there is a legitimate cause for concern that, should the fight be close, the judges may be swayed in Pacquiao’s favour.
This fight is likely to be closer than their first meeting and it would be in Top Rank’s best interest for Pacquiao to win a close decision this time around. Should he do so it would likely set up a lucrative third meeting between the two. With the lack of viable options at welterweight in the Top Rank stable I have no doubt that Bob Arum would be delighted with a close, preferably controversial, decision victory for Pacquiao. Bradley is unlikely to receive the benefit of any doubt in the close rounds this time around and I feel he will need to decisively win the fight to get the decision.
4. Which Timothy Bradley will show up?
Since the first meeting, Bradley has fought twice. Although he won both bouts, his performances couldn’t have been more contrasting. In March 2013 he met Ruslan Provodnikov in 2013’s fight of the year. Bradley ignored his usual style to engage the “Siberian Rocky” in a brawl. Bradley was lucky to escape with a victory in a fight where his granite chin was severely tested. In the final round he was forced to take a knee such was the punishment he was taking. Bradley claims the criticism he received for the perceived injustice of his fight with Pacquiao led to his dramatic change of tactics.
In his most recent fight last November he returned to a more familiar style. He used his excellent hand speed and footwork to outbox and out-point Juan Manuel Marquez. In the build-up to this fight Bradley has spoken of “going to war” with Pacquiao. In my opinion, this would be a massive mistake. Bradley has the speed of foot and speed of hand, as well as the technical ability, to out box Pacquiao. Although he does have a solid chin, engaging in a brawl with Pacquiao would be playing into the hands of the “Filipino Slugger”.
This fight is as close to a 50-50 encounter as I can remember. There are so many variables to factor in when trying to predicting the outcome. Ultimately I feel if Bradley turns up fully fit, and with the right game plan, he should be able to outbox the aging Pacquiao. Whether he does enough to get the judges nod is another story. If I had to pick I’d go with Bradley by a narrow decision.
Prediction: Bradley by a narrow decision.
Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image Featured Image by Kathy Willens.