Undefeated WBO light welterweight champion Timothy Bradley is now two days away from the biggest fight of his career against pound- for-pound king Manny Pacquiao for the Filipino superstar's WBO welterweight belt at the MGM Grand on June 9. The confident challenger is determined to defy the odds and defeat one of the two best fighters in the world, but is he overly confident?
On a media conference call last week, Bradley (28-0, 12 KO's) expressed his readiness for the opportunity of a lifetime against the mighty Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO's).
"I am so confident I am just ready. I am in the best shape of my life. I have put in the time in the gym – and for the last four years I have been studying this guy, looking at this guy, I have admired this guy. This is my time. An opportunity of a lifetime and I’m going to give it 110%. I’m putting it all on the line so you are going to see a great fight."
To break down Bradley's assessment and strategy:
"Pacquiao doesn’t fight well inside. You look at all his fights – he doesn’t fight well inside", proclaimed Bradley. "He throws combinations then steps out and comes in on an angle. He doesn’t like to stay there and bang but maybe that’s what they are working on now and will take it to me."
Even though he is an aggressive fighter, Bradley is not particularly effective on the inside. His ability to get inside often involves lunging in head first rather than maneuvering with smart pressure. He lacks the bob and weave defense to slip incoming punches and tends to get reckless when exchanging.
The only success challenger Lamont Peterson had against Bradley in their December 2009 championship fight was on the inside. Peterson ripped a number of body punches and landed several short shots while smothering Bradley in the early portion of the fight, preventing the champion from getting off his punches. Bradley would make the proper adjustments and reverted to boxing on the outside, easily winning a unanimous decision.
"Pacquiao hits hard with the right and the left hand so I’ll be able to feel him out in the first round and see what he really has", Bradley said. "If he does have some power then I will definitely have to be smarter in there and outbox this guy. But if I don’t feel like he can hurt me then I’m definitely going to step into him to make a fight out of it."
Bradley will quickly realize that Pacquiao has far more power than Kendall Holt, the only man to have knocked him down in his career. Bradley was rocked by a single counter left hook in the first round of his unification bout with Holt in April 2009 that nearly spun him around in mid air before falling to the canvas. The freakishly well-conditioned Bradley was able to get up from the stunning shot and go on to win a unanimous decision.
It should be noted that Holt essentially let Bradley back into that fight. The counter-punching Holt did not let his hands go and selectively picked his shots while Bradley steadily fought his way back into the fight, controlling the action throughout the remainder of the bout. Pacquiao is not expected to be as passive.
"I think that Manny has to worry about my right hand and my movement. My movement is going to kill him. It's going to throw him off. He needs a fighter that stands in front of him, you know." said Bradley in a report by BoxingScene.com.
If Bradley employs such a strategy in this particular fight against Pacquiao, he will be required to demonstrate superior boxing skills for a full 12 rounds and consistently land effective shots while on the move without getting hit. That is a tall order against one of the best fighters in the world.
Furthermore, the temptation to abandon this approach once he tastes Pacquiao's power may be too much for Bradley to resist. This being only the California-based fighter's second fight on the big stage in Las Vegas and his first pay-per-view headline, the risk exists of him getting caught up in the moment. His desire to prove that he can compete with Pacquiao may lead to trouble for Bradley if he tries to trade with the dangerous Filipino.
Bradley is building additional confidence based upon his assessment of Pacquiao's last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez in November 2011.
"Marquez sat there and counter-punched and counter-punched but he didn’t get the decision. It didn’t seem like he wanted to win. If you want to win you’ve got to take it to the champion." exclaimed the confident challenger.
"If Marquez stepped up the last couple of rounds he could have won the fight. But he didn’t do that. He laid back and let Pacquiao control the tempo and the action and Pacquiao ended up winning those rounds. I know how to win and I know when I’m down how to pick it up."
Self-assured claims are being made by Bradley on what seems to be an hourly basis leading up to the fight. The Ring has reported that he has gone so far to say that he believes he will have 'no problem' beating Pacquiao and he is already promoting the November 2012 rematch. This relates to the immediate mandatory rematch clause in the fight contract should Bradley get the upset.
It might not be wise for Bradley to over simplify the strategy to beat Pacquiao or to look too far ahead into the future. Contrary to Bradley's assertion that the fight is won in the gym as he stated on last week's episode of HBO's 24/7, it is won in the ring and will have to come against an elite fighter who will be planning to make adjustments of his own.
Bradley's appealing sense of confidence is now bordering on brash arrogance.
This may result in his downfall on Saturday night.
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