By Frank Lotierzo
This Saturday night Manny Pacquiao 57-6-2 (38) and Timothy Bradley 33-1-1 (13) will meet for the third and no doubt final time. At stake will be the vacant WBO welterweight title, which is truly an afterthought between these two. Pacquiao and Bradley have fought 24 rounds against each other and Manny probably holds the edge 15-9. Neither has been able to knock the other off his feet nor has one had the other in real trouble or significantly hurt. Bradley won the first fight in 2012 via a controversial 12-round split decision and 22 months later Pacquiao exacted revenge and bettered Bradley during rounds 13-24 and won by unanimous decision.
Bradley, 32, is coming off of one of his better fights, having scored an impressive ninth-round TKO over rugged Brandon Rios who had never been stopped before in his career. It was Bradley's first fight under the tutelage of trainer Teddy Atlas. And it just may be the influence of Atlas that tilts things in Bradley's favor this time because it seems Atlas is inside of Timothy's head and really has him believing in himself, something Bradley will have to rely on during those moments when Pacquiao is really coming after him.
Pacquiao, 37, will be fighting for the first time since having rotator cuff shoulder surgery a few days after his unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather last May. And you better believe Manny will be looking to re-establish his name after his less than inspired showing versus Mayweather. A stoppage win over the durable Bradley will go a long way in doing that. Especially after the way Floyd controlled the action against Pacquiao by moving just enough to disrupt his spacing, aggression and timing. Something you can count on Atlas drilling into Timothy's head pertaining to how he must fight Pacquiao this time without the slightest deviation.
If there ever was any doubt in regards to Bradley's intentions this Saturday night….listen to Atlas:
“I always felt Manny wins his fights because of God given talent, speed and power, Atlas said.”He also brings a great pride into the ring, and that combination is what makes him great.
“We look at Manny and we say how athletic he is, but nobody ever sees that in Tim and they're wrong. What we need to do is to give Tim's athleticism a chance. He has always been defined by toughness, but this fight is all about tempo and rhythm, and I don't think that Tim could be as tough as he is if he didn't have character.”
Atlas says he wants to give Tim's athleticism a chance. Translation….Bradley will be looking to use his feet and legs to get in and get out with the intent of blunting Pacquiao's aggression. This isn't news; the book on Manny is that he is susceptible to being out-boxed. The key for Bradley will be if he can stay harnessed and fight the temptation of going into the trenches with Pacquiao when Pacquiao nails him with something big and senses he's there for the taking. Bradley will have to remember that going in to one-up Pacquiao is very dangerous and gives Manny what he wants.
There's no way in the world Bradley can best Pacquiao by trying to fight it out with him, and Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach know it. Manny is not a bell-to-bell pursuer and he doesn't cut the ring off that well against fighters who have quick feet. So he'll be trying to draw Bradley into exchanges, and when Bradley doesn't oblige him, he'll have to force him to use his legs for defense and not getting off in spurts and flurries. The onus will be on Pacquiao in a big way to make Bradley open up and engage him….and if he can't do that he has to nullify the sporadic runs Bradley is going to make in order to steal rounds.
Pacquiao has a tactical advantage for sure this time in knowing that no matter what, Bradley isn't thinking about winning by stoppage because it's too risky for him to attempt it. The presence of Atlas has all but assured that. Bradley said the big difference for him in the two previous fights was the game plan for the rematch.
“It was flawed. I went in there thinking I had to knock him out instead of out-boxing him like I did in the first fight. We figured the judges weren’t going to give us a break after what happened the first time.”
The rubber match between Pacquiao and Bradley isn't as anticipated as the two previous bouts between them. However, if there ever was a fight in which we knew the game plan and what each combatant will be intent on trying to do, it's Pacquiao-Bradley III.
When the bell rings for the first round, you can bet the house that Pacquiao will be doing everything that he was unsuccessful in doing against Mayweather….and that's roughing up Tim Bradley at every turn and forcing Timothy to have to fight him off. Manny will be trying to make Bradley fight it out with him. And Pacquiao has the luxury of knowing for an almost certainty that Bradley will not be trying to impose himself physically; no, he'll be looking to box, set up shop for short bursts, and then get out. It's interesting that, although Bradley is the physically stronger guy, he has to resist utilizing strength against strength, which would allow Pacquiao to fire shots in close. Because Roach will be imploring Manny to do everything he can to drag Bradley into a street fight.
I'm not sure how action packed or exciting Pacquiao vs. Bradley III will be. However, watching Manny and Timothy trying to force the other to do what he doesn't want to do in a stern test of wills – could be very intriguing for rounds 25-36. One guy wants to fight and go to war, the other wants to box and pick his spots. It's the ultimate style clash.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com