Words: Alan Dawson – London
Photos: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
Perpetual Manny Pacquiao nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez and pay-per-view attraction Floyd Mayweather Jr will have no doubt been top of consensus shortlists for the Filipino welterweight’s summer opponent but, as June 9 closes in, the determination and confidence shown by Pacquiao’s erstwhile unlikely challenger Timothy Bradley has left fight scribes wondering… can the unbeaten American defeat Pac? The man himself makes an extraordinary case…
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A family affair: Timothy Bradley Sr (left) is a key part of Bradley’s team, along with Joel Diaz (right)
He’s a chest-thumping, prove-to-me-your-better-than-me junior welterweight champion with natural athleticism, sterling boxing skills and, above all, a drive that is now so well documented that it has almost become one of the focal points of the promotion for his match-up with pound-for-pound mainstay Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38ko) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Bradley (28-0-0, 12ko) is well prepared… has been living the weight having embarked on a near 15-week training camp and is expected to scale in at either 144lbs or 145lbs at the weigh-in on Friday, one day prior to the WBO welterweight world title showdown.
“I am ready to take the throne,” said the 28-year-old California, an accomplished pugilist who will be thrust into his greatest test this weekend. Ever fearless, he added: “I am in the best shape of my life [and] am ready to deliver.”
Bradley’s self-belief is not unfounded. He has, in the past, triumphed in a 140lb world title unification (Devon Alexander), rose from the canvas to grind out a victory (Kendall Holt) and outclassed a man whose infighting troubled popular British prizefighter Amir Khan in a win that now has added prestige (Lamont Peterson). Aye, Bradley has come a long way since bursting onto the elite level by doing what Lucian Bute failed to do – that is, head into Nottingham, and leave his opponent’s homeland with a world title (Junior Witter), however, all those triumphs have one thing in common; they were achieved on account of possessing a higher point total over the distance, rather than inside it, and so a common criticism of Desert Storm Tim is that he lacks concussive power.
“I systematically break guys down,” Bradley explained. “I get in the ring… they say I don’t have power but then they feel me and feel my strength. As soon as they get hit, they want to hold, [especially in] the last couple of fights. It makes it hard for me to really get my work in. I break them down and take every punch away from them,” he stated. A clear student of the sport, he continued: “[It] starts with the jab, I take that away then I take the straight left away. Hit them in the body, break them down and apply the pressure. If you’re not hitting hard in there and I don’t feel threatened then I’m going to take it to you.”
Manny is lauded for his ambidexterity when it comes to trading shots, but the world-title magnet largely lines up on the portside, something Bradley is accustomed to having recently squared off against both Alexander and Joel Casamayor, retiring the latter inside eight rounds. Pacquiao is also famed for his speed – both of fist and of foot – together with his power.
“My last opponents have been southpaw,” he said. “Casamayor is a little over the hill but still crafty… people said he had tremendous power but I didn’t feel any. My pace was high and most people can’t fight at that pace which is my strength and how I win fights the majority of the time. For this fight I will have to be a lot smarter.
“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. If he does have some power then I will definitely have to be smarter in there and outbox [him]. But if I don’t feel like he can hurt me then I’m going to make a fight out of it.”
Bradley has sparred hundreds of rounds, completed many miles of roadwork and now winds down ahead of Saturday
One of the toughest assignments a trainer can have is to be tasked with finding a Pacquiao replica in order to get his charge comfortable with a style deemed so great it, along with the man’s achievements, landed Manny the fighter of the decade award from 2000-2009. Joel Diaz, Bradley’s head cornerman, though, enlisted three or four sparring partners with alternative best assets/physical traits and ordered them to go to war with Tim who, in total, sparred between 160 and 200 rounds, going a few rounds with each partner before swapping, in order to keep himself fresh.
Did any of those spars help Bradley learn how to successfully block or evade a fighter mimicking Pacquiao’s monstrous left hand? “In the beginning of training camp I was getting hit with it but now I am stepping underneath it – great defense and great footwork and counter-punching,” he explained. “I’ve been looking really good and not getting hit a lot in training camp. I am dialed in on the left hand.”
How does he anticipate being able to cope with Pacquiao’s power? This is, after all, a man who stopped Miguel Cotto, separated Ricky Hatton from his senses in six minutes, forced Oscar de la Hoya to quit on his stool and pulverised Antonio Margarito’s eye socket. Bradley provided an answer that will draw allusions to the Juan Manuel Marquez method of deterring Pacquiao – counter-punching.
“I had some big guys, some big punchers come in to keep me on my toes. I had a kid coming out of LA, an undefeated kid, a big puncher, lefty and strong. He threw 150 punches in one round and he’s a heavy puncher so my eyes were wide open. I was ducking and weaving and trying to counter punch to get this big guy off me before he took my head off.”
Aside from his winner’s mentality, undefeated record and productive training camp, where does all the confidence come from? “For the last four years I have been studying this guy, looking at and admiring him [but] this is my time. I’m putting it all on the line so you are going to see a great fight.
“I’m not in there to survive [or] for a paycheck. I am in there to win. I am going [to do] whatever it takes to win. If it takes infighting, that’s what I’ll do because Pacquiao doesn’t fight well inside – look at all his fights – he doesn’t fight well inside. He throws combinations then steps out and comes in on an angle. He doesn’t like to stay there and bang [but] if he comes in to bang – I’ll go to boxing. I am a schooled fighter – I know when to box.
“I am going to take it to Pacquiao,” he concluded.
If Bradley takes Pacquiao’s belt, a lucrative rematch would beckon, together with a potential Mayweather bout
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