LAS VEGAS â€“ WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley wonâ€™t fight like Iron Mike Tyson when he stakes his crown against Filipino challenger Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here Saturday night (Sunday morning, Manila time) and itâ€™s not just because heâ€™ll wear socks.
Bradley, 30, has sworn against engaging an opponent to preserve his health and is expected to unravel a tactical plan of action to offset Pacquiaoâ€™s relentless, volume-punching style. Tyson, of course, was never cautious in the ring and fought aggressively from start to finish, often at his own expense.
But in their first meeting two years ago, Bradley had illusions of fighting like Tyson. In fact, he wore no socks just like Tyson did. The idea was to gain a better grip on the canvas for leverage. It didnâ€™t turn out as planned. In the second round, Bradley took a step back to avoid a punch and according to Keith Idec in The Ring Magazine, created ligament damage in the bottom of his left foot. Bradley fought through the pain, encouraged by his father Ray and cornerman Joel Diaz.
Things got worse when in the fourth round, Bradley sprained his right ankle, again in the process of dodging a Pacquiao missile. â€œI was battling against pain and I was battling against Pacquiao,â€ said Bradley. â€œthatâ€™s the hardest thing to deal with, especially when you know that youâ€™re injured and you feel the throbbing pain in your foot and you know you have to continue. Most guys wouldâ€™ve quit but thereâ€™s no quit in me. Youâ€™ve got to kill me to keep me down. I can be on the floor, knocked out and Iâ€™m still going to be throwing punches.â€
To show media how bad the pain was, Bradley appeared in the post-fight press conference in a wheelchair. Obviously, that was meant to prove Bradleyâ€™s courage, how he managed to beat Pacquiao with foot injuries. It was also meant to generate sympathy for Bradley who wasnâ€™t the winner on the scorecards of 48 of 51 sportswriters polled by ComCast.
The logic coming out of Bradleyâ€™s camp if he was able to defeat Pacquiao without socks, he should easily repeat with socks. Bradley himself told Pacquiao heâ€™ll be healthy for their rematch and predicted a decisive victory. But how healthy is Bradley? Pacquiaoâ€™s trainer Freddie Roach said Bradley isnâ€™t the same fighter he was two years ago because of the punishment he took from the Filipino and Ruslan Provodnikov.
â€œRuslan gave him a beating, gave him a concussion,â€ said Roach. â€œI donâ€™t think you can come back that quickly from concussions. He couldnâ€™t even speak right for a couple of weeks. Heâ€™s suffered much more damage than we have. And Mannyâ€™s coming off a good win (against Brandon Rios). I know before that (Pacquiao) was knocked out severely. But I made him take (almost) a year off to make sure heâ€™s healthy and everythingâ€™s OK. So we made sure of that. And having a year off made him a little bit more hungry. In the Rios fight, he fought three minutes of every round and fought a good fight. Then Joel Diaz says my guy has lost his killer instinct. That motivated me and my fighter a little bit more to show him heâ€™s wrong.â€
Thereâ€™s no question Bradley is as tough as nails. Heâ€™s unbeaten with a 31-0 record, including 12 KOs. His lack of punching power was exposed in going 12 rounds with Pacquiao, Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez in his last three outings.
The ability to recover is clearly one of Bradleyâ€™s chief assets. How he was able to survive the distance with Pacquiao despite a painful left foot from the second round showed his resiliency. Against Provodnikov, Bradley was in trouble in the first round and went down although it was ruled a slip. He was in dire straits in the 12th round and knelt to take a mandatory eight-count with 12 seconds left just to keep the Russian away. Bradley weathered the storm and wound up claiming a win on points.
Bradley displayed his toughness against Kendall Holt in Montreal five years ago. He was floored by a left hook in the first round and by a right uppercut in the 12th yet won a unanimous decision. â€œIn the first round, he got me with a left hook and he stung me,â€ said Bradley. â€œI was a little numb but I just listened to my corner, got up and said, â€˜Hey, we got to get it going.â€™ I got up at the count of eight and I was fine.â€
Bradley flirted with defeat in the Holt and Provodnikov fights but came out on top. Against Pacquiao, he wonâ€™t risk another close call. If Pacquiao tags him, Bradley might just stay down this time. Bradley will do his best impression of Floyd Mayweather Jr., jabbing, moving and refusing to engage. Heâ€™ll try to wear Pacquiao down with his body punching. It will be up to Pacquiao to prove Bradley doesnâ€™t belong in the same ring as the Filipino icon.