Will Bradley engage or not?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2016 - 9:00am

The betting is WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley won’t stand his ground and trade punches with challenger Manny Pacquiao in their scheduled 12-round bout in Las Vegas on April 9. That’s because Bradley knows his power isn’t as potent as Pacquiao’s so that in a toe-to-toe slugfest, the Desert Storm might just turn into dust in the wind.

Bradley’s recent demolition of Brandon Rios is no indication that he’s had a serious power recharge. Rios was out of shape for the fight and it showed in the way he ballooned from 147 to 170 overnight to enter the ring looking like a blown-up punching bag.  Bradley walked all over Rios to score a stoppage in the ninth round. Rios was down twice before the curtains fell on his so-so career.

Before the Rios fight, Bradley went the distance in six fights. Pacquiao hasn’t scored a knockout since halting Miguel Cotto in 2009 so that’s a streak of 10 bouts where he won eight and lost twice. It’ll be their third meeting after Bradley took the first encounter on a highly-disputed split decision and Pacquiao evened up matters with a convincing victory via a unanimous verdict.

Assuming Pacquiao was robbed of a clear win in the first bout and Bradley had no chance in the return, what will make the outcome of the rubber match any different? Bradley introduced a new trainer Teddy Atlas in the Rios fight and after the win, declared that he’s found the key to a long reign. Atlas may be a credible boxing analyst on TV but he’s no Freddie Roach. It remains to be seen if Atlas’ impact will turn things around for Bradley on April 9.

In a recent column, we reviewed what happened in the first fight. Here’s how the second went down. Judge Glenn Trowbridge saw it 118-110 while judges Michael Pernick and Craig Metcalf saw it both 116-112, all for Pacquiao. The three judges gave the last three rounds to Pacquiao, indicating a strong finish by the Filipino icon and a determination to win. Trowbridge didn’t award Bradley a round in the last seven. Metcalf scored the first stanza 10-9 for Bradley but it was the reverse with Trowbridge and Pernick.

In Pernick’s scorecard, the fight was dead even, 76-all, at the end of eight. Metcalf had Pacquiao up by a point, 86-85, after the ninth so the fight was decided in the so-called championship rounds.

Bradley threw more punches than Pacquiao, 627 to 563. It was the same pattern in the first fight with Bradley throwing 839 and Pacquiao, 751. Connections, however, were in Pacquiao’s favor as Bradley was less accurate. In the rematch, Pacquiao landed 198 and Bradley, 141. In power punches thrown, Pacquiao had the slight edge, 344 to 340 but the disparity was glaring in connections, 148 to 109.

Bradley tried to keep Pacquiao at bay by unleashing 287 jabs but landed only 32. Pacquiao connected 50 of 219 jabs. Bradley’s connect rate of 11 percent showed Pacquiao was mainly out of range probably because the American wouldn’t come close. That’s a problem for Bradley. He’ll want to fight Pacquiao from a distance so he’s not within the danger zone but the drawback is he can’t land consistently.

Pacquiao’s motivation to beat Bradley in the rematch was to recapture the WBO belt. “I want my title back and I’m prepared to endure m hardest training camp ever to win this fight,” said Pacquiao. “It’s very exciting to be returning to Las Vegas. And as always, I dedicate this fight to my countrymen throughout the world and to bring glory to the Philippines. This fight is to get the credit I did not get the first time.”

It’s the same motivation for Pacquiao in the rubber match because once again, he’s chasing the belt around Bradley’s waist. Bradley is on his second reign as WBO welterweight king. He won his first title at Pacquiao’s expense then lost it to the Filipino in a rematch. Pacquiao then yielded the throne to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a unification showdown. When Mayweather announced his retirement, the title was declared vacant and Bradley claimed it via the Rios disposal. The championship has now gone full circle and Pacquiao is back knocking on Bradley’s door.

What makes the third encounter a fight to watch is it could be Pacquiao’s swan song. A fighter like Pacquiao comes once in a blue moon. He’s one in a million. If this is his last fight, fans will want to witness the ride to the sunset. Besides, Bradley is a tough customer and fans are wondering if Pacquiao has the power to knock him out for the first time in his career.

Roach said Bradley is a better fighter than some fans give him credit for. “We know he has a lot of heart,” said Roach. “It’s part of Bradley’s nature. Once you hit Bradley, he’ll fight back.” That’s how Roach wants Bradley against Pacquiao – up close and personal. Roach is convinced that if Bradley engages, it’ll be lights out before the 12th. And that would be a fitting climax to Pacquiao’s career or until Mayweather makes himself available for a rematch.

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