MANILA – Former HBO analyst Larry Merchant expects Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao to have his hands full when he takes on American Timothy Bradley Jr. in their April 12 rematch in Las Vegas.
Merchant, who has been a commentator in several of Pacquiao’s past fights, told Hustle Boss that the welterweight showdown figures to be “a tough fight” for the Filipino idol.
The analyst wondered if Pacquiao’s strategy against Brandon Rios – which involved more boxing than usual – will work against the slicker, more skilled Bradley.
“I think that he showed against Rios that he was able to fight a pure boxing style that we hadn’t seen before. He’s made various inventions and reinventions of himself,” said Merchant. “But I don’t think he’s going to outbox Bradley.”
And like Bradley, Merchant is also questioning if Pacquiao is motivated enough heading into the rematch.
“I think the essence of the fight is (if Pacquiao can) stoke up the fire to get Bradley, who’s coming off a couple of good wins after their first fight,” Merchant said.
“But Manny’s impressive in the sense that he’s a veteran fighter who’s still going after it,” he added. “He’s still not over satisfied, but now he’s got to show that he can go back to an earlier version of himself to beat a guy like Bradley.”
“I don’t think anybody’s too sure who’s going to win this fight.”
Merchant also expects Pacquiao’s trainer, Hall-of-Famer Freddie Roach, to convince the “Pacman” to again channel the fire that allowed him to dominate fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto.
“Freddie’s a realist, and Freddie likes guys who go for it,” said Merchant. “I think he’s going to try to convince Manny that he’s got to revert to that great year he had, when he stopped De La Hoya and Hatton and Cotto.”
“He (Pacquiao) has not stopped anybody since, but he’s got to be a positive force in the ring against a fighter like Bradley, who has shown his versatility in his recent fights,” he added.
Pacquiao is attempting to avenge his June 2012 loss to Bradley, who was awarded a controversial split decision in that fight to annex the WBO welterweight belt.