MANILA, Philippines – When Filipino boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao fights unbeaten American Timothy Bradley Jr. on June 9 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, he will not only be defending his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title.
Pacquiao will also be defending his place as one of the kings of the sport, as a highly confident Bradley aims to become the first man to beat the Filipino icon since Erik Morales accomplished the feat in 2005.
Pacquiao’s preparations for his title defense against Bradley has been relatively quiet, with none of the usual distractions that hounded his training camps in previous fight.
Indeed, the boxer has been serene leading up to the fight, after experiencing a renewal of faith that led him to give up his vices, including gambling, cockfighting, womanizing and partying.
He now spends most of his free time studying the Bible, and liberally quotes the Word of God during interviews.
“My training, it’s amazing. It’s heaven,” Pacquiao said during the final press conference before the fight.
“We did our best in training. I know that Tim Bradley is a hungry fighter and he’s young. I know what he’s feeling. That’s why I trained like I was 26 years old,” he added.
Pacquiao is in need of an impressive victory after a string of subpar performances, most recently a controversial majority decision win over his greatest rival, Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez.
Despite being heavily favored, Pacquiao struggled against the older Marquez and eked out a decision victory that many felt should have gone the other way.
Pacquiao has admitted that he underestimated Marquez during their fight, something he vowed not to do against the young Bradley.
“I know that Bradley is hungry and inspired to train hard for this fight,” he said.
Unlike his previous training camps wherein Pacquiao had to deal with numerous issues – including marital ones – this training camp has been relatively quiet.
One snafu did happen when Pacquiao was criticized for speaking out against gay marriage and was misquoted by a writer, which led to backlash from the LGBT community in Los Angeles.
But Pacquiao quickly smoothed the issue over in an interview with Mario Lopez on Extra, and training camp went on as usual.
Another issue, this time the rift between trainer Freddie Roach and strength and conditioning trainer Alex Ariza, has also been solved: Roach announced that Ariza will be at Pacquiao’s corner during the fight and that they will work together.
According to boxing analyst Ronnie Nathanielsz, the lack of distractions has been very helpful for Pacquiao.
“Sinabi sa akin ni (Top Rank chief executive officer) Bob Arum ngayon, Manny wants to put on a great performance, and I think, what is going for him is not his training so much, but his mental condition,” Nathanielsz told ABS-CBN’s TJ Manotoc.
“His life is stable, he is physically not stressed out at all. He does not have any marital problems, he doesn’t gamble, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t stay out late, so his body is in much better shape, and mentally, he is really focused,” he added.
Another analyst, Al Mendoza, said Pacquiao was a massive favorite against Bradley, and the only way for the American to win was through a “lucky punch.”
But Bradley, despite being a huge underdog, will not make it easy for Pacquiao. The WBO junior welterweight champion, Bradley is included in many pound-for-pound lists but is not well known among casual boxing fans.
He now has a chance to carve his name into boxing history if he pulls off what will be one of the biggest upsets of the year, and the unbeaten boxer is extremely confident that he can do so.
“Absolutely, the young lion is definitely going to prevail in this fight,” Bradley said in a one-on-one interview with ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillejo. “You know, out with the old and in with the new.”
“The throne definitely has to be passed, and I think that it’s my time. I’m ready,” he stressed.
Bradley’s confidence going into the fight has been remarkable, even saying at one point that he expects the fight to be “easy.”
So confident is Bradley that he has already printed flyers, promotional posters and even a giant ticket for a potential rematch, scheduled for November 10.
“I’m already predicting the future, you guys,” he told reporters during the press conference.
The 28-year-old boxer promised that he would “shock the world” come fight night.
“Training camp was hell. I’ve never, ever trained this hard in my whole life. I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready to shock the world,” Bradley said.
“I’m ready to do whatever it takes in there to win this fight. It’s gonna be a great fight, and I thank Pacquiao and his team for giving me this shot. Let’s get it on, baby, it’s gonna be a war. I’m ready.”
Most boxing analysts and personalities believe Pacquiao will win the fight, especially as the Filipino boxer needs a spectacular performance to make up for his recent subpar showings.
In a recent poll by RingTV, 23 out of 25 boxing experts predict Pacquiao will be victorious.
Michael Rosenthal, editor of THE RING Magazine, even predicted Pacquiao will win by knockout.
“I believe he is extremely motivated because of the doubters that emerged after the Marquez fight. I think Pacquiao will overwhelm Bradley and score a ninth-round knockout,” Rosenthal wrote.
At least one prominent boxing writer – Dan Rafael of ESPN – is picking Bradley to win, however.
“I’ll go out on a limb,” Rafael wrote in ESPN’s Fight Credential. “Bradley, with his youth, incredible desire and speed to match Pacquiao’s, will find a way to frustrate Pacquiao and edge him via decision in an upset.” – With reports from Dyan Castillejo and TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News
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