If Saturday’s fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley is anything like their first two bouts, the Filipino boxer should emerge victorious. But there are several factors surrounding the third fight that make it more difficult to predict than their previous meetings.
It will be Pacquiao’s first fight since he underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in May, and he might not be the same after coming off a major injury at 37 years old. Pacquiao has claimed that Saturday will be his last fight before retirement, and it remains to be seen how motivated he is now that his career is coming to an end.
“I’m a better fighter and I’m hungrier,” Bradley said, via rappler.com. “Manny’s had his time to shine already, guys. He’s been fighting for many years, he’s getting older now. Manny right now is only fighting for money, that’s it. He already has his place in history as one of the best fighters. I don’t.”
Saturday is technically the rubber match between the two boxers, but Pacquiao was the better fighter in both bouts. The judges gave Bradley a controversial split decision on June 9, 2012, but Pacquiao landed more punches in nine of the 12 rounds, finishing with 82 more power punches. Pacquiao won by unanimous decision 22 months later, landing 198 punches to Bradley’s 141.
It was Pacquiao’s straight left hand that was the biggest difference-maker in the first two fights. Bradley was competitive in both title fights, especially in the early part of rounds, but Pacquiao was able to finish off many of the rounds by landing the punch that has made him an all-time great.
Bradley didn’t become a champion because of his punching power, totaling just 13 knockouts in 36 career fights. In November, however, he won his first fight under new trainer Teddy Atlas by TKO. After dominating Brandon Rios in less than nine full rounds, Bradley is hoping that the new direction can pay off against one of the sport’s top fighters.
Pacquiao might have outperformed Bradley twice, but the current champ has the experience to pull off the upset. Bradley knows his opponent quite well, having already faced him twice in the last four years, and he’s watched multiple fighters beat Pacquiao during that time.
Six months after Pacquiao lost to Bradley, the Filipino star was knocked out in the sixth round of his fight against rival Juan Manuel Marquez. When Pacquiao was last in the ring, he suffered a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“When he’s throwing punches, he lunges in with the jab, to throw his power left. If you time that with a nice right hand, like Marquez did — Marquez practiced and timed that punch — that’s the way to beat Manny Pacquiao,” former Bradley trainer Joel Diaz told The Desert Sun.
Countering Pacquaio’s punches will be easier said than done. Even after two decades of professional fights, the eight-division world champion remains difficult to hit. He forced Bradley to miss on more than 77 percent of his attempted punches, and was seemingly in control for the entirety of both fights.
Even if he’s not quite the same boxer that he once was, Pacquiao should have the necessary skills to hold off Bradley yet again.
Prediction: Pacquiao over Bradley by unanimous decision
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the WBO welterweight title was on the line. Bradley vacated the belt in February.