• Steve Bunce

Bradley could give Pacquiao nightmares

Steve Bunce June 5, 2012
Timothy Bradley can profit from a distracted Manny Pacquiao © Getty Images

Timothy Bradley, on his day, is a nightmare for Manny Pacquiao. He's everything Pacquiao dislikes: elusive, fast, clever and in possession of a good chin.

Pacquiao likes a guy who will come to him, a guy who will present himself and who is prepared to take a few risks. I don't think Bradley will fight in that way in Las Vegas on Saturday. He is too clever for a Manny trap.

Pacquiao looked poor last time out when he edged a points decision against Juan Manuel Marquez, and during that bout it seemed like he didn't want to be there and wasn't really enjoying it. What's more, most people - including those in the Manny business - felt that he lost.

There are no stylistic similarities between Marquez and Bradley; Marquez seems to have worked out Pacquiao, and Bradley won't have that advantage. But if Pacquiao looks as disinterested as he did when he met Marquez, then Bradley has a great opportunity to pull off a massive shock.

And there is a real chance Pacquiao could be distracted: promoter Bob Arum has been saying the Filipino's head is in the clouds, just as he said pre-Marquez. Pacquiao is a politican, and he's not playing at it - he takes the job very seriously and is determined to make a difference.

And when you do that, you can't really give 100% in a three-month training camp because you've got people lobbying you, people to meet, things to do. If you're a boxer, you can't be full-time at another job as well. Boxing at the highest level demands that, twice a year, you devote three months of your time to the sport - so how can you do anything else?

Pacquiao seems like a great fighter who has lost a great deal of interest in the business, and who to be honest looks like he is close to walking away.

That said, even if he is poor against Bradley, it's not necessarily going to be the last time we see him in the ring: he'll always have a Bradley-style opponent available to him. But a bad performance does move him further away from Floyd Mayweather Jr, who has now started his 87-day jail sentence for assaulting a woman.

Mind you, that fight is miles away anyway: it's a November or May fight, so we're now talking about May 2013, because Floyd's legal problems have taken November out of play. And that's amazing, considering the bout has been talked about ever since December 2007. So many potential dates have come and gone.

Despite everything, there's no reason to expect that Pacquiao will perform as badly he did against Marquez last November: he's had bad nights before and then, in his subsequent outing, been great. He's due a performance like the devastating one he gave against Ricky Hatton, when he was unbelievably reckless and got lucky by catching Ricky. It was ridiculous, but all for the fans.

One sub-plot that needs addressing is this business over Alex Ariza, Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach, who left the training camp early in order to go and work with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

It's not a big issue. The problem with Ariza is that people who know very little have made him into a major player. When we first saw Ariza with Amir Khan, he was a guy who didn't say boo to a goose: a nobody, a silent man. Suddenly, from concocting his legal potions, he's become the voice of boxing.

I read recently people talking about how they can't wait to see what Pacquiao looks like without Ariza. It's mad: this guy's a conditioner! He mixes the banana milkshakes, for goodness sake!

My prediction? We'll see old school Manny turning out a brilliant, dazzling performance on his way to victory - but it'll be close. Or, it will be the last time we see little Manny in the ring and that is why it is a fight that fans want to see.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.