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Bradley dangling the carrot, but will Pacquiao play the donkey?

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Follow Dennis on Twitter @dRealSource.

Timothy Bradley is quite the clever fighter. It’s not by accident that a boxer without one-punch knockout power in his fists can stay unbeaten and capture multiple world titles in different divisions. In a figurative sense, Bradley goes into gunfights wielding a knife, but always finds a way to come out the victor. His sharp wit makes for an even sharper blade that has proven to be more than sufficient for him to go home with his opponent’s scalps.

Listening to his quipping and reproach hurled toward his April 12 opponent, eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao in a rematch of their controversial 2012 scrap, it’s clear that Bradley is already laying out his trap before he could even throw a single punch in the ring.

Ironically, Bradley has taken aim at Pacquiao’s recent drought in knockout wins and has repeatedly questioned whether the Filipino slugger still has the ability to do so during the fight’s buildup.

“Rios laughed at him,” Bradley teased on HBO’s 24/7, referring to Pacquiao’s most recent fight against Brandon Rios in China last November. “And you know when Rios laughed, you know what he say, ‘you hit like a b*tch’. He couldn’t even knock out a guy who was coming straight forward at him?” Bradley added.

Taken literally, Bradley’s comments would appear to undermine his own body of work as he himself managed to stop opponents only at a 37.5% ratio (12 times in 31 fights) as opposed to Pacquiao’s 61.3% KO rate (38 KOs in 55 wins). If there is a boxer who should appreciate a dominant points win, it’s Bradley, so his ploy presumably goes deeper than simply ridiculing his opponent. He is dangling the carrot.

Bradley taunted Pacquiao when they faced off in front of Max Kellerman and proclaimed his fire had burnt out. “It’s gone, it’s not there anymore,” Bradley said about Pacquiao. “No more killer’s instinct. As for me, I still have it. Before, he was malicious with fists blazing. He’s not the same. He’s a tremendous fighter but I don’t see (the fire) anymore.”

Furthermore, Bradley stopped short of calling Pacquiao ‘soft’ after determining he does not belong in the sport any longer. “He hasn’t lost any of his ability, I feel like he’s lost his fire. He doesn’t have it anymore. He’s so compassionate, he’s so caring, he’s so loving, dude, the man can’t even say he’s going to knock me out. That type of guy don’t belong in the ring,” Bradley barked.

The ‘carrot’ is that Bradley is daring Pacquiao to go after him and try to knock him off his socks. Bradley wants Pacquiao to be the relentless, but often reckless, punching demon he has been for most of his career. The slick, quick and defensive genius that is Bradley isn’t really questioning if Pacquiao can’t fight the way he used to when he was in his mid-20’s and was knocking out opponents left and right, he actually prefers seeing that version of Pacquiao on fight night. A raging bull is easier to manipulate for a cunning matador.

Idiom: "The boy held a long stick to which a carrot had been tied, and he dangled the carrot in front of the donkey but just out of its reach. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot, it pulled the cart—and the boy—so that the carrot always remained just out of reach as the cart moved forward."

The real question is whether Pacquiao will go after the carrot and play the donkey.

“I’m not saying that I’ll knock him out, but I’ll bring back the aggressiveness and the killer instinct that he wants to see,” Pacquiao said in one of his responses to Bradley. “It’s good for me. It challenges me. I want to answer him through my actions on April 12.”

Certainly, in his ear, his trainer Freddie Roach is using Bradley’s words to further challenge him to rise up to the occasion. “He said that you don’t have it anymore, that you can’t knock people out and I’ll use that in training camp and I thank Bradley for helping me out,” Roach said.

But why would Bradley want to help Roach and Pacquiao out and add fuel to his fire? Or is he?

The last time Pacquaio made a concerted effort in saying he would bring back his old self was before his devastating loss to Marquez. In many ways, he did fulfill his promise and showed the fire, aggressiveness and excitement that had been missing in previous fights. However, he also left himself open several times like he did early in his career while going for the kill, which gave Marquez the opportunity to land his perfect counter right that shut Pacquiao’s lights.

Remember, Marquez wasn’t known as a one-punch knockout artist either, but for his fourth fight with Pacquiao, he invested a lot of time and effort in building up his power in anticipation of catching Pacquiao and not allowing the fight to go the distance due to the previous unfavorable results for the Mexican. It's the punch that you don't see that can hurt you. Though a knockout win by Bradley is unlikely, it's not too far-fetched if Pacquiao gets caught with another perfect counter he doesn't see and given that Bradley has worked on adding power as well in training camp on top of the fact that it's been less than two years since Pacquiao's devastating knockout loss to Marquez.

Will Pacquiao commit the same mistake and recklessly chase Bradley while going for a knockout and get carried away? Or can he stay the course the way he did against Rios, given the fact that he was already robbed of a unanimous decision win when he first fought Bradley?

The way I see it, Bradley has won the early psychological war by getting into Pacquiao's head with his comments. For Bradley's sake though, he better hope his efforts didn't wake up a sleeping monster - the same monster that recklessly destroyed Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and many others.

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