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Underdog Bradley will likely overcome the odds

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With the rematch between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao looming tomorrow night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas there are no shortage of pundits, prognosticators and prophets that have begun to weigh-in with their view as to who will win. At this point, the odds are well in favor of Pacquiao regaining the WBO welterweight title that was usurped from him in June 2012 with a decision rendered by two official judges that was truly a miscarriage of justice.

Pacquiao is approximately a 2-to-1 favorite at most Las Vegas sportsbooks. Longtime odds makers Brian Blessing a veteran Vegas handicapper and Vinny Magliulo a former sportsbook operator at Caesars Palace, Desert Inn and The Wynn are both of the notion that Pacquiao will defeat Bradley, most likely by decision.

“Frankly, I don’t see anything other than Pacquiao in this,” said Blessing speaking from Las Vegas on Thursday. “I like Pacquiao a lot; I don’t think Bradley has the punching power.” Magliulo is also predicting a win for Pacquiao and said Thursday, “At 38 knockouts [for Pacquiao] to 12 [for Bradley] and certainly an extremely motivated Manny Pacquiao…there’s a lot of theories as to why the first fight was scored the way it was. How did that happen? But I like Pacquiao.”

In boxing the old saying is that “You are only as good as your last fight” and to some extent that is true. In the 22 months since they met for the first time it is Bradley that has performed better. With a win over Ruslan Provodnikov in a brawl voted as the 2013 fight of the year as well as a signature victory in a complete performance over Juan Manuel Marquez, the 30-year-old is riding high. Undefeated at 31-0, Bradley’s confidence is surging and he has discovered that he can compete and excel at the highest level.

On the other hand, Pacquiao has won and lost. He was eviscerated by Juan Manuel Marquez in a stunning and vicious knockout. His trainer Freddie Roach recommended Pacquiao take a long break and it wasn’t until 11 months later that we saw him in a decision victory over Brandon Rios. Not much could be gleaned from the Rios bout as Pacquiao was a full grade above Rios in talent and experience and the challenge was not a significant one. Pacquiao showed good hand speed and stamina in that fight, but little else.

It was the late hall of fame trainer Emanuel Steward who once said “Every fighter only has so many fights in him.” To some extent, that is also true. After 19 years as a prizefighter and 62 total fights at 35-years-old, it is likely we are in the twilight of the brilliant boxing career of Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao.

Until the fourth Marquez bout, Pacquiao’s slide was gradual and slow. Against Miguel Cotto in 2009 inside the same arena where he will meet Bradley tomorrow night, Pacquiao absorbed many punches and it was then that some noticed he was not the same machine that had annihilated Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Many feel Pacquiao’s peak was in late 2008 and early 2009. The slide, although subtle, began against Cotto.

After he beat De La Hoya and Hatton, Pacquiao was matched with two larger men in Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey. Although he won both of those bouts handily he absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment along the way and they were fights he should not have taken. Pacquiao admitted earlier this week that of all the fighters he has ever faced it was Clottey who hit him the hardest. Once a devastating puncher with electricity in his fists, Pacquiao has not scored a stoppage since the victory over Cotto in Nov. 2009.

Pacquiao’s style relies on volume punching, speed and the ability to always be on offense and to come forward. It is a style heavily reliant on youth and vigor. Timothy Bradley’s trainer Joel Diaz called Pacquiao “a head hunter” earlier this week because he rarely throws body shots. If you watch Pacquiao closely you will see that he throws a few shots from the outside and then falls in where his punches, while voluminous, are largely inaccurate. There is not much science to Pacquiao’s game.

Lastly, some are not sold on Pacquiao’s ability to take a punch. Since being laid flat and knocked out cold by Marquez his chin has not been tested in a prizefight. Brandon Rios was unable to test Pacquiao’s whiskers. Watch the fourth fight against Marquez and you will see that Pacquiao was also decked in the third round by a right hand that he would easily have absorbed several years ago. It was a relatively innocuous punch, yet Pacquiao was seriously hurt by it.

Despite the outcry over the decision, many journalists saw the first fight as close. It was not a wipeout victory for Manny Pacquiao by any stretch and the Compubox stats for punches landed seemed way off base. Add to the fact that Bradley was fighting with ankle and foot problems on both feet it was amazing that he was able to hang in there and finish the fight.

What we are likely to see on Saturday night is not “the old Manny Pacquiao” as Freddie Roach has promised, but an old Manny Pacquiao. Bradley will use his quicker and deft foot movement as well as his boxing skills to befuddle Pacquiao. Bradley will catch Pacquiao coming in and he will have a difficult time landing his punches against Bradley who showed very good defense in his win over Marquez. The pick is Timothy Bradley by a stoppage win as Manny Pacquiao has likely slid much further than anyone realizes or will admit.

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