When Manny Pacquiao was matched against Timothy Bradley Jr. for the first time in June 2012, I expected the fight to end in favor of the Filipino either by lopsided decision or late stoppage.
I even saw Bradley as a “gift opponent” to Pacquiao because the American had a very low knockout percentage and was never tested at welterweight (147 pounds) while Pacquiao had already accustomed himself at that weight class. So if Bradley could not stop much of his foes at junior welterweight (140 pounds), then how can you expect his punches to even bother Pacquiao? Some older boxing pundits have a term for boxers who lack punching power: powder puff punchers.
But the first about ended with Pacquiao losing via split decision (and his World Boxing Organization welterweight belt) to Bradley in what many boxing pundits still see as a bout won by the Filipino. But I found it immaterial as to who won, because the fact that Bradley survived the bout and extended Pacquiao to 12 rounds was unexpected.
Also known as “Desert Storm,” Bradley proved somehow to be a quandary for Pacquiao, for he was muscular but his punches lacked the sting, he was willing to mix it up even if he had some good boxing skills, and while he was athletic, he wasn’t an explosive fighter. Some people even saw Bradley as the “poor man’s version” of Floyd Mayweather Jr. because he also had counterpunching skills (I wonder who of the two gets insulted by that comment).
In their second fight in April 2014, Pacquiao exacted revenge and defeated Bradley by unanimous decision. But Bradley was still the same fighter: willing to mix it up despite not having punching power; athletic but not explosive; and looked more like a bodybuilder than a boxer.
Since his defeat to Pacquiao, Bradley has remarkably bounced back with a decision win over Jessie Vargas in June 2015 and a stoppage of Brandon Rios on November 2015. After losing to Pacquiao, Bradley figured in a draw with knockout artist Diego Gabriel Chaves in December 2014 in what some boxing pundits saw was a win for the American.
Now for a third time, Pacquiao and Bradley are squaring off on April 9 at Las Vegas and this fight is definitely more interesting than Andre Berto-Mayweather.
Pacquiao is coming off an injury on his right shoulder while Bradley has a new trainer in Teddy Atlas, who was once part of the camp that molded Mike Tyson into one of boxing’s feared fighters. And while Pacquiao is nearing the end of his career, it looks like Bradley somehow rejuvenated his with a stoppage win over Rios.
The stoppage win of Bradley over Rios should never be dismissed as a footnote in the American’s career because not many expected that given Bradley’s low knockout percentage.
Bradley also looked sharper with his punches against Rios, had better mobility and no longer mixed it up recklessly. Granted that Rios was already a shell of his former self, as I said earlier, I never expected Bradley to win via stoppage. In fact, the most I expected from Bradley was to win via a unanimous decision over Rios.
So what can we expect from Bradley when he fights Pacquiao on April 9? Will he have improved punching power? Will he have better mobility? Will he be a better counterpuncher this time?
Let’s hope Pacquiao’s camp comes up with a good analysis of Bradley come fight night.