By Kieran Mulvaney
Asked what he thinks will be the key to this Saturday’s contest between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach offers one word:
His guy, he believes, has it, and the other guy doesn’t. And when he says speed, he doesn’t just mean that Pacquiao’s hands are fast. More importantly, his feet are as well.
“His footwork is the best part about him,” he explains. “He’s in and out a lot; you don’t know when he’s coming in and out. It could be a feint, you can’t read when he’s going to attack you, and that’s why he’s been so successful, because he doesn’t necessarily have a rhythm. It always changes.”
He believes the Filipino icon’s unpredictability will be of particular advantage against an aggressive fighter like Bradley, whom Roach is convinced will take the fight to Pacquiao – even if the champion doesn’t necessarily agree.
“I think Bradley’s going to attack us, but Manny thinks he’s going to run,” Roach revealed to reporters on Thursday. “I told him, ‘He won’t run until he feels your power,’ but we’re ready for both. Bradley isn’t really built to be a runner, though, and if he does run, it isn’t going to be in a fast mode. He’s very slow on his feet, and so speed’s the biggest factor. But if he does try not to engage, we’ll have to take the fight to him and we’re prepared for that. I think we can count on him coming to us, because that’s who he is. He’s the same fighter he was as an amateur. He makes the same mistakes, and they will be taken advantage of.”
Another insight Roach is confident about is that Bradley will not attempt to emulate the comparative success of Juan Manuel Marquez, who last November came dangerously close to defeating Pacquiao in the third installment of their contentious rivalry. Marquez always provides difficult opposition for Pacquiao because of his ability to lure the Filipino off balance and then fire a succession of hard counterpunches. But if Marquez has provided the theoretical blueprint for beating Pacquiao, that doesn’t mean Bradley will be able to take advantage.
“I just don’t see that happening, because he’s not like Marquez at all,” says Roach. “He’s never been a slick counterpuncher. To try to be like someone else as a fighter would not be conducive for anybody. He’s going to be Timothy Bradley. I think he’s going to come after us, and he’s going to keep trying and trying really hard. I think he’ll be resilient, but all the muscle and all the pressure in the world isn’t going to win the fight for him.”
Immediately after the post-fight press conference on Saturday night, Roach will fly to Canastota, New York, to be inducted Sunday into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Asked which would mean more, the induction or a Pacquiao win, Roach doesn’t hesitate.
“The win,” he says. “That’s what I live for. I hate to lose, and winning is what it’s all about. Besides, a large part of the reason I’m going into the Hall of Fame is Manny Pacquiao.”