By Kieran Mulvaney
Calling the action on Saturday night’s pay-per-view battle between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley will, as ever, be Jim Lampley, who has been the voice of HBO Boxing since 1988. We sat down with the broadcast veteran in a relatively quiet corner of the bustling MGM Grand on Friday, to solicit his opinion on what we are likely to see once the bell rings.
There appears to be an undercurrent of opinion that, if ever Manny Pacquiao were to be upset in the ring, it might be in this fight, by this opponent.
I’d call it more than an undercurrent. I’d call it a groundswell. I’m surprised by the number of intelligent people I know who are picking Bradley to win the fight. I’m not one of them. I personally believe that Manny Pacquiao’s vast experience and punching power differentiate him in such a way that he should be the clear favorite in the fight – and he is. But there are a number of people who have obviously come to that conclusion based on Pacquiao turning toward religion and away from a flamboyantly raucous lifestyle, and making a commitment to the kind of behaviors we’re now seeing, such as smiling through the stare-down at the weigh-in today and then smiling benevolently through the interview with Max Kellerman afterward, and not even commenting on why he behaved that way. It was quite unusual.
Obviously, there’s a huge body of opinion that if you turn that way in your life, you’re not going to be the same fighter in the ring any more. I’m not of that opinion; I don’t believe that’s necessarily true. I think that Pacquiao can go in and fight the way he always has.
Stylistically and tactically, how does Timothy Bradley put himself in position to win this fight?
The first thing you think of is: rough him up, and break Pacquiao’s rhythm by doing things that, really, haven’t much been done to him during this spectacular streak of his. I don’t remember seeing anybody grab him by the shoulders and try to wrestle him around the ring. I certainly don’t remember, within the last several fights, seeing an accidental head butt that truly bothered him. He did get butted in the tenth round of the [Juan Manuel] Marquez fight [in November], and it bled somewhat, but it wasn’t like the bleeding that so clearly bothered him and may have emotionally debilitated him, in the first [Erik] Morales fight, which was his only loss on American soil.
Roy Jones said to me on the first edition of The Fight Game that, when a fighter is involved in several fights where there are head butts, that’s not an accident. And he went through a very cogent demonstration of how it is that a guy like Bradley gets his head in such a position that the other guy’s head is going to find it. And if there’s a butt, it wouldn’t shock me; and if Pacquiao bleeds from that butt, Bradley has exactly the conditions he wants.
How do you anticipate the fight developing?
I think the first couple of rounds will be intense, because I think that Bradley is quite aware that the head butt thing has reared its ugly head in quite a number of his fights, so he has had the experience many times of understanding that, if a butt causes a stoppage, he wants to be ahead on the scorecards, as he was when he fought Devon Alexander [in January 2011]. So there’s an urgency that’s involved in winning rounds, and Tim Bradley has said he’s going to fight to win every round. I’m very certain that Freddie Roach has also been telling Manny Pacquiao that it’s extremely important to win every round, especially the early rounds, so you’re ahead on the scorecards should there be a stoppage due to an accidental butt.
So I think the first few rounds will be intense. I think that whatever Bradley has in store for Pacquiao that might be a surprise, he’s got to unfurl it and use it early, and I think that Freddie Roach has been quite forthright in telling Pacquiao that he needs a spectacular performance, that he needs a violent knockout, that he needs the kind of thing that will coalesce his fan base around him and increase the chance that Floyd Mayweather feels he has to fight him.
I think we’re going to see Manny Pacquiao trying to land power punches and set up a knockout in the first four or five rounds of the fight, and I think we’re going to see Timothy Bradley trying to take advantage of that, to counter in a hurry and to get Pacquiao in positions he doesn’t like – and oh, by the way, if he can pin him against the ropes, that would be ideal.