Photo: Will Hart
By Eric Raskin
Only two professional prizefighters have fought both Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. And only one of those fighters is a native English speaker. So, sorry Juan Manuel Marquez, but we turned to Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios to get his expert insight on what to expect from the combatants in Saturday’s main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“It’s a true coin toss, this fight,” Rios told Inside HBO Boxing. “Toss it in the air, you don’t know if it’s going to land on heads or tails. It’s that hard to call. I mean, I believe Pacquiao won both of their first two fights, but it’s much harder to say who has the edge this time. But if I absolutely have to pick, I’ll go with Pacquiao.”
Rios was soundly outboxed by Pacquiao when they fought in Macau in November 2013. The southern California slugger simply couldn’t keep up with Pacquiao from a speed perspective. A year and a half later, of course, Floyd Mayweather proved plenty capable of neutralizing the Filipino’s speed — but Rios thinks people are making too much of the outcome of last May’s mega-fight.
“The way fans are, man, one day they’re on your boat, the next day they’re off. You win, they say you’re the greatest, but then you lose and it’s, ‘Oh man, he’s done, he’s over the hill,’” Rios said. “I think Manny still has it. I mean, who hasn’t lost to Mayweather? If you’ve fought him, you’ve lost to him. Mayweather is a great, intelligent fighter. Just by losing to him, that doesn’t mean Pacquiao’s done.”
Staying on the topic of jumping to conclusions based on one fight, Rios also warns not to assume Bradley is an improved fighter under Teddy Atlas just because Bradley stopped Rios in the ninth round last November in his first bout with the new trainer.
“People are saying Tim Bradley’s a new man because of Teddy Atlas, but I’m not sure that’s true,” Rios said. “Yes, he stopped me, but that wasn’t me in the ring that night. I will say this: Teddy can motivate you. And sometimes, some of us do need that. Tim Bradley knows who he is as a fighter; he’s not a whole new fighter under Teddy. But maybe there are some slight changes to the training process and maybe Teddy’s doing a good job of tightening up some things. And Teddy might give him more confidence.”
Bradley is the only fighter to finish Rios off inside the distance. Rios never went down as Pacquiao bounced punches off his dome for 12 rounds. But when asked which pound-for-pounder is more likely to score a knockout on Saturday, Bam Bam didn’t hesitate to pick Pac-Man.
“Yes, Bradley stopped me with a bodyshot, but like I said, I wasn’t myself that night. I’ve felt Pacquiao’s punches and I’ve felt Bradley’s punches, and Pacquiao has the edge in power, for sure.
“Still, I don’t think it’s all that great of a chance that he’s going to win by knockout. Nobody has ever knocked Tim Bradley out. And that includes Pacquiao, who’s had two chances already and couldn’t do it.”