Writer Predictions: Probably Pacquiao, Unless Age Has Caught Up With Him

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

Kieran Mulvaney
Bradley W12 Pacquiao

Whatever Freddie Roach may promise (again!), Manny Pacquiao isn't knocking out Tim Bradley. Bradley isn't knocking out Pacquiao, either. This rivalry is going 36 full rounds. And all that has gone before, all the evidence of the previous 24 rounds, suggests – insists, even – that Pacquiao has Bradley's number and should score another win. But I'm not sure the Filipino icon still has the fire he had before, whereas Bradley burns white hot at the most relaxed of times. I think that this time Bradley is going to be that bit quicker, that bit faster to the punch, and that bit smarter, and he's going to do enough to outpoint an at-times sloppy Pacquiao.

Eric Raskin
Pacquiao by SD

Based on my best guess as to how much Pacquiao has left at age 37, this feels like a dead-even fight. On at least a subconscious level, however, the judges have to know that Manny is "owed" a decision in this rivalry, so I expect them to lean his way, mildly controversially, after 12 back-and-forth rounds.

Gordon Marino
Pacquiao by UD

Manny has won the vast majority of the 24 rounds that he has tussled with Bradley. I think it will be a hotly contested fight, but that in the end Manny's footwork and mobility as well as his more explosive punching power will bring him home to victory. 

Carlos Acevedo
Bradley W12 Pacquiao

As absurd as it seems—and, boy, does it get absurd in boxing—two of the best welterweights in the world are fighting on Saturday night and the buzzmeter is barely audible. Which is a shame, really, since unlike some of the HTML stars at 147 pounds, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, Jr., have actual accomplishments on their ledgers. Admittedly, Pacquiao-Bradley is not a trilogy to set alongside Zale-Graziano or Ali-Frazier, but both men are world-class professionals and their rubber match promises to be, at the very least, competitive this time around.

Even before his dud against Mayweather nearly a year ago, Pacquiao resembled a hologram of his former explosive self. And that may explain why Pacquiao, outside of the protracted anticlimax against Mayweather, no longer has that special blood sport allure. At the peak of his stardom, Pacquiao was warring against some of the best fighters of his era but it was his breakneck style that explained his universal appeal. In recent years, however, Pacquiao has turned in more than his share of routine performances. Without a KO since 2009, Pacquiao, once a tornado but now more of land devil, has opted to mix boxing with the occasional offensive outburst. While Pacquiao picks his spots and stalls on the outside, Bradley will look to work the interior in hopes of accumulating points.

And the possibility that Pacquiao, now 37, stalls more than usual seems likelier than ever.

Between recent surgery, inactivity, and age, Pacquiao is facing a trifecta of drawbacks. There are also a slew of psychological factors that may affect him once the opening bell rings. First, Pacquiao is coming off of a loss (one suffered in the biggest fight of his career); second, ruminating openly about retirement may be a sign that Pacquiao has lost his zest for fighting; and third, the bonanza paycheck he earned against Mayweather last year may have dulled his edge even further.

(One final intangible—probably overstated by most—is Teddy Atlas, who replaced Joel Diaz, Jr., last year as trainer and chief Freudian in the Bradley camp. As strategists, Diaz and Atlas may not be that far apart, but motivation between rounds is the key for Bradley. At times, "Desert Storm" seemed unfocused in the corner and the possibility that he was tuning out Diaz after a long working relationship cannot be overlooked. With his conspicuous love of the limelight and his hammy battle cries full of mixed metaphors and the occasional malapropism, Atlas will have no problem getting Bradley to concentrate.)

By giving Bradley a third shot, Pacquiao has also given him an opportunity to adapt to his unique style. What made Pacquiao such a force of nature inside the ring was not just his speed and power, but also his offbeat rhythm and his improvisatory offense. In a way, the difference between Pacquiao and a conventional welterweight is like the difference between, say, a swing drummer like Gene Krupa and a modern virtuoso like Max Roach or Elvin Jones. If ever Bradley had a chance to solve the Pac-man puzzle—legitimately—it will come tomorrow night at the MGM Grand Garden. Pacquiao may have enough left physically to dissect Bradley again, but the signs point to narrow spreads on the scorecards. This time, perhaps, Bradley may finally achieve what has eluded him for so long.

Oliver Goldstein
Bradley MD-12

Manny Pacquiao had enough to beat Tim Bradley twice, even if one win came back a loss and the other had just enough question marks to make a third fight palatable. Not much has happened since their second to tell us anything we didn't already know about both fighters: Pacquiao is still approaching middle age, and Bradley is still earnest, tough, talented, light-punching, and genuinely likeable in a way few boxers are. He's also got a new old trainer in Teddy Atlas, who might make all the difference or none at all, depending on what you tend to think of trainers these days – anyone who saw Atlas's Alexander Povetkin, which is to say pretty much the exact same Povetkin before and after Teddy's time, will be hesitant in accepting the line that argues Bradley is now supercharged, or firefighting, or much changed at all. Still, Pacquiao's motivations for fighting on are to be questioned, and Bradley's motivations for fighting at all are not. The Filipino might have had his number somewhat in previous years, but Bradley proved plenty difficult all the same. Enough has changed in the meantime, which is to say not much other than Pacquiao's age and body, to make Bradley a plausible candidate to end his more famous opponent's career. I'll take Tim, then, by close, probably disputed decision.

Diego Morilla
Pacquiao W12 Bradley

Let's just face it: the only reason why we’re being forced to see 24 additional rounds (between the rematch and the rubber match) just to make sure that we all know that Manny is better than Tim is the fact that two judges failed to see him win the first bout. Bradley may have an advantage in speed, conditioning and ring IQ, but Pacquiao at his usual relentless self is just too much for him, and the added motivation of this being his last hurrah will give him an additional push to get the job done. Again.

Frank Della Femina
Pacquiao W12 Bradley

I anticipate a lot of movement with little action. Bradley will come out fired up looking for a brawl that Pacquiao won't want. I expect Pacquiao to be poised and unwilling to take chances. After a few rounds of dancing Teddy Atlas will give Bradley a speech about them being garbage men ("We're garbage men! What do we do with trash? We take it out! We put on our old man slippers, walk it down to the curb and take it out! Take out the trash!") or gardeners ("We're gardeners! What do we do with weeds? We rip them out of the ground and spray weed-be-gone! Spray weed-be-gone!"). Then it'll be more of the same for the final rounds before Pacquiao wins on points.

Hamilton Nolan
Pacquiao W12 Bradley

I have to pick Pacquiao by decision because all things being equal he's a better fighter and we've seen this fight twice already so we know how it goes. The only question is whether Pacquiao slowed down significantly since their last fight. I tend to think that he hasn't (not enough to lose at least), but it's a close fight and Bradley will keep coming no matter what, so Pacquiao will have to work hard to win. No magical motivational speech from Teddy Atlas will make Bradley a better fighter than Pacquiao. Only Pacquiao getting old will do that. 

Nat Gottlieb
Pacquiao by SD

The punches will fly but it's hard to see either one getting stopped. After almost a year off Pacquiao should be rejuvenated, while it remains to be seen if Bradley’s new trainer, Teddy Atlas, is a difference maker.

Michael Gluckstadt
Pacquiao W12 Bradley

In an alternate world where the lights go off, Ocean's 11 style, after the 8th round of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, we'd remember that Manny was battling Floyd to a near-draw through 2/3rds of the fight. There's no shame in getting swept down the stretch by the best fighter on the planet, and we shouldn't think of Pacquiao as being a diminished fighter for having lost those rounds.

We saw this Pacquiao-Bradley fight two years ago and two years before that. I don't think enough has changed – with either fighter – to expect a different result in the ring. Manny clearly getting the better of Tim in a competitive fight.