Las Vegas: Manny Pacquiao wants a decisive victory over Timothy Bradley in their eagerly anticipated welterweight world title rematch on Saturday in Las Vegas as he bids to avenge a controversial loss two years ago.
America’s Bradley, renowned for his amazing durability, snapped the Philippine icon’s 15-fight unbeaten streak with a debatable split decision triumph in their first showdown on June 9, 2012.
The 30-year-old Bradley is out to prove he was deserving of the World Boxing Organization belt he seized that night and has since defended twice.
For Pacquiao, 35, whose loss to Bradley was followed by a sixth-round knockout defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez, it’s imperative he prove his unanimous decision victory over Brandon Rios in his only fight of 2013 marked a real rebirth of his ring career.
“This is a ‘must-win’ situation for us,” Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach said.
Even though Roach and “Pacman” want a clear-cut victory, both said Pacquiao – who has had to fend off talk of retirement – can’t go in aiming for a knockout.
Instead, they say he must press his attack consistently, avoiding the fallow minutes that apparently cost him the decision in the first Bradley fight, even though Pacquiao landed more punches and more power punches overall.
“I’m not thinking about a knockout,” the Filipino said. “My focus is to throw a lot of punches. I’m going to be aggressive. If the knockout comes, it’s a bonus.”
Added Roach: “We’re looking to win every round, one at a time.”
Southpaw Pacquiao, the only man to win world titles in eight weight divisions, staked his claim to boxing’s pound-for-pound crown with a spate of impressive knockout victories in 2008 and 2009.
That included a ninth-round stoppage of David Diaz that proved Pacquiao could step up to lightweight and retain his fearsome power.
He went on to stop Oscar de la Hoya in a 2008 welterweight bout, and delivered a spectacular second-round knockout of Britain’s Ricky Hatton in 2009.
Later that year, he punished Miguel Cotto en route to a 12th-round technical knockout in another welterweight bout – but Pacquiao hasn’t finished off an opponent inside the distance since.
Debate has raged as to whether he has lost his knockout power, or perhaps become too “compassionate” towards opponents after a deepening of his Catholic faith.
“Manny can punch – he does have knockout power,” Roach insisted Thursday as the fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena drew near.
If Pacquiao has held back out of compassion for his foes, Roach said he’d likely learned his lesson in his most recent defeats.
In the 2012 loss to Marquez, Pacquiao had the Mexican star on the canvas in the fifth round and in trouble in the sixth before Marquez connected for a stunning one-punch knockout.
Pacquiao, who owns a record 55-5 with two drawn and 38 knockouts, puts that defeat down to “carelessness.”
However, it’s given Bradley some boasting rights since the American has since edged Marquez in a duel between the last two men to beat Pacquiao.
That win over Marquez followed Bradley’s 12-round decision over Ruslan Provodnikov, in which the American absorbed a massive amount of punishment before emerging triumphant.
Bradley’s durability – on display against Provodnikov – is one reason not to seek a knock-out, Roach said.
“He’s a very resilient, tough, tough guy,” Roach said.
But Roach believes that Pacquiao has the skill to cope with Bradley’s slick movement, and showed against Rios that he can still put together long combinations that will make the difference against the counter-punching Bradley.
“We’re using a lot of angles and hopefully that will nullify his defence,” Roach said. “We’ll set traps, catch him on the ropes – when we have him on the ropes, Manny knows what to do.”
And if the chance to knock out Bradley does come, Roach believes Pacquiao will take it without hesitation, fired by Bradley’s pre-fight claim that Pacquiao had lost his “killer instinct.”
“When we’re on the mitts we talk sometimes about strategy and what’s going to happen,” Roach said.
“He told me one day, ‘When I hurt him, this is the combination I’m going to finish him with.’
“I was so happy to hear that.”