LAS VEGAS, Nevada – World champion Manny Pacquiao says he’s rejuvenated in body as well as spirit, but challenger Timothy Bradley says the Filipino ring icon is primed for a fall when they meet on Saturday.
“He’s worn out, tired, I can see it in his eyes, the wrinkles,” says Bradley, a 5-1 underdog despite his unbeaten record of 28-0 with 12 knockouts.
“This boy’s not ready for me.”
Pacquiao and Bradley weighed in on Friday before a raucous crowd of about 4,000 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization welterweight world title will be on the line.
Pacquiao weighed in at 147 pounds (66.67kg) — the heaviest he’s been at a weigh-in.
In comparison, Pacquiao weighed in at just 144.6 pounds (65.58kg) when he fought Antonio Margarito in a super welterweight title bout fought at a catch-weight of 150 pounds (68.03kg) in 2010.
Bradley tipped the scales at 146 pounds (66.22 kg) and the challenger, who has presented a relaxed front in the build-up to the bout, was all-business at the weigh-in, scowling and moving in on Pacquiao in the photo-op staredown.
When Bradley gave an aggressive jerk of his chin, Pacquiao seemed to struggle to suppress a smile.
“I’m smiling,” Pacquiao said. “I’m happy.”
While Pacquiao is the favorite, he has, indeed, been doubted by pundits who point to his unconvincing majority decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in November, along with such signs of weakness as debilitating leg cramps in his more recent fights.
“I’m ready for war,” Bradley declared after the weigh-in in front of a pro-Pacquiao crowd. “Don’t matter getting booed. None of these people are going to be in the ring. It’s going to be me and Manny at the end of the night.
“I’m set out to prove everybody wrong.”
Pacquiao — who has won titles in eight weight classes and boasts a record of 54-3 with two drawn and 38 knockouts — has said his preparations for his last Marquez fight were hampered by marital strife, a thing of the past now that he has re-dedicated himself to God and spends his time in Bible study rather than gambling, drinking and womanizing.
“They’re as happy as can be,” trainer Freddie Roach said Thursday of Pacquiao and his wife, Jinkee. “He’s in a much better place than he was before his last fight.”
While promoter Bob Arum has characterized Pacquiao’s life as “careening off the rails” prior to his spiritual re-awakening, Roach seemed to think things weren’t that bad.
“He just got caught up in the limelight a little bit,” Roach said. “He took a step back and looked at his life and didn’t like it — and he changed.”
Roach said the change has carried over into the gym, but Bradley sounded a skeptical note this week.
“He’s here, he’s there, he’s fornicating and now he’s got his religion in place,” Bradley said. “I don’t have to throw religion in people’s face.”
Whatever the truth of Pacquiao’s spiritual quest and its impact on his physical abilities, Bradley’s trainer, Joel Diaz, said Saturday’s fight will come down to ring skills, pure and simple.
Diaz said that’s what will give his fighter a chance in what Bradley has acknowledged is the biggest bout of his life.
“Manny is a one-dimensional fighter,” Diaz claimed. “He unloads a lot of punches, but he’s reckless.
“He doesn’t focus on his defense. You can counterpunch him all night long. And Timothy’s a brawler who can move his feet and be smart enough to make any changes he needs to in there.”
Roach, not surprisingly, begs to differ.
He says Bradley isn’t a slick counterpuncher and won’t be able to match Pacquiao’s quickness.
“He’s the same fighter he was as an amateur,” Roach said of Bradley. “He makes the same mistakes. We’re going to take advantage of them.”