LAS VEGAS – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao will be defending his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown tonight (June 9) against American challenger Tim Bradley, who holds an unbeaten record of 28-0 with 12 knockouts in the 18,300-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena.
During their weigh-in on Friday, Pacquiao came at 147 pounds, the welterweight limit; Bradley weighed 146 pounds.
On behalf of Malacañang, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte wished the Sarangani congressman well and the best of luck. “We are confident pagkatapos ng laban si Congressman Pacquiao ang mananaig.” (At the end of the fight, Congressman Pacquiao will be the eventual winner.)
Pacquiao is looking forward to giving his fans a treat better than his last match with Mexican nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez last November when Pacquiao struggled in defeating him in the 12-round bout. “Definitely, there is pressure on the Pacman,” says Terry Aranzado of Staten Island, New York, who has been regularly watching Paquiao’s bouts over the years. “He has to show that his power punch still works; otherwise, it may be time for him to retire.”
The 5-1 underdog Bradley, on the other hand, considered Pacquiao as “worn-out, tired” and primed for a fall when they meet on the ring. “I can see it in his eyes, the wrinkles…(this) boy’s not ready for me,” he was quoted as saying.
But the champion, who was won in 8 weight division classes with a record of 54-3, two draws and 38 knockouts, and has recently found a spiritual re-awakening, appears at peace and confident to face Bradley. Unlike his match with Marquez, where his preparations were strained by marital strife, he has rigorously this time around. In an interview with CNN, he said 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.”
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 counter-punch 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 said Bradley isn’t a slick counter-puncher 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.”
Meanwhile, American Idol runner-up Filipino-American-Mexican Jessica Sanchez will be singing the US national anthem. Philippine-born Kirby Asunto, a 14-year old middle school student in New Jersey, will sing Lupang Hinirang. Asunto was personally picked by Pacquiao himself before Sanchez was adjudged second place during the American Idol finals.