Manny Pacquiao has his exit strategy from boxing in place after Saturday’s welterweight showdown with Timothy Bradley Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden.
Pacquiao, 37, will return to the Philippines and seek election to the Senate. If he is elected next month, there’s a good chance he will leave boxing, even though he still thinks he has at least two fights left in him.
Bradley also has an exit strategy, but he’s only 32 and isn’t ready to retire. When he does, he will remain involved with the sport as a TV commentator.
Bradley has spent the past year working as an analyst on truTV, and he’s very good. He makes keen observations and is well spoken while keeping his remarks brief so as not to crowd the blow-by-blow announcer.
“I think I can become really good at announcing,” he said recently in his Indio, California, gym. “I’d like to stay involved in broadcasting and see how far I can take it. Maybe I can have Teddy work with me.”
Bradley pointed to trainer Teddy Atlas, who has been ESPN’s longtime boxing analyst but is taking time off to work with Bradley.
Bradley (33-1-1, 13 knockouts) said Saturday’s fight is about his legacy. He is a five-time world champion, and even though he was awarded a 12-round split decision over Pacquiao in 2012, he didn’t feel like a winner.
Many boxing fans and media blasted the judging, and it bothered Bradley for a long time. He lost the rematch in 2014 by unanimous decision after tearing a muscle in his right calf during the fight.
If he wins Saturday, it would be something no one can deny him.
“Thirty-six minutes,” he said. “That’s all I need to do is focus and concentrate for 36 minutes. I know I can do that.”
Bradley is always in great shape. But for the trilogy with Pacquiao, he appeared mentally and emotionally energized. He claims his work with Atlas has made him feel reborn.
“I feel like a completely new person,” he said. “I always wondered if I was a smart fighter. But working with (Atlas), I see I’m pretty damned brilliant.
“Everybody sees the difference. I used to get headaches from sparring. I used to wear a rubber suit and go on these long runs in the desert to lose weight, and I was killing myself. I don’t have to do that anymore. I listen to my body, and so does Teddy. He knows when to back off and when to pick it up. We’re on the same page, and that’s the biggest difference.”
Atlas said working with Bradley has restored his faith in boxing.
“I didn’t want to be around it anymore,” said Atlas, a protege of famed trainer Cus D’Amato. “But being with Tim and his family rekindled my love (of boxing). Tim is so special. There’s no way I would have done this with anybody else.”
This is their second fight together. Atlas worked Bradley’s corner Nov. 7 when he knocked out Brandon Rios in the ninth round of their World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight at the Thomas & Mack Center. Rios was out of shape, but it doesn’t take away from Bradley’s performance. He was engaged from the opening bell, and Atlas never let up on him, getting in his face every round, telling him he could do even more.
The two are building on that success while trying to erase the painful memories of the first two fights.
“The challenge is getting rid of the psychological cobwebs after the first fight and that he was injured in the second fight,” Atlas said. “He didn’t have the certainty to do what he needed. He has that now.”
Bradley said his preparation for Saturday was different from any of his previous 35 fights.
“We don’t train or look for weaknesses,” Bradley said. “We never depend on anyone to be weak so we can be strong.
“The other time, we weren’t successful. This time, we’ll be smart boxing against (Pacquiao). We’re not going to try and get hit. We want to do the hitting. We’re going to do it our way, the Bradley way.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj
PACQUIAO VS. BRADLEY III
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: MGM Grand Garden
Records: Pacquiao 57-6-2, 38 KOs; Bradley 33-1-1, 13 KOs
Head-to-head: Bradley defeated Pacquiao by split decision June 9, 2012; Pacquiao defeated Bradley by unanimous decision April 12, 2014.
TV: HBO PPV (59.95)
Line: Pacquiao minus-230; Bradley plus-180