“The fact Manny’s calling this his farewell fight, there’s something to be said about that,” Bradley said. “It could be the end, and it could backfire on him, because that’s a thought in the back of his mind.”
Coachella Valley’s Bradley (33-1-1, 13 knockouts) boasts a disputed 2012 split-decision victory over Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs), but he convincingly lost the 2014 rematch by unanimous decision and plots to turn the trilogy into a goodbye party.
Much of Bradley’s confidence is rooted in his relationship with new trainer Teddy Atlas, who motivated Bradley to a dominant ninth-round stoppage of former lightweight champion Brandon Rios on Nov. 7.
During the fight, Atlas evoked a reference to the pair being “firemen,” willing to brave up-close punches by Rios in order to land the blows that ultimately won the fight.
“I’ve made some changes, and now I understand my identity as a fighter: what I’m supposed to be. Teddy made me realize that. I’m calmer this time around,” Bradley said.
As Pacquiao, 37, basks in the riches of his May 2 loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., and eyes a seat in the Philippines Senate with a May 9 election date, Bradley said he’s thinking about nothing other than winning the bout at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Tickets go on sale Friday for the HBO pay-per-view bout.
The card includes a super-middleweight title fight between champion Arthur Abraham and Southland-trained Gilberto Ramirez, a featherweight bout between unbeaten Southland-trained Oscar Valdez and Evgeny Gradovich, and unbeaten super-lightweight Jose Ramirez versus Manuel Perez.
Bradley said he intends to follow the same well-studied route against Pacquiao that he took in beating Rios.
“We’ll be ready, and I’ll see every single thing that Manny Pacquiao does,” Bradley said. “It’s my job to exploit it. [Pacquiao] won’t change. He’ll be the same. We’ve already had a mini-camp, a two-day camp to look at film and go over the strategy of what I’m going to do, the things I need to watch out for, the things I need to take advantage of.”
Atlas has mysteriously nicknamed the theme of his Pacquiao preparation “The Log in the Ocean.”
“I won’t elaborate on it, but I will say this: The ocean is very deceiving,” Bradley said.
The fighter has 24 rounds of ring experience against Pacquiao but says he yields to Atlas’ direction.
“There’s nothing I can say to Teddy to change his mind about anything. Teddy is the guru of boxing,” Bradley said. “Teddy knows nothing about anything else. Great father, great person, treats people with care, loves people, but he doesn’t know anything else — 45 years in the game. He’s in total control. He listens to me, but he has his way and I’m going to follow that way. I believe in his way.”
So much so that when Pacquiao and Bradley were described at Tuesday’s news conference as the “Manning and Brady” of boxing, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach cracked that he’d win with “Manning.” Bradley, during his speech, told Roach, “You’re no Belichick.”
“The last [Pacquiao] fight, I had a completely different mindset,” Bradley said. “I went out there to be something I wasn’t instead of being true to myself. Now, I’m back to being the calm, smart, very experienced fighter who’s been in the ring with him for 24 rounds.
“The way Teddy breaks down film, it’s amazing. And I’m different. This fight is not about Pacquiao. I don’t fear Pacquiao. It’s about me — me being the best I can be, being sharp, in tune, fundamentally sound, confident. If I’m technically sound and limit those mistakes — those mortal sins — I used to do, I should win the fight without a game plan. I just have to be on point — every minute, every second of every single round.”
Meanwhile, despite promoter Bob Arum’s interest in staging a Bradley fight against his friend unbeaten junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford, if both win their coming fights, Bradley said he doesn’t want that.
“It’s not about money,” Bradley said. “That fight will never happen. With Crawford, it’s about respect, love and family. There’s no reason for him to knock me off, or me knock him off. We’re both in the same business. He’s like a younger brother to me, and we’ve built the relationship over the years. Money won’t move me at all.”