LAS VEGAS (AP) – Manny Pacquiao barely escaped to fight another day, and would need 28 stitches to close the cut over his right eye. Juan Manuel Marquez had nearly ended his remarkable run, but that didn’t stop Pacquiao from singing at his post-fight concert and partying the night away with his huge entourage.
He returns to the ring Saturday, determined to show his last outing was nothing more than a fluke.
Little known Timothy Bradley will be his opponent in a fight that could either end Pacquiao’s lucrative career or revitalize it.
This time, though, there will be no concert, and no party. Win or lose, the only thing on Pacquiao’s post-fight agenda is a Bible study session and some time with his wife.
He claims to be a changed man, and the people around him say he really is. What no one really knows, though, is how it will affect him in the ring, something that makes this fight a bit more intriguing than most.
“It’s 100 percent good,’’ insists Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach. “He’s much more focused now. From all the distractions he had, the trade-off is unbelievable.’’
Oddsmakers aren’t so sure, making Pacquiao a relatively short 4-1 favorite against the unbeaten Bradley. He was a 7-1 pick against Marquez, but was lucky to come away with a majority decision in a ﬁght that could have gone either way.
Pacquiao said afterward that he just had problems with the style of Marquez. Those close to him, though, said personal problems and marital discord troubled him through training camp all the way into the dressing room before the fight, when he was still so consumed by them that he failed to warm up properly.
There will be no excuses this time out. Pacquiao knows he not only needs to win but to win impressively if he is to retain his spot alongside currently jailed Floyd Mayweather Jr. as one of the two best fighters in the world.
“I want to prove that I’m still young and I can still fight,’’ Pacquiao said. “I feel I’m still hungry, I’m still OK.’’
Pacquiao risks a 15-fight winning streak when he defends his piece of the welterweight title against Bradley. He hasn’t lost in seven years and his recent ﬁghts have all been big pay-per-view events that made him millions. But the pressures of being at the top of his sport and both a national hero and congressman in the Philippines fueled a bloated lifestyle that couldn’t be sustained.
Pacquiao gave up drinking, and he gave up gambling. He gave away his cockﬁghting ranch in the Philippines and sold his interest in a casino there.
He found a spiritual adviser, and now spends his spare moments reading and discussing the Bible.
“The things I did over and over in the past, I stopped those,’’ Pacquiao said. “I know now if I die today know now if I die today I know where I’m going. It’s helped a lot in my personal life and my boxing life.”
Training in Los Angeles last week, Pacquiao seemed focused as he sparred six rounds with two sparring partners.
He dismissed concerns that his new dedication to religion would somehow make him less aggressive in the ring, and said he doesn’t feel like he’s lost any of his speed or his power at the age of 33.
“This is my job,” he said. “I have a job to do in the ring. I’m not underestimating him at all.”
Pacquiao weighed in Friday at the class limit of 147 pounds (66.7 kilograms), while Bradley who is noticeably more muscle bound – weighed 146. It is the heaviest that Pacquiao has ever weighed for a ﬁght.
Bradley, a 140-pound (63.5-kilogram) champion moving up in weight for his biggest ﬁght yet, is the kind of ﬁghter who could give Pacquiao trouble. He ﬁghts going forward, isn’t afraid to mix it up inside, and has yet to be beaten in 28 ﬁghts.
Yet Roach sees him as a mediocre ﬁghter with limited skills. He said if Pacquiao loses or doesn’t look good against Bradley he will tell him it is time to retire.
“Timothy Bradley is made for Manny,’’ Roach said. “He’s slow and he doesn’t punch hard, but he tries hard. Manny should eat him up as he comes forward.’’