Manny Pacquiao

Tim Bradley, Manny Pacquiao: 3rd fight will be different

When Manny Pacquiao selected Cathedral City’s Timothy Bradley last month as his next and presumably last opponent of his legendary fight career, Top Rank chief executive Bob Arum said the fight will differ from the previous two between Pacquiao and Bradley. The difference? Bradley’s new trainer, Teddy Atlas.

But on Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the first of two news conferences to officially announce the April 9 fight, those involved with the fight say the difference this time isn’t Atlas, it’s Bradley.

“Bradley is different,” Pacquiao said. “He improved a lot. It’s not the same as the other two fights.”

Bradley won the first of the two previous bouts, in 2012, on a controversial split decision before Pacquiao convincingly won the rematch in 2014. When it was announced on Dec. 28 that the two would go at it again in a rubber match, social media lit up with a wave of negativity. Most boxing fans believe they’ve seen this fight before.

Arum, who represents both fighters, said this one would be different. He said Bradley’s Nov. 7 knockout of Brandon Rios was the best he’s ever seen from Bradley, and that he has been reborn under Teddy Atlas, whom Bradley hired in September to replace longtime trainer Joel Diaz.

“Tim Bradley was always a great fighter,” Arum said. “He always gave 120 percent in the ring. But I don’t think anybody can doubt that he showed in his last fight that he’s an even better fighter than he has been previously.

“As good as he was, he was better, and he showed better strategy and his skills in that fight that he had in November in Las Vegas against Brandon Rios.”

On Tuesday, Atlas took issue with those who believe he has been the main difference in the career of a fighter who has won five world titles before he entered the picture.

“Tim is the difference,” Atlas said. “He is the difference. He’s the one who has done what it takes to get to this point. He’s the one who puts in the work. If he’s better, it’s because of what he’s done, not what I’ve done.”

Whether this is a different Bradley will be determined in 11 weeks at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. During the news conference Tuesday, Pacquiao talked at length about this being his last fight. He is expected to be elected to the senate in his native Philippines in May, though trainer Freddie Roach said he doesn’t expect this to be the end, particularly if Floyd Mayweather were to come out of retirement for a rematch with Pacquiao, who lost the first match between the two last May.

Pacquiao has not fought since.

Bradley (33-1-1, 13 knockouts) was handpicked by Pacquiao to be his opponent in April. A popular theory as to why is because Pacquiao is so familiar with Bradley, having fought him twice without getting hurt.

“I think it’s different now, I honestly do,” said Bradley, 32. “I think this fight will definitely be different than the first two altercations that we’ve had. That’s all I can tell you. I think it’ll be a great fight.”

FILE - In this April 12, 2014, file photo, boxers Timothy Bradley, left, and Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, face off in their WBO welterweight title fight in Las Vegas. Nearly a year after Pacquiao failed to hurt Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Filipino congressman is preparing for what could be his final fight. Bradley would love to send Pacquiao into retirement when they complete their trilogy on April 9. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison, File)

Aside from Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 knockouts) and Bradley stepping in the ring together once again, a large part of the excitement over the fight is the fact that it involves two of the most animated trainers in the sport in Atlas and Roach. Though Atlas said he would not engage in a war of words leading up to the fight, the two sides began to exercise some gamesmanship at Tuesday’s news conference.

Using a football analogy, Atlas compared the April fight as a matchup of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Then, being a Northeast native from New York, he said, “I’m taking … Brady,” referring to Bradley.

Moments later, Roach responded, “I’m from New England and I like the Patriots a little bit, but you can have Brady.” Atlas and Bradley remained stoic on the dais.

Bradley’s rebuttal? “I might not be Brady, but he’s no Bill Belicheck,” he said to a chorus of laughs.

The bout will appear on HBO pay-per-view, with tickets to the fight going on sale this Friday. Prices range from $150 to $1,200.

According to reports, if Bradley beats Pacquiao, Arum wants to arrange for him to fight junior welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, a former Bradley sparring partner.

Bradley said he isn’t thinking about anything beyond April 9. It’s his chance to hush the chorus of fans who don’t believe he has a shot against arguably the greatest fighter of his generation.

“We look forward to it, and we look forward to the challenge,” Atlas said. “And it’s a tremendous challenge, a difficult challenge. But we look forward to it and we’re grateful for the opportunity to be in another Super Bowl.”

For his part, Bradley said he’s not focused on Pacquiao, Roach or even Atlas. He’s approaching this fight much like he did against Rios — he’s focusing internally, and is ready to show just how different he is as a fighter this time.

“It’s about me, that’s what it’s about,” Bradley said. “If I’m fundamentally sound, if I’m technically sound, if I limit those mistakes that I used to do, those mortal sins, and have great technique, I should win the fight without even a game plan.”

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