Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.
Manny Pacquiao (left) and Timothy Bradley are fighting for the welterweight title on Saturday night. (AP)
Manny Pacquiao, boxing's biggest international superstar, is defending his WBO welterweight championship against Timothy Bradley on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV, $54.95).
Bradley, the WBO junior welterweight champion from Palm Springs, Calif., is moving up to 147 pounds for a chance at one of the sport's biggest fish and a career-high $5 million purse. Pacquiao will earn a guaranteed $26 million, a figure that could increase depending on the pay-per-view sales.
The first fighter to capture world titles in eight different weight classes (from 112 to 154 pounds), Pacquiao ranks No. 2 in SI.com's pound-for-pound ratings. Bradley ranks No. 8.
Pacquiao is a bona fide global phenomenon -- an eight-division world champ who's drawn straight-faced comparisons to Ali, a congressman in the Philippines with a near-messianic desire to end poverty, one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people -- and he's gone more than seven years since losing a fight. But a pair of underwhelming points victories against Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez have left many observers wondering if he's past his peak.
After escaping with a split decision against 7-to-1 underdog Marquez in November, Pacquiao tried (or didn't try, depending on whom you believe) to come to terms with Floyd Mayweather to make the fight that fans have clamored for since 2008. But after Mayweather signed to fight Miguel Cotto, Bradley soon emerged as the frontrunner in the Pacquiao sweepstakes and signed the contract in February.
Bradley, although widely regarded as one of the 10 best fighters in the world regardless of weight, is virtually anonymous beyond hardcore boxing fans. He's beaten several current or former titleholders, but his highest-profile win to date was an aesthetically displeasing technical-decision victory over Devon Alexader in January 2011 to unify the WBC and WBO 140-pound titles. Afterward, he turned down a 50/50 offer to fight Amir Khan, then sat out for several months while dealing with an ensuing lawsuit with his former promoters. After signing with Top Rank, he beat Joel Casamayor on the Pacquiao-Marquez undercard -- setting the stage for Saturday's golden opportunity.
Official weights announced at Friday's final weigh-in (6 p.m. ET, SI.com)
Pacquiao's electric ascent through boxing's weight classes -- titles in eight divisions between 112 and 154 pounds -- is without precedent.
Bradley's most notable victory to date came in a highly anticipated unification showdown with Devon Alexander in January 2011.
Though equally adept fighting from the outside or on the interior, Bradley is known as a rough in-fighter who leads with his head and isn't shy about using his elbows inside. Accidental head butts are commonplace in his fights, and the risk runs even higher Saturday given the southpaw-orthodox matchup. He is a tough and compact fighter, one of the few men on the planet who can match Pacquiao's speed and stamina, and will look to find range with his powerful right hand while neutralizing the Filipino's straight left.
It's been more than two-and-a-half years since Pacquiao last stopped an opponent inside the distance, and he'll be highly motivated to deliver a spectacular performance after subpar outings against Mosley and Marquez. If he can dial up the blend that propelled him to the top of the pound-for-pound list -- the unpredictable lateral movement, the sense of urgency, the punches in bunches thrown from angles that defy Euclid -- it could be a long (or short) night for the challenger. Where his right hand was once a mere throat clearing for the punishing left, Pacquiao is now essentially an ambidextrous fighter.
Both men aren't afraid to take risks, which augurs well for a crowd-pleasing fight, but whether Bradley's preferred swarming style is a wise strategy over the long term against an opponent with Pacquiao's formidable punching power is a major question mark. Ultimately, this is a major step up in class for Bradley, who is far less experienced on the big-fight stage than Pacquiao.
Oddsmaker William Hill lists Bradley as a 7-to-2 underdog, and Pacquiao as a 1-to-5 favorite.
It's tempting to go with Bradley here, a fighter who's risen to the occasion each time he's taken a step up, not least because he's the first Pacquiao opponent in years who isn't past his peak or coming off a loss. Then you consider the leg cramps that have compromised Pacquiao in each of his past two fights, evidence of physical decline for which his team doesn't seem to have an answer other than "hope for the best," and it's easy to see how an opponent with no marked edge in any department (though he's good at everything) is only a modest underdog against one of the premier fighters of his generation. Bradley's speed and movement will trouble the champion early, but Pacquiao's always looked his best against guys who are there to hit. Look for the champ to make the necessary adjustments and use his speed, punching power and experience to close the show. Pacquiao by ninth-round knockout.
Pacquiao plays photog while Bradley mugs at a Beverly Hills press conference. (Kirby Lee/US Presswire)
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· Jorge Arce vs. Jesus Rojas, 10 rounds, junior featherweights
· Mike Jones vs. Randall Bailey, 12 rounds, for vacant IBF welterweight title
· Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Teon Kennedy, 12 rounds, for Rigondeaux's WBA junior featherweight title
· Non-PPV bouts: Mikael Zewski vs. Ryan Grimaldo, 6 rounds, welterweights; Andrew Ruiz vs. Tyler Larson, 4 rounds, welterweights; Jesse Hart vs. Manuel Eastman, 4 rounds, super middleweights; Ernie Sanchez vs. Wilton Hilario, 8 rounds, junior lightweights
· HBO's Jim Lampley, Emanuel Steward, Max Kellerman and Harold Lederman will be ringside for the main event and undercard.
· The referee assigned to the main event is Robert Byrd, a relative newcomer to fights of this level. The judges are Duane Ford, C.J. Ross and Jerry Roth.
· HBO will air five hours of fight-related programming on HBO and HBO2 on Saturday leading up to the fight (from 4 to 9 p.m. ET/PT). Jim Lampley will host the Pacquiao/Bradley HBO Roadblock, which includes a one-hour Fight Day Now! show from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas at 8 p.m. that will give fans all the latest news as the main event approaches.
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