Manny Pacquiao vs Timothy Bradley predictions and HBO match preview

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 06: Boxers Manny Pacquiao (L) and Timothy Bradley pose during the final news conference for their bout at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino June 6, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao will defend his WBO welterweight title against Bradley when the two meet in the ring on June 9 in Las Vegas. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

In boxing, it ain't lonely at the top.

International superstar and pound-for-pound kingpin Manny Pacquiao has yet another would-be usurper to deal with tonight (June 9, 2012), as unbeaten light welterweight ruler Timothy Bradley moves up to challenge the ferocious Filipino firecracker for his WBO welterweight title.

This will be Pacquiao's first fight since his narrow defeat of Juan Manuel Marquez in the pair's third meeting, on the under card of which Bradley walked through former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor.

MMAmania will have LIVE coverage of the event, including the HBO pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, which starts promptly this evening at 9 p.m. ET.

The fighters have weighed in. The odds have been examined. The stories have been explored.

But who will come out on top once they dance under the lights? Follow me after the jump to find out.

What Manny Pacquiao is, at his very best, is a tornado of punches. He possesses a combination of speed and power that borders on unfair. If Pacquiao gets any momentum behind him, very few men in this world can stop him, as Miguel Cotto learned after a solid first round. Juan Manuel Marquez is one of them; Timothy Bradley, in all likelihood, is not. If he can’t keep Pacquiao from getting his feet under him in the early going, he’s just plain doomed.

Thing is, I think he can.

Bradley has little-to-no stopping power, but he’s strong, skilled and above all, willing and able to make one dirty fight. He’s also not scared to use his rock-solid head as an effective bludgeoning implement. If Pacquiao isn't careful in the clinch, he could find himself sporting some nice new gashes in relatively short order.

This is one of the major things that separates Bradley from Pacquiao’s recent competition: A grinding, short-range style that has the potential to short-circuit what may be the most devastating offensive assault in boxing. Combine that with the veritable cavalcade of distractions sure to be floating through Pacquiao’s mind and you have a recipe for a long, unpleasant night. Bradley stated in an interview that he believes the first round will decide the fight, and I agree. If he can keep Manny uncomfortable from the get-go, he’s got a very real chance of earning a decision win.

There’s a difference between earning a decision and getting one, though.

Whether through corruption or simply incompetence of biblical proportions, boxing judging is absolutely unequivocally terribleriffic (yes, I need a new word just to describe it). These past two years have seen decisions that no rational human being could make. Erislandy Lara, for instance, outlanded and battered Paul Williams despite the latter throwing 500 more punches and dropped a decision. Richard Abril completely dominated Brandon Rios recently, taking at least nine rounds on any competent scorer’s card, and got screwed. Gabriel Campillo rose from a brutal first round to dominant every second of the remaining 11 rounds and lost a split decision to Tavoris Cloud.

Interesting factoid: The more popular fighter got the decision every time.

I don’t know if Bob Arum is behind it. I don’t know if the judges are just stupid, but boxing judging simply cannot be trusted, especially in a bout this significant. Further, despite his best efforts, Bradley simply doesn’t have much behind his punches, meaning Manny probably won’t show wear-and-tear aside from that generated by cranial collisions.

There’s just too much going on outside the ring for Pacquiao, combined with Bradley’s skills, for me to pick "Pac-Man" to earn a decision. While the Pacquiao that crushed Cotto and Ricky Hatton would be scraping bits of Bradley off his gloves for days, I expect Bradley to turn this bout into a boring, dirty fight from the get-go, clearly winning a majority of rounds.

And then the judges are going to screw it all up.

Prediction: Pacquiao via split decision

Remember: will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow fight coverage of tonight's boxing bonanza, including round-by-round coverage of the championship clash between Manny Pacquiao vs Timothy Bradley.

See you later!

More Pacquiao-Bradley Coverage From SBN
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