One of the year's most awaited fights takes place this Saturday as Manny Pacquiao puts his WBO welter crown in danger against the challenge of WBO light welter titlist Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV.
This is a very interesting bout as Bradley has proven himself to be a world class fighter, probably the best at light welter right now, while Pacquiao is a modern day great but the Filipino icon is also nearing the end of his career.
And that's what makes this clash very special as it is clearly a warm-up bout for "Pac Man" prior to facing Floyd Mayweather Jr, a super fight that will undoubtedly occur in the very near future.
But only if Pacquiao defeats Bradley.
Bradley has been campaigning to face Pacquiao for quite some time now and while the former WBC and current WBO 140 pound boss has turned back the likes of Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, Junior Witter, Kendall Holt, Joel Casamayor, Nate Campbell and Luis Carlos Abregu over the last four years, facing Pacquiao is a completely different story.
However, Pacquiao has never been in the ring with a fighter like Bradley, who can either become a hell-bent for leather aggressive fighter or a crafty, quick-handed boxer, depending on the punching power and boxing ability of the opponent in front of him.
Given Pacquiao's ability to punch with either hand and superb boxing skills, it's likely Bradley will take the cautious approach and if that happens, expect Pacquiao to also be reserved, looking for a points victory while avoiding a draining and potentially dangerous slugfest.
At some point, however, Bradley will have to start taking risks and put Pacquiao under pressure, trying to force the type of brawling that will favor the challenger's awkward, all-angle punching style.
Bradley probably doesn't have the concussive punching power to hurt Pacquiao, so he'll have to try and outwork and outfight the 33 year old champion, something no one has been able to do, at least in the eyes of the judges, since Erik Morales pulled it off seven years ago.
Over the course of his three clashes with Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez aptly displayed that the eight division champion is susceptible to right hands, which just happens to be Bradley's best punch but Bradley's style is much different from that of the defensive-minded Marquez.
Bradley has gone up against southpaw opposition in his last two appearances so he'll be well used to Pacquiao's lefty stance but ultimately, he'll to have use his quick reflexes to slip Pacquiao's efforts and take advantage of any openings to counter.
Pacquiao is facing his fastest opponent in quite some time and that could become a real problem if the fight goes into the later rounds, so he'll have to take away Bradley's confidence and do so early, backing up the Californian and making Bradley concentrate on defense and remove the opportunity to mount a sustained offense.
No one has been able to do that before but then again, Pacquiao routinely breaks new ground and he should win this one, probably by unanimous decision, but it certainly won't be a wlk in the park.
Pacquiao has proven that he can more than hold his own against a laundry list of bigger, stronger and even more experienced opponents. Now, he'll have to see if he can defeat a quicker one.