Friday, June 8, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer, Case Keefer and Taylor Bern usher in fight week by discussing everything surrounding Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley on their weekly "Waking up with the Sun" radio program. Has Pacquiao lost something? Does Bradley have a chance? And the obligatory question — Will Pacquiao ever fight Floyd Mayweather? Catch Las Vegas Sun sports talk Monday mornings at 8 on 91.5 KUNV.
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Manny Pacquiao left the ring following his last fight to a chorus of boos from the sold-out crowd at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Pacquiao took a controversial decision against Juan Manuel Marquez in defense of his WBO welterweight title, but this once-believed unstoppable fighter showed more than his share of weaknesses in claiming the majority decision. He appeared to have lost a step from previous fights and struggled defending the counter-punch.
Turns out the weaknesses weren’t limited to the boxing ring.
The eight-division champion’s personal life was also not as pristine as many believed in a self-destruction of sorts that surely affected his training. In the months leading up to Pacquiao’s next fight, Saturday night back at the MGM against Timothy Bradley, he’s revealed a lifestyle that included too many long nights on the town, excessive drinking and womanizing.
So, he took a long look in the mirror, dedicated himself to leading a religious life he long preached and used the awakening as the backbone in a more intense approach to training.
The end result, where a much more spiritual Pacquiao says he’s in the best boxing shape of his life, could be on display against the undefeated Bradley for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title.
“I am happy doing this. This is what God has made me,” Pacquiao said. “I’m thankful to God for everything I have done in boxing. I want to make people happy and satisfied with all of my fights.”
Despite the difficulties against Marquez, Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) is still considered one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters and arguably the best boxer of this generation. He shares that honor with Floyd Mayweather Jr., whom he still hasn’t fought but will seemingly always be linked to because of their failed attempts to secure a matchup.
And, in spite of their long-running dispute on pre-fight drug testing and how to split the anticipated $100 million-plus purse, Pacquiao says he doesn’t harbor bad feelings toward Mayweather. Mayweather is currently serving an 87-day prison sentence at the Clark County Detention Center for domestic battery.
“He is my brother in Christ, and I pray for him that everything will be fine,”said Pacquiao, who didn’t rule out visiting Mayweather in prison.
Pacquiao had the same attitude Wednesday while sharing the stage with Bradley during a press conference.
When the fighters met at the center of the stage for the traditional stare-down promotional photo, Bradley tried his hardest to antagonize Pacquiao with aggressive stares and seemed ready to start the fight. Pacquiao simply smiled and looked like he wanted to shake hands.
Earlier in the press conference, Bradley stole the show by holding up an oversized ticket for a rematch fight with Pacquiao in November, proclaiming he’ll win Saturday’s fight to trigger a rematch clause in the contract.
“As soon as I tag him, he’ll respect me,” Bradley said.
Pacquiao, who never shows much emotion during the pre-fight media obligations, wasn’t bothered by Bradley’s confidence. After all, he’s a new man with changed priorities, referring to boxing as simply his job and realizing there’s more to life than the outcome Saturday night.
Some asked if his new outlook will change his desires in the ring or make him softer — two theories he quickly shot down.
“I know what Timothy is feeling right now because of my experience before,” Pacquiao said. “This feeling is to train hard because this is your big break. That is why I’m training hard and doing my best in training, because I know what he is feeling.”
Talk with those closest to Pacquiao and they will confirm he’s a changed man both in and out of the ring. Workout sessions, where longtime trainer Freddie Roach has raved about his progress, are sandwiched between Bible studies.
“He doesn’t come to the gym tired. He comes fresh and alert,” Roach said. “He used to have a lot of distractions in his life. Now, he has one new distraction, Bible study, and I don’t know how hard that is.
“(The lifestyle change) is great for his boxing career because he doesn’t have all the distractions other fighters have. He is a much happier person. He always smiles.”
Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs), WBO junior welterweight champion, is making his debut on boxing’s biggest stage in a fight considered the most significant of his life. That’s something Pacquiao can relate to. While this likely isn’t one of his top-10 fights of all time, he remembers rising through the ranks and how each fight could make and break a career.
In some ways, that’s how the new Manny Pacquiao is approaching Saturday night. After being booed out of the arena following the disputed decision against Marquez, he has much to prove. It’s a challenge, just like the changes in his life, that Pacquiao is embracing with open arms.
“I have peace of mind, and I’m always happy,” he said. “I’m very focused.”