Manny Pacquiao, left, and Timothy Bradley pose during a news conference… (John Locher / Associated…)
LAS VEGAS -- Three times in a 30-minute sit-down with reporters Wednesday, Manny Pacquiao assured the media he is not underestimating Timothy Bradley before their world welterweight title fight Saturday night.
"I know what Timothy is feeling now, how he's trained hard, thinking this is his big break," Pacquiao said.
The unsettling fact for the 33-year-old Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 knockouts) as he finalizes preparations for his 60th professional fight is that the underdog spirit he relates to helped push him to breakthrough victories years ago, over Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Oscar De La Hoya.
Is it now Pacquiao's turn to fall from grace?
"I waited for this moment my whole life," Bradley, 28, said at Wednesday's news conference at the MGM Grand. "I'm ready to shock the world."
The unbeaten former junior-welterweight world champion says the disparity in this fight's significance to each boxer is a "competitive edge" for him. "This fight is not even in Pacquiao's top 10. Maybe he didn't get up for me. He better have, or he's in for a rude awakening."
Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs), from the Palm Springs area, honed his fighting chops at a Corona lumberyard and the Ontario DoubleTree hotel ballroom.
He has angled for a Pacquiao fight for more than a year, spurning his former promoters and their $1.5-million offer for a bout against Amir Khan to chase Pacquiao.
Bradley is due to earn a $5-million purse Saturday, and has become an astute observer of Pacquiao's fights. Bradley has also studied the Filipino star's downward trend: a flat victory by decision over aging Shane Mosley in May 2011, then an escape by decision over 38-year-old rival Juan Manuel Marquez in November, and now the admissions of upheaval in Pacquaio's life outside the ring.
Promoter Bob Arum said Wednesday that Pacquiao has required advances on fight purses as great as $4 million before his last two bouts to help pay off his gambling debts, which Arum estimated at $1 million to $2 million annually.
Pacquiao has also previously admitted to struggling through marital problems last year provoked by his womanizing.
"He was not an alcoholic, but he gets bored easily — he could drink," Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz said. "He's an entertainer. When he wasn't fighting and people were still looking to him, he'd entertain."
Bradley, who is almost a 5-1 underdog, said he aims to deliver a telling blow to Pacquiao.
"I knew sooner or later it'd catch up to him," Bradley said. "Nobody's perfect."
"The old has passed, the new has come," said Pacquiao, who in the last year has given away his 1,000 cockfighting roosters, closed his two bars/pool halls, sold his casino in Manila and had a religious awakening.
"The sins we committed over and over, I stopped doing that. I found it in my manual for life, the Bible," he said. "It's better for me. I know if I die today where I'm going. I'm not worried about what fits in this world. I'm worried about what happens to me in my eternal life."
How does Saturday's fight fit into that?
"This fight?" Pacquiao asked. "This is my job. I have a job to make people happy. . . . Yes, I'm happy doing this. This is what God made me to do."
Pacquiao said despite some friction between his conditioning coach Alex Ariza and trainer Freddie Roach and cut man Miguel Diaz, he is pleased with the results of his plyometric and isometric conditioning during training. As a result, Pacquiao expects more power and speed when he fights Bradley.
Roach confidently promised his fighter "doesn't take anyone lightly" and "was ferocious against his sparring partners."
"The religion is good for him," Roach said. "He traded off doing 10 bad things for one good thing."
Bradley said Pacquiao is hoping to lure him into a toe-to-toe battle in what will be only Bradley's second fight at 147 pounds. "I need to stay tight, stay behind a good jab, and counter," Bradley said. "Sooner or later, I'll catch up to him."
It's the exact challenge Pacquiao needs, his promoter said.
"Manny's life was careening off the rails," Arum said. "It's not now. He's made an adjustment to his course, and he'll be better than he's been the last couple of years with this kid Bradley bringing out the best in him. If not, maybe it's time for Manny to retire.
"That's the risk we took. If a challenge like this doesn't do it for Manny, I can't think of anything that will. It's different now for him. He goes to sleep on time, in bed with his wife, not guilt-ridden. He's at peace with himself."