Manny Pacquiao, in November of 2010, got more of a fight than many anticipated from Antonio Margarito. The next November, he got his hardest fight in nearly four years, from Juan Manuel Marquez -- a rematch many predicted would be a total mismatch because Pacquiao had grown so much physically and technically, whereas Marquez had only gotten older since they last fought on such even terms back in 2008. Now, for the first time since Pacquiao rose to his present level of superstardom by beating Oscar De La Hoya three years ago, he is taking his fight that is actually expected to be competitive: On June 9, he faces Timothy Bradley. After agreeing to terms weeks ago, the fight was officially announced Tuesday and tickets go on sale Friday.
That Bradley is expected to give Pacquiao such a challenge says as much about Pacquiao as it does Bradley. There's a wide perception that Pacquiao's incredible run as the world's best fighter is slowing down as he ages, and might already have expired; Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has reclaimed the title in many pound-for-pound lists. And Bradley has some assets that make him particularly dangerous -- he is a crafty boxer, a trait Marquez has used to confound Pacquiao repeatedly, and he's a young, hungry, gritty character who has never lost a fight and is widely thought to be no worse than one of the 10 best fighters in any weight class.
With Pacquiao-Bradley and Mayweather's next fight against Miguel Cotto, the usual caveat applies: That Pacquiao and Mayweather aren't fighting each other, when it would be the biggest and most meaningful fight in decades, remains a black mark on the sport itself. And Bradley was, really, Pacquiao's last viable choice -- he is an unknown outside of boxing circles, but well-known within them for an aesthetically displeasing boxing style and an inability to sell tickets.
But at least Pacquiao-Bradley has competitive elements in theory that haven't graced a Pacquiao fight in a long while. As with Mayweather-Cotto, this isn't the fight we should be getting, but it's better than some of the other horrible options, and has merits of its own.
For those who don't know Bradley... you're not alone. Bradley recently switched promoters to Top Rank -- not at all coincidentally, Pacquiao's promoter --- after floundering under Gary Shaw, unable to sell tickets even in his home turf in California. Shaw, along with powerful manager Cameron Dunkin, did manage to get Bradley on Showtime a bunch, and then got him threee undeservedly lucrative paydays on HBO/HBO pay-per-view. He was in one of last year's least enjoyable and most debacle-like fights, a head butt-induced technical decision win over Devon Alexander in a meeting of two of America's then-brightest young talents. In his most recent fight, his first with Top Rank, he appeared on the Pacquiao-Marquez undercard and easily defeated ancient Joel Casamayor.
The Top Rank idea was to build up Bradley as an eventual opponent for Pacquiao, after he got more name recognition and became an attraction -- a difficult prospect, given that some of the distinguishing characteristics of Bradley's fighting style are a general roughness and tendency to head butt. But at least Bradley was talented, and an American, and had a nice smile, and a reasonably charismatic personality and could maybe somehow tap into the black fandom market that has atrophied over the years. The plan to match the two was accelerated when Pacquiao couldn't secure Cotto for rematch, and when Marquez, too, proved difficult to get an agreement for another rematch.
For Bradley's part, this fight is the culmination of a huge gamble that has paid off, despite skepticism from some (including myself) that it would work out so well. Last year, Bradley had called out Amir Khan, the best available junior welterweight after Alexander, and had been offered a career-high payday for the fight. But Bradley said no, saying he was eager to leave Shaw, and instead sat out until he could legally break free of his old promoter. The decision came under considerable criticism. But now he'll get an even bigger payday against Pacquiao, in a fight that, should he win it, would make him pretty big-time. Even if he loses, he'll be more well-known than ever, just by virtue of sharing the big ol' spotlight Pacquiao inhabits.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, takes this fight as talk of his boxing career ending is louder than ever. Against Margarito, then against Shane Mosley, then in his last fight against Marquez, some have detected increasing signs that Pacquiao has exited his prime. He himself admits that he has struggled with some injuries, like a tendency for his legs to cramp, and that recovering from them takes longer than it used to. As a congressman in the Philippines, he has aspirations for higher office still -- like governor, and, perhaps, president.
The Pacquiao team, led by trainer Freddie Roach, are talking up how worried they are that Pacquiao won't be enthused about this fight given Bradley's low profile, how distracted he is looking forward to his next move away from boxing, etc. Maybe they're legitimate concerns, maybe they're trying to make the fight more competitive than it actually is. It's not as if Pacquiao doesn't have a lot of advantages in this fight. He's proven more effective at welterweight than Bradley, whose test fight there in 2010 didn't impress too much; he's obviously more experienced; he's more offensively gifted; and more.
But Bradley is a tough dude. Any time someone's turned the pressure up on him, Bradley has found that extra gear -- he doesn't get outworked in fights. He has some boxing skill, even if his degree of polish varies from fight to fight. He may not hit very hard, but he is quite fast, and I'm struggling to think of a time Pacquiao faced anyone this quick. And lastly, while he'll tell you the head butts are accidental, they happen in his bouts so much more often than they do in any other boxer's that it can't be a coincidence. What that means is Bradley will take every advantage of the rules in a fight, even if that includes bending the rules sometimes.
We'll see if the fight does very well with pay-per-view buys -- Bradley's relative anonymity could hurt there. But if we're not going to get Pacquiao-Mayweather, at least we're getting a product in the ring that offers some measure of hope of uncertainty. There's more uncertainty here than with Mayweather-Cotto, too. In the exhausting, ongoing Pacquiao-Mayweather proxy war, score this round for Pacquiao on the pure boxing merits.
I think this match up is more competitive than Mayweather-Cotto. Bradley reminds me of Pacquiao circa 2003, and Pacquiao reminds me of Barrera of that same year. I actually don't think Pacquiao is that far from his physical prime, but, of course, we know that warrior types do tend to burn out quicker than boxers. So it shouldn't be a surprise if, now that he's in his 30s, he's not quite the dynamo he once was. But more than the physical it's the mental burnout that is beginning to show. I listen to his interviews and Pacquiao does not sound hungry at all. The fire in his eyes is gone, and to quote Mickey from the Rocky movies, the worst thing that could happen to a fighter has already happened to Manny--he got civilized. I don't sense the fighter's edge anymore. It happens. In a way, I'm happy for him. The sport has given him more than he ever dreamed, and now it seems his heart is elsewhere (faith, politics, community service, etc..). As fans, we hate to see so exciting and classy a fighter go, but I think we should be happy for him too. Fighters are often born out of a need to exorcise personal demons, or a need to escape crushing poverty or other harrowing social conditions. Neither of these seem to exist for Pacquiao, not anymore anyway, and so his reasons for trading in this most brutal of sports may have all but vanished.
Bradley has that young lion aura to him, and i think we just might see the old lion Pacquiao cede his throne in June. If that happens, I don't think it should be a huge surprise. It won't be for me, anyway.
All I can say is if you're going to Vegas for this, book your room early, like now, and be ready for craziness when you get there. This is the same weekend as the Electric Daisy Carnival rave in Vegas. Last year this thing filled every room in town and snarled traffic for days. They could not have picked a worse weekend for a major fight. Sky-high room prices because of this rave will price out a lot of ticket buyers.
@BrettFitzgerald Paper and reality are often different. On paper, JMM at welter at age 57 doesn't give Pac a challenge. In reality, he did. But it cuts both ways.
Mayweather vs Cotto -Another fight we already knew the outcome. GBP doesnt even know how to sell this fight scrap!
Pacquiao vs Bradley
This fight I want to watch because Bradley is a young undefeated champion!
This is a very good match up. Bradley is very aggressive and strong. he is young and got all the energy of youth ..I think he can pull an upset ..
Yeah, I think Bradley's not to be taken lightly. We put guys like Mayweather and Pacquiao on pedestals and assume them to be invincible deities, 5-1 favorites against anyone but each other (or Serrrrrgio!!!), but every great boxer has lost if they fight long enough, usually at a younger age than Pac and Floyd are right now. It's just one off night against a determined opponent and it's done (now obviously Pac's lost before but I'm talking about this current run of dominance). Both guys can lose. If Robinson can lose to Turpin and Louis to Schmelling, they can lose. I personally thought Mosley and Margarito were both hopeless against Manny, and previously thought Shane had little chance (but some) against Floyd. I don't feel that way about either of these upcoming fights. Cotto is a legitimate threat. He's been effective moving backwards and sideways, and recently Mayweather's been walking forwards so I don't think the style match is too terrible. The speed gap is gonna be tough in that one. But gotta be honest, I'm perfectly satisfied and looking forward to both fights.
@JFoley Cotto's a legit threat -- no doubt. I just think Pac-Bradley is more competitive than Mayweather-Cotto.
I'm not perfectly satisfied, since they're not facing each other. But I could be MORE unsatisfied, that's for sure.
I have no interest in this fight. Does nothing for me.
I think Cotto can pose Mayweather a few problems and on that basis, I'd watch that one if I had to pick one. In reality, I'll not be breaking my neck to watch either.
Mayweather and Pacquiao piss me off, for obvious reasons.
@safesideOTR Competitively, it does a little something for me. Aesthetically, any Bradley fight -- especially with him going against a lefty -- is going to be marred by head butts. As Bradley's style doesn't interest me, this fight interests me less than some others.
Generally, Mayweather and Pacquiao fights are the fight I LEAST look forward to these days.
Feel like for whatever reason I know the outcome of May Cotto. For that reason I prefer this fight. You discussed Bradleys gritty style. His style could be described as turd boxing. It is that unappealing. They could change Bradleys ringname to tumbleweed because when he blows through it is like a ghost town. The May Cotto fight will do way bigger numbers because cotto is a draw on his own.
@ThePJ I think the reason you know the outcome of Mayweather Cotto is because one guy is still looking like "himself" and the other guy is faded and besides, it's a very good style match-up for Mayweather, I think.
But yeah. I think it'll do better numbers.
@tstarks.. I don't think so Tim, after Floyd did all that smack talkin on asians! I bet that it's all gonna be cotto who's gonna carry the PPV numbers and certainly not floyd! He ain't gonna fight Pacquiao even if PAC is already dead doing boxing!
@hys0ka Nah, Mayweather will still carry the PPV. But Cotto brings a lot more as a B-side than Bradley, as far as PPV buys go.