“Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”
- Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, two
champions will meet. Both battle-tested, one perhaps battle-weary -
both with everything to prove. Each owns a different approach to the
game called boxing, a game you can't play. The elder fighter, 35
years old and 62 fights deep into a Hall of Fame career filled with
untold riches, spectacular victories and devastating defeat. Through
that meteoric rise and fall, the challenger in this fight, Manny
“Pac-Man” Pacquiao has taken each step with an ever-present smile
and a shrug that seems to say, “I guess God wants it that way.”
The current WBO welterweight champion, Tim Bradley is hitting his
stride at age 30 having passed through a self-imposed gauntlet of
brute force and technical mastery this past year. He appears to be a
man who believes he is more than a little in control of how this
whole thing will go down. Saturday night, faith in fate vs. will
into his first fight with Pacquiao on June 9, 2012, “Desert Storm”
was a different man than he is today. A hardnosed, cast iron-willed
champion who carved his way through the 140-pound division in all
manner of ways, was now ascending to an entirely new level. Recently
signed with Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotions after years toiling in
obscurity as a bona fide, if largely unknown, legit junior
welterweight champion, Bradley had self-belief, a new manager in
Cameron Dunkin and a a dream of beating an elite-level foe. When the
smoked cleared after 12 rounds, Bradley had two injured feet and
Pacquiao's belt via split decision victory that still pisses fans
off. At ringside, when the scores were announced and the rain of boos
drenched the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Bradley's dream must have felt,
at the very least, bittersweet. He'd made millions, won the fight on
the cards and drew the ire of a public he was barely introduced to on
such a large scale.
attempted to rebound by going into what was supposed to be a go-to
win: a fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. However, a reckless
Pacquiao rushed in on a wounded Marquez and took a right hand for the
ages to the face. Pacquiao awoke a few minutes later to a whole new
world in which his minimum was a little less than it was. A potential
Floyd Mayweather fight was a true thing of the past and Marquez had
the better of him. Still, Congressman “Pac-Man” smiled.
his next fight on March 16, 2013, Bradley went looking for respect.
He got it by picking a fight with Ruslan Provodnikov, a Russian
pressure fighter with bone-rattling and teeth-chattering power.
Bradley won the fight and showed dimensions fans didn't know he had.
Buzzed early and more often than we had ever seen previously, Bradley
showed depth of character and an inhuman ability to stay conscious
while absorbing massive head trauma. He won the fight on the cards
and inaugurated Provodnikov into the upper echelons of the sport in
the process. “The Siberian Rocky” went on to win the 140-pound
WBO belt Bradley once wore by defeating Mike Alvarado in his next
for Bradley, respect was finally his. While some fans grumbled about
the Provodnikov decision, no one could deny the heart, will and
determination Bradley had shown.
he seemed bitter in the lead up to his fight with Provodnikov,
complete with a giant residual chip on his shoulder from the
post-Pacquiao fallout, after the war, Bradley seemed at ease.
However, fans now questioned that with the damage he suffered in the
fight (Bradley said he was so badly concussed, he didn't remember the
fight), would he be the same? Always questions.
his next fight versus Marquez on October 12, 2013, Bradley proved
that not only was he not physically diminished by Provodnikov but he
could dominate Marquez, who was coming off that stunning sixth round
knockout of Pacquiao. Showing the ability to switch up from brawling
on the inside to being a disciplined boxer, Bradley put on a
masterful performance, outpointing Marquez (on two out of three
cards) in the process.
Pacquiao recovered from his out-of-nowhere loss to Marquez by beating
up Brandon Rios over 12 rounds in a confidence builder. This leads us
to Saturday night and a rematch that has come through natural causes.
It's not a retread. The repercussions are potentially massive. If
Bradley wins, there is every reason to believe he will be the one to
rightfully call out Mayweather to see who is the best at 147 pounds.
If Pacquiao prevails by spectacular knockout or dominant performance,
we get either a trilogy or another round of discussions about the
“Fight to End All Fights.” Pacquiao either becomes a phoenix and
resurrects the rock star warrior/god-king he once was or Bradley
proves he is the baddest dragon slayer in the land, a blue-collar
champion born of the Coachella Valley here to dominate at 147 pounds.
No quote can tell us what will happen. The fight will show us the
this rematch you have to ask yourself: Who can improve? Which guy can
fight a better fight this time out? The answer is: Both can. Pacquiao
showed versus Rios last November that he can be disciplined and box
for 12 rounds. But Brandon Rios is not as elusive as Bradley, who can
be downright squirrelly. Pacquiao and Bradley are of near equal
stature at 5'6½” and 5'6”, respectively. There will be inside
fighting; they will each have to come to the other to get their work
done considering they share nearly identical reaches at 67”
(Pacquiao) and 69” (Bradley). Both can bounce on their toes and
box. Both have chins but can be stunned or dropped. If there is a
difference, it's that when hurt and dropped, Pacquiao generally
loses. He has been stopped three times. For now, Bradley has shown
resilience even when getting hurt and dropped.
things being pretty much equal, I'll go bold. Give me Pacquiao by
seventh round knockout. Call it a gut feeling. Call it what you want
but Pacquiao has the power edge and at least comparable speed. Off a
turn move, Manny drops Bradley. Whereas Provodnikov was
inexperienced, Pacquiao is not. Pacquiao evens things up and
rejuvenates his brand with a stunning performance.
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