Two years ago, Manny Pacquiao climbed into the ring against Timothy Bradley and was ready to hand the undefeated fighter his first loss. Over the course of 12 rounds, Pacquiao did more than enough to deliver on that bet. Any time a fighter takes on another over money in front of a big crowd, he is making a bet that he can beat that guy and prevail. In order to understand the stakes at hand this weekend in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand for the rematch, you have to understand the beginning. Let’s roll back.
On that hot June night, Pacquiao seemed to be dominating Bradley. Whatever Pacquiao had lost in power he made up for with speed and a constant narrow angle attack that few fighters can escape. Bradley suffered a pair of foot injuries and went into survival mode midway through the fight. He connected with his own punches but neither of them caused Manny to stop the attack or get truly fazed. He laughed them off. Bradley, slipping and off balance from the beginning, simply didn’t do enough to win the fight. He lost. It was clear, logical and coherent. My two year old son could have told you Pacquiao won. After 12 rounds, all Pacquiao could do was look at himself and ask if he did enough.
One of the Filipino’s shortcomings has nothing to do with boxing skill and everything to do with compassion. Manny is a dedicated congressman and supports his home town country of the Philippines with constant charity and acts of care. Sometimes, that care and compassion sneaks into the ring and infects his fights. Far too often since Pac found god and Congress a few years ago he has encountered trouble in finishing opponents. He doesn’t pound fighters until they drop. He’s a predator for 7-8 rounds and then recedes because he doesn’t want to hurt the other man. That is fine if this were golf or bowling. This is boxing, Pac. Attack, attack and attack again until the other guy hits the canvas. If you don’t attack like that, the judgement is left to people who have never fought and they could betray the shit out of you.
What happened two years ago? Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Bradley and lost his belt. He lost a lot more respect when he walked into a majestic Juan Manuel Marquez right hand but the decision handed down by two judges threw Pacquiao’s career into a tailspin. He deserved the win that night but held back late in the fight and therefore left open the opportunity that he could be robbed. A man once said, let your fists be the judges. On April 12th, Manny needs to follow this mantra to the tee and back.
Pardon me if I don’t sit here and feel overly sorry for Bradley. He’s a great fighter, and encountered some wrath after getting a gift decision. That’s a consequence and a blessing at the same time for fighters. Bradley still can’t shake the negativity and that overall angst fueled his desire to take the rematch. He admitted this past week that he thought about suicide which is crazy yet realistic for men who battle with their fists yet recover with their minds. Bradley has something to prove this weekend as well. He rebounded from the fight and outslugged Ruslan Provodnikov and out-boxed Juan Manuel Marquez this past winter. However, like the rest of the boxing world, he knows something went wrong that night. He steps into the ring with as much to fix as Pacquiao.
Here are cold hard facts. 49 ringside officials and writers scored the fight for Pacquiao. In a review board after the fight, two weeks later, 5 boxing judges scored the fight for Pacquiao. In this chaotic world of critique and judgement, the two most important judges gave the fight to Bradley. If you think he won the fight, I don’t know what fight you watched. It was an insanely bad decision.
Hopefully, these men find some peace this weekend. Who prevails in a match the whole world will be watching? Do the fighters or the judges determine the victor on April 12th? You tell me. Each man has a decent chance this weekend. Bradley has matured as a boxer and Pacquiao is a hunter out to erase a bad page in his book. A betting man couldn’t go wrong but if I had to place money on it, I would go with Pacquiao. Does he have the killer instinct that Bradley and others have said he has lost? Does Bradley have the skills to beat Pacquiao straight up or will he need the judges help? Bradley has promised a decision and Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach has called for the same result from his fighter, so who emerges victorious this time?
I would be lying if I said I was completely unbias in that Pacquiao vote of confidence but I think if Manny does what he did two years ago and doesn’t stop until the final bell, he can win this fight. If Bradley boxes Manny and stays on the outside, he could bully his way to a win.
The rematch will solve one thing. It will tell us how much of a part history plays in the present. How do boxers build their resumes? Do they look in the past to fuel the future or do you let the current fight dictate their path?
Watch the fight this weekend. This time, nothing will be spared or left to chance. Feelings, compassion, effort or will. One man will stand tall in the end. This time, let’s hope the right man wins.