Saturday night featured a fine matchup of counter punching specialists in Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. Both had beaten Manny Pacquiao(one convincingly, the other controversially) and were looking to climb on top of the other. Bradley is still on a respect retrieval tour after his embarrassing decision win over Pacquiao in 2012. It’s no shame to him because the judges control who wins a decision in boxing but hearing Bradley say in this month’s 24/7 series on HBO that he won the fight only makes my blood boil. Marquez left all controversy to the creeps when he knocked out Manny last December. He knocked him out cold in the 6th round of a fight that he was losing and getting battered in. Yes, it is impossible to discuss these two fighters without mentioning Pacquaio because he the link in the chain that pulled them together on October 12th, 2013. What happened?
Bradley took the older fighter to school, turning JMM into the hunter and making the fight a tactical war of boxers and leaving the slug fest to the crazier folk. Bradley didn’t waste any time trading with Marquez or walking into the trap that was set for Pacquaio with the SHOT in December. Bradley kept a distance, hammered Marquez with his jab and won on 2 of the 3 cards. Many boxing analysts had no problem with a judge at ringside scoring it for Marquez but I had it a clear win for Bradley, eight rounds to four. This was a decisive victory for the undefeated fighter nicknamed Desert Storm(maybe because nothing really exciting used to be happen in his fights). Lately, Bradley didn’t do much convincingly.
In March, Bradley wanted to prove that he could stand in the middle and dish with a monster, and he picked The Serbian Express Ruslan Provodnikov(look at his face in pictures, he’s a human pitbull) for the exchange. Bradley was torpedoed and nearly destroyed. He was knocked down twice and beaten up early but recovered and delivered punishment of his own and won a very close decision over the Russian beast. The fight messed up Bradley and made him sit out for two months without boxing activity. In a sitdown with HBO’s Max Kellerman, Provodnikov said after watching the fight that he indeed lost. That’s a big thing to say for any fighter, especially when I hear Bradley tell the cameras he won a Pacquiao fight where he left in a wheelchair and barely put a mark on Manny’s face. It means a lot when I have to hear Marquez after the fight last night say he was robbed again. For any man who makes his living with his hands and fights for a career, to admit failure and loss is big in my book.
Marquez is at a crossroads. He didn’t fight a horrible fight but lost cleanly and may be only marketable for a Pacquiao 5th fight. It seems that only the Filipino champ brings out the best in him and other fighters, at least lately, only make him look older and slower. Marquez last night looked like the guy who tried to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. years ago. He couldn’t sit back and lay a trap for Bradley because he had to spend the majority of the fight avoiding stiff jabs and every time he moved in, Bradley was waiting for a combination. In a game of counter punchers, one man will have to come forward and take a risk and force a big moment. Every time JMM did, he was met with big blows. Bradley won at ease and only truly lost 2-4 rounds in my opinion. What does Marquez do next? He either retires or takes a fifth fight with Pac man. Does that fight carry weight or seem exciting? I think so and here is why.
These two guys always produce thrilling toe to toe bloody battles and if Marquez can swallow his pride and see the worth, he should take on Manny again. Why not? Pacquiao wants revenge for a punch he never saw coming in a fight he was winning. Marquez wants to cap off his career and why not show it was no fluke that he knocked out his arch nemesis. They have fought four times and here is how I have scored them. Manny won the first one with his three knockouts and decent finish. The second fight was a bloody draw in my opinion. Each fighter pummeled each other. The third fight was Marquez’s, even though he did take his foot off the gas pedal in the 12th round and may have lost the fight there. The fourth was a clean cold knockout but for nearly 6 rounds a battle of wills that was tipping towards Pacquiao. Why fight five times? Because four times isn’t enough and this sport can use as many entertaining bouts as it can get. If he doesn’t fight Pacquiao, here is my tip for Marquez.
Contact the Miguel Cotto camp. Cotto is a proud Puerto Rican champion and just demolished Delvin Rodriguez in a credibility contest that saw the 32 year look better than ever. While Canelo Alvarez or a rematch with Mayweather Jr or Pacquiao could be in Cotto’s view, a fight with Marquez wouldn’t be bad either. Think about the matchup. Cotto is a hunter in the ring and walks down opponents for better or worse. He always brings the fight and every one of his bouts are entertaining. He has a great record full of battles. Marquez wants to retain some credibility and score another win before retiring or go into 5th fight with Pac Man with some confidence. Take on Cotto. A power puncher who pursues against a counter puncher who likes to set traps and return fire. It could be a good fight.
Bradley will probably make an attempt to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. and that will end in a refusal on Floyd’s part or a routine Money Team shutout victory. I don’t consider Bradley one of the best because he didn’t beat Pac, barely beat Provodnikov and scored a decision win over a 40 year old. He is improving but not one of the best. A smarter play for him would be waiting for Pacquiao to defeat Brandon Rios next month and then setting up a rematch with him. Until he erases that black hole off his resume, Bradley isn’t one of the best to me. No way. Wait for Pac to drop Rios and set up a rematch Tim. I am sure your head can see more rest from that March fight with the Russian.
Next week, Colorado champ Mike Alvarado takes on Provodnikov on HBO in a battle that should bring out the blood buckets and cold press clamps. Alvarado engaged in two legendary wars with Rios and won the second match decisively He takes on a guy who nearly knocked Bradley’s head off. Expect war. I will be wrapping my hands as I watch the fight.
After that fight, be sure to catch Legendary Nights: Ward and Gatti, which chronicles the amazing three fights between Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti. While their fights were mesmerizing and thrilling, their friendship afterwards provided the true narrative of this tale. Must watch.
That’s all I got fight fans. Thanks for staying.
-Dan L. Buffa
@buffa82 on twitter