Tag: Timothy Bradley

Pacquiao-Bradley II Preview

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_Bradley_face2face-farina 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.

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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.

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My Love For Boxing: Thank You Gatti and Ward

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On Saturday night, HBO presented a great fight between two warriors and a great documentary about two of its legends.  The documentary chronicled Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward’s vicious three fights and their strong friendship afterwards.  I wanted to mention how it reinvigorated my love for the sport.  Boxing doesn’t get a great rep these days.  Fights still sell but usually the marquee stars can only guarantee a sellout.  The UFC and MMA action have taken over the mainstream fighting world and I can see why.  It’s more brutal, the sport gives back to its fighters and nurtures younger fighters and its shorter and quicker.   Boxing is as close to baseball as it gets because both sports require patience and a certain mindset to locate all the underlying complexities and tactical planning of the sport.  It’s not just two guys getting into the ring and banging fists into bone.  There’s more to it than that.  There are lives behind these fighters and I love hearing more about them.  Every time HBO produces another round of 24/7, a series that takes you into the lives of two fighters before they meet in the ring, I can’t get enough of it.   With boxing, there is a romanticism to it like baseball.  We can get emotional about it.  When you watch boxing, you grimace with each potently landed body shot and lean in for the close up when the man’s jaw seems to be dislocated.  As fans of carnage, and we all are, boxing still has a lot of appeal.  You just need to pick the right fights and have a little patience.

Ward and Gatti were warriors.   A two time champ in Gatti who had the heart of three lions and NEVER quit in the ring.   He gave until it was gone and would ask to be sewn back together in any way possible to finish a fight.  He was more than old school.  He was biblical tough.   In 2003, his career seemed to be going downward when he ran into a fellow fighter who was of the same never say die breed.  Micky Ward, the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts.   Ward never won a championship but he knocked out a few former ones with his incredible array of body shots mixed with hook to the head.   These two fought three times, and pounded on each other so much, they became close friends when the final bell rang after the 30th round.  Gatti won the last two fights after underestimating Ward’s body punching ability in the first two fights, but every contest carried a special flavor.  Fight of the year flavor.  They weren’t trash talkers like Floyd Mayweather Jr..  They weren’t paper champions who never fought a real threat.  Gatti and Ward were fighters.

As HBO commentator Jim Lampley once said in the middle of a broadcast, “You don’t play boxing.  You fight.”  It is war and a place where men can go to die.  It has happened and will happen again.   It’s the same as running into a burning building, getting into a formula one race car or jumping off the cliff of a mountain on a snowboard.  A rush plays into the role but it’s built on the mindset that you can do it and do it very well.  Gatti and Ward had it in their blood.  They were fun to watch.

Their lives were completely different outside the ring.  Ward wasn’t a wild soul yet only found himself part of a wild family.  You may have seen his life portrayed partially in David O. Russell’s amazing Oscar nominated film starring Mark Wahlberg(who narrates the documentary).   Ward was a union worker before and while he fought on the side.  He was a blue collar Boston prodigy who got his hands dirty and wasn’t afraid to earn his keep.  A former stepping stone for champions who didn’t taste those ranks until he beat Gatti, Ward was a family man.

Gatti was born in Italy, raised in Canada and relocated himself to New Jersey as a teenager.   A French Canadian gangster in the ring, Gatti had more than one wife, a couple of kids from different women and didn’t mind living the high life.   He drove fast, loved women and had a huge heart.  He may have had his share of fun but he had class.  He stayed with the same promotional company and manager for his entire career.  Gatti was loyal and that was a trait he shared with Ward.

If you love and understand boxing, you will know 95 percent of fighters don’t hate their opponent.  It’s a business to do what they do and constantly I have to explain to people that the reason they hug after a fight and exchange pleasantries is because the war is over and they can be friends again for a brief period or forever.   Gatti and Ward took that to another level.  One of the most special moments in boxing history is the two men sharing a long passionate embrace after their final fight.   Draped over one another and not feeling a need to let go, simple minded people may have mistook it as a little too close.  A boxing fan was able to register the meaning behind it.  They respected and had grown to love each other as friends, allies, and willing warriors who took it to the limit and left nothing covered.

Without their three fights and the ability to revisit them any time, boxing loses a lot of luster.  Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward represented boxing at its best.  I have respect for Ali, Foreman, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Leonard and Hagler but what these two men did in three fights was take the sport of boxing to a whole new level.  An emotional level of respect and pure head to head warfare few matchups are capable of.   If you saw it, you knew it was more than boxing.  It was a partnership.  Today, it can take a long time to get a rematch made.  Gatti and Ward fought three times inside a year and a half.  These two guys didn’t mess around and left the delays to airplanes and the DNV.

When Ward retired after the third fight, he became part of Gatti’s walk out crew and trained him for his last fight in 2007.  When Gatti retired, the two men remained friends until Gatti’s untimely and mysteriously unsolved death in Brazil in 2009.  Gatti was found dead in a hotel room where he was staying with his wife and infant son.   The wife was arrested and charged with the murder and eventually released.   When the final cause of death was stated as suicide, any wise mind with half a cent up top knew it was bullshit and there was a cover up.  Gatti was murdered and didn’t expire to his own tune.  Someone else finally put the raging warrior to rest.   Ward and Gatti’s manager know in concrete sincerity that Gatti was a victim of a harsh crime and left the world too soon at the age of 37.   It seems that most sports tales end with a bit of tragedy and it usually is unfortunate and too soon.  Ward and Gatti were destined to be friends for life after their bloody battles.   The break in their life can be attributed to every untimely death in life, by murder or disease or random action.   Death is a son of a bitch.

The one thing I will take from revisiting Arturo “Thunder” Gatti and “Irish” Micky Ward’s collisions in the ring and their friendship outside of it is the ability to remember what is sacred and ageless about the sport.  The ability for two men to step inside a ring, wage war on each other’s bodies and lives for 10-12 rounds and then return to the normal graces of the human race.   Men who let their fists be the judge of execution have my respect but the fighters who respect their own craft and know what has to be done inside that ring have my love and appreciation.   If you have the chance, watch their fights on YouTube and if you have HBO, watch this documentary, under the name, Legendary Nights: Gatti-Ward.  If you don’t have HBO, wait for the release of the DVD or just watch the fights on YouTube.  If you have three minutes, watch this round.  Round 9 from their first fight, which any boxing pundit will tell you is arguably the greatest round of boxing in the history of the sport.  It’s brutal, beautiful and blunt.  What boxing was and always should be.

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Before the documentary, a great tribute to the raw ferocious power of two guys going at it in the ring was on display with  light welterweights Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov going toe to toe for 10 rounds before the Russian pitbull faced brawler wore down the Colorado based Alvarado and scored a technical knockout.  Alvarado was a modern day Gatti, refusing to go down in his fights and getting mixed up in two fight of the year brawls with Brandon Rios(the second of which he won earlier this year).  In Ruslan, he met an unstoppable force and his will was broke.  Before the fight, I picked Ruslan to win by TKO in the 10th round on twitter and wasn’t given a satisfying look.  This was no fluke pick.  While I respect and like Alvarado, I knew this rising star in Provodnikov was a dangerous man.  He took Timothy Bradley to the brink in March and nearly knocked him into early retirement.   In that fight, my opinion is that Bradley was saved by two near knockdowns that were scored slips.   Provodnikov will tell you he thought he lost but he is being a proud Siberian monster.  Bradley fought back and scored a narrow decision but in my opinion, a second fight will once again bring out the truth about Bradley and that is he doesn’t deserve to be unbeaten at all.   Provodnikov proved at First Bank Arena on Saturday night that he doesn’t just knock out low rank boxers on ESPN2 anymore.  He is a real threat and is gunning for gold.  A big puncher is only caged until he meets the right opponent.

Boxing is going strong and will only get better later this year when Manny Pacquaio takes on Rios in China.   The sport is alive and well with a few black eyes involved for good measure to keep it honest.

Thanks for reading,

Dan Buffa

PHOTO CREDITS-DAILY MAIL, USA TODAY

Bradley-Marquez Wrapup And A Look Ahead in Boxing

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?

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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

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