Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's Next For Bradley and Marquez?

The WBO World Welterweight championship fight between undefeated two-division world champion Timothy Bradley and future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez was a bout that had a couple of interesting subplots. Despite being undefeated in thirty professional fights heading into his fight with Marquez, Bradley was considered by some to be an underdog.

The basis of the opinion seemed to be greatly based on Bradley’s controversial decision victory over Manny Pacquiao last year. Although many, this observer included felt that Manny Pacquiao was the victim of injustice in that fight, what was overshadowed by most casual observers in particular is that although it appeared that Timothy Bradley was bested on that night, Bradley was still a world-class boxer who had won a world title and briefly unified it in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division. For one to believe that Bradley was somehow not a skilled boxer based on the controversial outcome of his fight with Pacquiao would be quite frankly foolish.

In previewing the Bradley-Marquez fight, I commented on not only the damage that the sport of Boxing suffers in the wake of a controversial decision like the one that was rendered in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, but also the damage that a fighter suffers as a result of the controversy. Not only did Timothy Bradley suffer more damage to his career, then he would have suffered had he lost that fight, but the controversy and the subsequent fight with Ruslan Provodnikov, a grueling back and forth fight, one might argue somehow prompted some to question just how skilled Timothy Bradley is as a boxer.

When Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez stepped into the ring at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on October 12th, it was not surprising to see this fight produce a little of everything. A fight that was a tactical chess match, with periods of excitement with both fighters having their moments throughout the contest. The bout was extremely close and difficult to score round by round. This was due to both fighters landing nearly the same amount of punches throughout most of the rounds. Bradley however, was the more active fighter and simply threw more punches than Marquez and was able to gain a slight edge in total punches landed at the end of the fight landing 168 of 562 punches thrown to Marquez’153 of 455 according to CompuBox. 

In some ways this fight reminded me of Marquez’ third fight against Manny Pacquiao in November 2011. Much like his fight with Bradley, Marquez and Pacquiao seemed to match each other punch for punch throughout most of the fight. Much like this fight, there were no knockdowns and very little to distinct one fighter from the other. The commonality however, between the two fights is that much like Bradley; Pacquiao was the more active of the two fighters. It was not surprising that much like three of Marquez’ four bouts of Pacquiao, there would be a healthy difference of opinion as to who won the Bradley-Marquez fight. In the eyes of this observer, Timothy Bradley was able to win five out of the first six rounds based on his ability to get off first due to his hand speed, being solid defensively, and simply just being the effective aggressor. Marquez however, made up ground in my view during the second half of the contest by seeming to land the heavier punches. Much like two out of the first three encounters between Pacquiao and Marquez, I scored this fight unofficially a draw 114-114.

Although I felt this fight was a draw, it did not surprise me to not only see a healthy difference of opinion as to who won this fight, but also a diverse difference in the scoring among fans and experts alike. There were some who felt that Bradley’s aggression was enough to win most rounds. Based on this, it was not surprising to see scores ranging from 116-112, or eight rounds to four, or 117-111 nine rounds to three.

As I have often said over the years when it comes to close fights where there are no knockdowns and neither fighter seems to stand clearly out from the other, it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria as to what they look for when scoring a fight based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense with a strong emphasis on clean effective punching. This was one of those fights where one could argue several different scenarios for either fighter to win the fight. On that night however, it was Timothy Bradley who would earn a hard-fought split decision victory to successfully defend his WBO World Welterweight championship.

Last week, I stated that along with my hope that the sport would be spared from any controversy  that the pledge of more scrutiny of officials by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that if this fight went the distance that we would get an adequately scored and just decision. As a writer and columnist it has become my custom in the wake of controversy involving scoring which more often than not results in black eyes and negative opinions about the sport of Boxing, to almost expect the worst when it appears that steps are being taken that might prevent such controversy going forward. In all truth and honesty I was prepared to voice outrage and anger toward the judges of this fight, Robert Hoyle, Patricia Morse Jarman, and Glenn Feldman had circumstances emerged from this fight making it appropriate to do so.  

In all truth and honesty, Judges Hoyle, Jarman, and Feldman delivered as adequate and just a decision as one could really ask for. Although it is all too easy sometimes to criticize judges, I do also believe that judges should be commended and given credit when it is due. This was certainly not the easiest fight to judge and could easily be viewed several different ways. The judges in this fight however, should be given credit for giving Boxing, it’s fans, and the fighters themselves a just decision. Whether this will lead to more positive change in the long-term future of the sport remains to be seen.

The obvious question coming out of this fight is what is next for both Bradley and Marquez? Last week, I stated that this fight could be an unofficial start of a round robin tournament of sorts, involving Bradley, Marquez, Mike Alvarado, Ruslan Provodnikov, Manny Pacquiao, and Brandon Rios. Although suffering the seventh loss of his career, Juan Manuel Marquez was not in any way disgraced in the fight with Bradley. Marquez is still a future Hall of Famer, a legitimate legend of the sport, and the loss does not seem as though it would hurt him in terms of marquee value or the ability to garner big money fights.

 There is an obvious possibility if such a concept of a round robin involving those fighters does in fact come to fruition that Marquez could easily have a rematch with Bradley, a potential fifth fight with Pacquiao, or could conceivably challenge Alvarado, Provodnikov, or Rios. All of which would garner significant financial incentives for all involved. Juan Manuel Marquez is certainly not finished as a fighter.

As for Timothy Bradley, he did all of what you can really ask of a fighter. He put forth a great effort, proved to any naysayers that he can hold his own against a highly skilled elite fighter in Marquez, and earned a victory. It was obvious following the fight that some were going to bring up the potential possibility of Bradley challenging WBC champion Floyd Mayweather. Although with wins over Pacquiao and now Marquez under his belt, it would appear to this observer that a primary obstacle preventing a potential fight between Bradley and Mayweather from happening would be the current business landscape of the sport.  It would be interesting to see if Bob Arum, Bradley’s promoter would be willing to work with Golden Boy Promotions who has co-promoted many of Floyd Mayweather’s recent fights to make that fight a reality. One must not also forget that in addition to rival promoters, there are also rival networks HBO and Showtime who are competing with each other to put on the best fights possible. Would the networks be willing to work together to make that fight happen?

At least in terms of the immediate future, it appears more likely in this observer’s eyes to see Bradley take part in this unofficial round robin concept. It would seem logical to see Bradley possibly pursue a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, should Pacquiao be successful against Brandon Rios in November. Most would argue based on the controversy that emerged from their fight last year that a rematch is warranted. Rematches however, between Bradley and fighters like Ruslan Provodnikov and Marquez should also be considered.

In the days following Bradley’s win over Marquez, there were some fans who suggested that Bradley should embrace the role of being a “Bad guy” or, “Villain” based not only on his controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao, but also the mixed reaction following the announcement of the decision in his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. This observer disagrees…

Timothy Bradley has always represented himself and the sport of Boxing with the utmost class and professionalism. I fail to see why a fighter would want to be portrayed as a “Bad guy” when in reality, he was not to blame and should have not have been blamed for the circumstances of the controversy in his fight with Manny Pacquiao.

One might argue that Bradley was just as much a victim of injustice due to the damage his career and reputation suffered as Pacquiao suffered for losing that fight, or even the sport in general. It will do Timothy Bradley greater justice to continue to represent himself and the sport in a classy and dignified manner, to be a good example of how although a fighter may not always be able to control their circumstances  that they can overcome and persevere from those circumstances. Wouldn’t that be something better to embrace and portray? I certainly think so…

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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