Friday, April 11, 2014

Bradley-Pacquiao: Chapter 2 Will There Be Closure?

In the sport of Boxing there are several reasons why a rematch would be considered by the parties involved in a fight.  A reason such as a highly competitive fight between two world-class fighters with a healthy difference of opinion as to who won the fight would obviously fuel interest in a rematch. There are also other reasons why a rematch might take place.  Of course, one of the most obvious reasons might be from a business standpoint.

From a financial perspective sometimes no matter how competitive a fight may or may not have been in the ring, a possible rematch may simply boil down to how successful a fight might have been in terms of both live gate and pay-per-view numbers. There is perhaps another factor, which may play as big a role as any in determining if a rematch is warranted.  If a rematch is mandated, not necessarily by the sanctioning organizations who govern the sport, but mandated by the ultimate authority the Boxing fans.

Such a circumstance presents itself as undefeated two-division world champion and current WBO Welterweight world champion Timothy Bradley and former champion Manny Pacquiao prepare for their highly anticipated rematch Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Although it has been nearly two years since their highly controversial first encounter, there is little dispute that the rematch between the two is something that Boxing fans worldwide have demanded loud and clear.  

By now the story of what happened in the first fight between the two has become common knowledge to most Boxing fans, both casual and enthusiast alike.  Bradley, the always “Game” warrior who endured excruciating pain as he suffered ligament damage to both of his feet during the first fight with Pacquaio, but bravely fought on, despite the pain.  Bradley’s valiant performance however, will forever be overshadowed by what happened at the end of the twelve round championship bout.  

Even though there was no doubt as to Bradley’s courage in the fight, the consensus of many, this observer included was that Bradley was bested on that night in June 2012 by Manny Pacquiao. Despite the consensus of the fight being a decisive victory for Pacquiao, the decision rendered in the fight will be remembered by many as one of the most controversial and bizarre  decisions in the history of the sport.   

The opinion of many at the end of the fight was that Pacquiao had won the fight by margins of at least nine rounds to three or ten rounds to two. Although some, myself included saw this fight even wider in favor of Pacquiao in scoring the fight a shutout, there were a few rounds during the course of the fight where Bradley could have won some rounds. Rounds that are commonly referred to as “Swing Rounds” where there may not be much action taking place, where it can boil down to which fighter does a little more that might determine who wins a round.  

Despite the consensus of a clear win for Pacquiao, the three official judges saw this fight differently turning in a split decision with two judges scoring the fight 115-113 in points or seven rounds to five in favor of Bradley.  The decision was quickly met with great passion and anger by both fans and experts alike.  This observer said quite candidly both after the fight and in the days that followed that the decision rendered in this fight disgusted me. 

Unfortunately, when there is a controversial decision like what happened the first time Bradley and Pacquiao met in the ring, anger can at times be pointed in the wrong direction.  Instead of pointing anger squarely in the direction of the source of such a decision, some will choose instead to direct their anger at the fighters involved.  Such was the case with Timothy Bradley.  

Regardless of what one’s opinion might be as to who won the first fight between Bradley and Pacquiao, how Bradley was treated by some in the aftermath of that fight was unjust and one might say downright cruel. When it comes to fights that end under circumstances as that fight did, it not only does damage to the integrity of the sport as a whole, but also and perhaps more importantly can do damage to the fighters involved, specifically the fighter who would appear to be the benefactor of the controversy. Unfortunately, in this case that fighter was Timothy Bradley.

An argument should be made that the win for Bradley probably did more damage than a loss to Pacquiao would have. Despite his accomplishments prior to the first encounter with Pacquiao, those accomplishments were all, but forgotten by some. Bradley responded by defending his title in a grueling give and take battle against Ruslan Provodnikov in March of last year earning a hard fought unanimous decision victory to retain his title.   

In his last fight, Bradley engaged in a tactical dual with future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez. In an extremely close fight that this observer scored a draw, Bradley was able to outwork Marquez and earned a split decision. Despite the two hard fought victories for Bradley since the first fight with Pacquiao, there may be some who might still question his standing in the sport as the rematch approaches.  

Although much of the negativity about the decision of the first fight has been pointed in the direction of Bradley, Manny Pacquiao has also gone through trials and tribulations in the two years since the first fight took place.  Following the loss to Bradley, Pacquiao chose to face his arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth fight in December 2012.

As has been the custom throughout the series of fights between Pacquiao and Marquez, the fourth fight delivered plenty of back and forth action. Unlike the first three fights however, the fourth encounter would not go the distance and debates as to who won the fight would not be needed. In a fight where both fighters tasted the canvas, Marquez brought the fight to a sudden end knocking Pacquiao out cold in the closing seconds of round six. 

Despite his loss to Bradley earlier that year, many still considered Pacquaio if not the number one fighter in the world, then most certainly 1-A on most pound for pound lists.  The definitive knockout at the hands of Marquez however, would change Pacquiao’s standing in the sport’s mythical pound for pound debates.  After suffering such a devastating knockout, it was also fair for some to question whether or not Pacquiao could recover.  In Pacquiao’s last fight he showed no ill effects as he dominated former WBA interim Lightweight champion Brandon Rios over twelve rounds in November of last year.

This now sets the stage for the rematch between Bradley and Pacquiao.  A few questions that some might have as this fight approaches are what effect has each fighter’s most recent fights had on them?  As well, due to the element of controversy that emerged from the first fight will it result in a much more action packed fight with both fighters not looking to leave it in the hands of the judges?  

In my eyes this fight could go several different ways. Both fighters have hand speed and both can be solid defensively. In terms of the type of fight that will be fought, I believe the fighter who can establish the pace early could be the one to dictate how the fight will be fought.  The most intriguing storyline of this fight however, does not center around the fighters and any potential tactical adjustments from the first fight.  

The main storyline of this fight in my mind centers around the three judges who will be charged with the responsibility of rendering a decision should the fight go the distance.  A valid point that the judges being a focal point of this fight can be demonstrated not only in relation to the first fight, but also the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez fight from September of last year. The decisions in both fights received much criticism thanks in part to judge C.J. Ross who served as one of three judges in both fights.

A sign of the times thanks in large part to the advent of social media has been that Boxing fans have the ability to let their voices be heard.  It is a given that much attention will be focused on the three judges for the Bradley-Pacquiao rematch.  Judges Michael Pernick, John Keane, and Glenn Trowbridge arguably have one of the most important assignments in the recent history of the sport.  

What this rematch basically amounts to is a rare scenario of two fighters who are each looking for vindication.  For Timothy Bradley he is looking to validate his first victory as he seeks a second victory over Manny Pacquiao one of Boxing’s biggest stars.  The need for validation and recognition for Bradley could be demonstrated in that although he is the champion coming into this fight, he has not gotten top billing in the promotion of this fight.  Pacquiao’s name being put before his could be looked at as a champion being disregarded.  One could say however, that the reason Pacquiao has received top billing in the build up to this fight, despite being the challenger going in and having lost the first encounter could simply have to do with his star status in the sport.  Whether it be a marketing issue or possibly a strategy to play off public opinion as to who won the first fight, for a champion it has to be a source of frustration.  

For Manny Pacquiao he is seeking to avenge his loss to Bradley nearly two years ago. In the bigger picture for Pacquiao, he also seeks to prove that the winless year he had in 2012 was not a sign of decline and that he is still among the best pound for pound fighters in the world.  Another question some might have with regard to Pacquiao is whether or not he still has a knockout mentality having not scored a knockout win since stopping Miguel Cotto in 2009.

For two fighters, each with something to prove the rematch could end up being a memorable night for Boxing fans. Not only is there a possibility of an action-packed fight between two great fighters, but also for the sport, this fight offers an opportunity to heal itself from a controversy that many consider a black eye for Boxing and could bring redemption to both fighters win or lose.  

Will Controversy emerge once again?  For the fighters sake, for the judges sake, but most importantly for Boxing fans worldwide, I certainly hope not…  

  “And That’s The Boxing Truth.” 

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1 comment:

  1. Good observation. Vindication is what this fight is all about. The only issue is that if Manny should when by a controversial factor, it will be a huge backlash.