Monday, April 11, 2016

Thoughts On Pacquiao-Bradley III

The third battle between former multi-division world champions Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley had two intriguing storylines leading up to it. The first storyline of course, was the same as virtually every trilogy. Who would come out on top in the third chapter between these two great fighters? In the first two fights between Pacquiao and Bradley there was controversy, spirited competition, and vindication for both fighters.

The third fight however, seemed to be more of a question of what one fighter had left to give as a boxer as opposed to simply who would emerge victorious in presumably the final fight between the two. The  question this observer had prior to this fight centered on the condition of Manny Pacquiao’s right shoulder following a torn rotator cuff that the future Hall of Famer had suffered prior to his mega fight against Floyd Mayweather last year. Along with that question came the subsequent question of how Pacquiao would perform in the third fight against Bradley following what was a lackluster performance against Mayweather.

Although much of the focus centered on Pacquiao prior to this fight, it should not be overlooked that Timothy Bradley came into the fight with momentum on his side and one might argue was revitalized following his teaming up with the legendary Teddy Atlas as his trainer. For Bradley, the question much as it was in the second fight was whether or not he would be able to validate what most felt was a controversial victory over Pacquiao in their first meeting in June 2012.

Prior to this fight, this observer stated that it was logical to assume that Bradley might have looked to box Pacquiao in this third encounter as opposed to the way he fought the second fight in seemingly putting everything he had behind every punch he threw with the clear intention of trying to knock Pacquiao out. It also interested me to see whether or not Bradley would attempt to test the condition of Pacquiao’s right shoulder from the outset.

The second storyline that accompanied this fight was the possibility that it would be the final time Pacquiao would step into the ring as a fighter. With all the questions asked and all the attention of the Boxing world focused on the fight, it was time for the two former world champions to finally do battle on April 9th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

It was not surprising to see the fight begin at a tactical pace as was the case in the first two fights. The clear difference in this fight however, as compared to the first two encounters was how well Bradley was able to use lateral movement and his ability to place his punches in a more tactical way than he had against Pacquiao before. I was particularly impressed with how well he was able to throw his jab with consistency and ability to avoid some of Pacquiao’s counter punches. It was also clear that Pacquiao had no negative effects in his first fight following shoulder surgery.

Many of the rounds in this fight were close as both fighters seemed to match each other punch for punch. As I have often said over the years when it comes to close fights it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria in how they score based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense. In this fight for several rounds there was simply not much to separate the two fighters.

After six rounds, I had the fight scored even on my unofficial scorecard. This was due to both fighters having their share of moments in each of the rounds and neither fighter really being able to stand out clearly from the other. In round seven however, that would begin to change.

In the closing seconds of round seven Pacquiao was able to connect with a short right hook on the chin Bradley, which caused Bradley to momentarily lose his balance and caused his gloves to touch the canvas for a technical knockdown. Although I initially thought that it was more of a slip by Bradley than a legitimate knockdown, video replays confirmed that Pacquiao had indeed struck Bradley with the right hook that caused Bradley to lose his balance and the ruling of a knockdown against Bradley was indeed the appropriate call by Referee Tony Weeks.

Even though he had lost ground on the scorecards due to knockdown in the seventh round, Bradley would respond by stunning Pacquiao with a left hook in round eight that momentarily had Pacquiao on the defensive and allowed Bradley to put together a flurry of punches. Bradley however, was not able to sustain his attack for long.

Any questions regarding the legitimacy of the knockdown in round seven would be put to rest in the ninth round. Bradley came out for the ninth round clearly aggressive and looked to build on the momentum that he had going at the end of the eighth round. Pacquiao would respond by dropping Bradley for the second time in the fight with a flush left hook to the head that sent him down to the canvas. The always “Game” Bradley was able to quickly compose himself, was able to get up from the knockdown, and the fight continued.

At this point in the fight, it was clear that with two knockdowns and a deficit of two 10-8 rounds in rounds seven and nine against him that Bradley would likely need a knockout in order to win the fight. Although Bradley would have a solid eleventh round where he was able to connect with right hands as well as mixing in some combinations, he was unable to turn the momentum completely back in his favor and Pacquiao was able to go on to win a twelve round unanimous decision by a margin of 116-110 on all three official judges scorecards.

Unofficially I scored the bout eight rounds to four in favor of Pacquiao the same as the three official judges in this fight. Although a margin of six points may give the appearance of a lopsided victory in Pacquiao’s favor, it really reflects the two knockdowns that went against Timothy Bradley in this fight. It is important to remember that Professional Boxing is scored on a round by round basis and even with the two knockdowns factored into the equation, this was a close fight and one might argue the most competitive in the trilogy between Pacquiao and Bradley. A fight where both fighters brought out the best in each other.

Even though Timothy Bradley exits this trilogy having lost two of three bouts to Manny Pacquiao, he has nothing to be ashamed of. Bradley has always given it everything he has each time he enters the ring and proved in this trilogy why he is regarded as one of the best fighters in the world. Bradley also showed the ability to cope with misdirected backlash that was in this observer’s estimation wrongfully pointed in his direction following the controversial outcome of the first fight. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the outcome of that fight, there is no disputing that Timothy Bradley is a great fighter and a credit to his sport. Despite this latest setback, I have no doubt that Bradley will remain a significant factor in the Welterweight division going forward.

As for what is next for Manny Pacquiao he stated after the fight that his decision for now is to retire and focus on his political career as the current Congressman is currently running for the Senate in his native Philippines. There were however, ramblings of potential fights for Pacquiao with the likes of Saul Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather.

Although no one can dispute Pacquiao’s immense popularity as a global figure and ambassador for the sport of Boxing as one of the greatest fighters of all time, it will be up to him as to whether or not he continues fighting regardless of what happens in the upcoming Philippine Senate elections. If one were to ask for my opinion however, as to whether we have seen the last of Pacquiao as a fighter the answer to that question is I do not believe so.

After all, Manny Pacquiao is a superstar of the sport and makes millions of dollars any time he steps into the ring regardless of who is standing across the ring from him. Even though at thirty-seven years old Manny Pacquiao has had an illustrious career, has been through wars over the years, and one might argue really has nothing left to prove beyond a potential rematch with Floyd Mayweather, it is very difficult for any fighter to walk away from the sport when you not only have significant name recognition clout, but also have the ability and the following to generate significant revenue streams no matter the opponent or the venue where a fight takes place. We will simply have to wait and see whether Pacquiao’s intention to retire proves to be legitimate as time goes on.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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