Manny Pacquiao breezed to a well-deserved, unanimous decision over previously undefeated Timothy Bradley to retain his WBO title on Saturday night. The fight had endless buildup stemming back two years, when Bradley pulled off a miraculous upset, albeit a controversial decision, over Pacquiao that would be discussed at length among the fight critics. Pacquiao-Bradley II offered nothing less than an entertaining 48 minutes of boxing action where the outcome seemed to correct the errors of two judges in July 2012. While Pacquiao came away with a decision win and his legacy still intact, some wonder what may be next for both PacMan and Bradley. Let the talking heads begin the PacMan-Floyd Mayweather talks again, and promptly, please stop that nonsense as soon as possible. Can I have “Money Grab” for $500, Alex? Despite the nonsense that promoter Bob Arum keeps spewing towards the direction of paying fans, the PacMan-Mayweather fight is all but a dead horse destined for the glue factory.
Following the fight, Timothy Bradley was classy in defeat as he acknowledged that he abandoned his game plan and didn’t listen to his corner man, Joel Diaz, as the fight progressed. His desire to lure Manny into a fight-ending counter right hand never took shape as Manny wisely chose to box, use his feet, and score points from rounds 6 through 12. The plot thickened during the post-fight interview as Bradley commented to HBO broadcaster, Max Kellerman, that he also hurt his calf. But no excuses, right?
When I sit down and determine an angle for my articles, I usually make a list of occurrences from fight week, phrases from the fighters, analysts or media or something interesting from the actual fight itself. Sometimes this “brainstorming” session between me, myself, and I takes days. More times than not, however, it doesn’t take long at all. As Timothy Bradley went through his post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, he said everything right, until we found out he hurt his calf in the early rounds, which ultimately veered him off the path he wanted to pursue as he defended his title against challenger Manny Pacquiao. I found the mention of “no excuses” interesting when Bradley continued and started to think, “if you don’t have excuses then why did you follow-up with the statement about your calf?” Then I started to think back to Manny’s previous two losses to Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez and I had to ask myself, “have I ever heard Manny lean on an excuse for his shortcomings in the ring?” Why is it that I never heard an “excuse” from Manny in any of his losses? For as much hype that surrounded fight week and Manny’s alleged “lack” of focus, “absence” of skills, and “personal” distractions, I have to commend Manny for never using a crutch in defeat.
In the weeks and days leading up this fight, the underlying theme was that one fighter was checked out and the other was avenging a victory. Think about those last three words. “Avenging a victory.” Is that even possible? In this situation it was for Timothy Bradley as he attempted to prove that he did in fact win his first bout with Manny Pacquiao. But through all of the chaos that littered fight week and the endless chatter from the boxing media, we didn’t hear one peep from Manny Pacquiao…the fighter who lost the first bout in agonizing fashion. Manny Pacquiao isn’t fazed though. He went through media obligations, interviews, press conferences, and his inevitable walk to the ring with a big smile on his face. This guy just enjoys his life. No matter how chaotic it may be. Without recognizing the burden he carries for his country, his family and his team, Manny Pacquiao just smiles through it all…just enjoying the ride while he is able to. And on Saturday night, the smile became bigger as he avenged his loss to Timothy Bradley with a 12-round decision and salvaged what some people considered to be the end to his legendary run in the fight game.
Despite the victory for PacMan, I had to ask myself some questions as I revisited my two-part article, which was posted on http://www.thefightvoice.com on Friday, April 11. I made some determinations about Manny based on his career arc as a fighter, where I perceived Timothy Bradley to be as a rising star and where I thought Manny’s mental framework was going into this fight. I concluded that Manny was done. Checked out. Close to retirement. Ready for the next stage of his life. While part of me still believes these facts to be true, I have to acknowledge that Manny came to fight on Saturday. He trained to show the world that he is still elite. I truly believe some of his skills, like his footwork, are elite; however, I contend that there are areas of Manny’s game that aren’t the same as they were 10 years ago.
As I completed the “honey-do” list on Saturday morning doing my best to finish yard work and cleaning to my wife’s satisfaction, I hit a snag with a rather old power drill. While making some tables in the backyard, my classic 20 volt Black and Decker drill suddenly became a liability for the project. This drill had it all years ago when I first used it. It had power, speed, torque, and performance. That drill helped me through some tough times. Unfortunately, this past Saturday something changed. On Saturday my drill couldn’t finish the job. The screws were going in slow. They were being stripped by the lack of torque. And at times the wood just said, “not today my friend…” The job still got done. But it took longer. It was agonizing. Annoyingly inefficient. Slightly ineffective. And in the end it just wasn’t fun. While Manny finished his job against Bradley on Saturday to retain the WBO belt, I couldn’t help but make a comparison between how my drill performed and how Manny won that fight.
Manny Pacquiao is fast…still. His feet continue to be his core competency, which for a fighter is where it all begins. He was throwing combinations and moving to the right or left of Bradley so fast that Bradley was throwing “blind” haymakers into the unoccupied air in hopes of landing a punch. For Bradley, who is considered a better technical boxer than Manny, throwing punches into the air without any contact is the worst possible outcome. And it showed as Bradley went from managing the fight in rounds 1-5 to slowly being pulled away from his game plan and playing right into Manny’s hands. But Manny can’t punch anymore in my opinion. The saying goes, “the last thing to go for a prizefighter is their power…” Aren’t we here with Manny? Can we say that my Black and Decker drill and Manny Pacquiao may need to be put on the shelf for good? I begrudgingly answer that question with “yes” because at the core I am a huge PacMan fan. But I have serious concerns going forward. While Bradley is known for a tough chin, as he proved against Provodnikov, there didn’t seem to be more than a handful of punches that affected him. It was Manny’s feet that won that fight, not his hands…or better yet, maybe it was Bradley’s calf that lost the fight…but “no excuses,” right?
So where does Manny go from here? The Manny-Floyd rumors will begin to swirl again soon. And the money will be there if the fighters can come to an agreement. If I am Floyd, this is a no-brainer. Floyd was able to avoid Manny when Manny was, well, “Manny.” Now that Manny is not the “Manny” we used to know–an unorthodox, fast and powerful puncher, who could put anyone to the canvas with one punch–there is no doubt in my mind that Floyd wins this fight.
If Manny truly wants to continue on this journey in the boxing world, then he needs to accept that every fight from here on out will need to follow the game plan he implemented against Timothy Bradley on Saturday, April 12. They will all be average fights, with a handful of highlights and ultimately a 12-round decision that goes to the scorecards. Knockouts will not be part of the plan. It can’t be anymore. Like an aging pitcher in baseball adjusting his pitches from hard and fast to slow and accurate, or a NBA big-man with bad knees working on a 15-foot jumper rather than banging in the key for layups and put-backs, Manny needs to accept that his new style is high-output combinations, movement out of the pocket, finding the available angles, holding when necessary and repeat. And that will be acceptable for some, but will the average boxing fan and diehard Pacquiao follower accept this “lackluster” style? That I am not so sure of.
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