by Matt Gerovac
First, I want to acknowledge how much of a fan of Manny Pacquiao I have become. Before his four epic battles against Juan Manuel Marquez, his triumphant return against Brandon Rios, and his decisive wins over almost every world-class opponent he found in front of him, Pacquiao was just another starving kid growing up in the rural, poverty-stricken streets of the Philippines. He came from nothing to become a world champion and a congressman. I wish there was another triumphant victory in the story of Manny Pacquiao. It would only be fair for Pacquiao to avenge the horrible decision loss and beat Bradley, answer critics, and silence the haters once more. But boxing does not always offer a poetically judicious happy ending. Timothy Bradley will dismantle the aging Pacquiao tomorrow night and here are the reasons why:
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
1. Bradley is fundamentally sound
What Bradley lacks in punching power, he makes up for in speed, head-movement, and ring generalship. Against Ruslan Provodnikov Bradley was under constant heavy fire, but it wasn’t just heart that got him through it. If a boxer is in trouble, the worse thing to do is to stop moving and stop throwing punches. Even when Bradley was literally out on his feet, he continued to move and throw punches. His instincts carried him through the tough rounds and, as his mental faculties returned, he was able to inflict enough punishment on Provodnikov to come out on top. Pacquiao is not as big or strong as Provodnikov, nor does he possess the “kill or be killed” mentality that he once had.
2. Pacquiao has lost something
Pacquiao still has the speed, fitness, stamina, and punching power to beat most men he will face. But, against an extremely outclassed Brandon Rios, Pacquiao could not put enough of an attack together to get him out of there. Pacquiao has lost something since his knockout loss to Marquez. I alluded to this earlier, but Pacquiao no longer possesses the mentality to be a successful boxer. His duties as a congressman, philanthropist, and husband are not conducive to the “kill or be killed” mentality that is needed to continue to be a champion. To put it plainly, Pacquiao will be beaten because he no longer has the will to win.
3. Bradley is hungrier
Boxing has everything to do with physical training, speed, power, and fitness. But countless hours in the gym, hundreds of rounds in sparring, and marathons of road work will not make a fighter more hungry. After all the accolades and accomplishments, Pacquiao has no reason to keep fighting other than money. Bradley has a lot more to prove because, despite his accomplishments, most don’t consider him on the pound for pound list. In order to be considered as the best, you have to beat the best. Bradley will beat Pacquiao because he has more to lose and much more to gain from this fight. Pacquiao already has a legacy while Bradley is still trying to create his own.
4. Pacquiao has more mileage
Yes, it is true that with modern training methods, diet, and good lifestyle choices the longevity of professional athletes’ careers have greatly increased. But, in a contest between two evenly-matched adversaries, the younger, better version will prevail. In the ring, it’s not only about age, but also about mileage. Pacquiao has been knocked out three times. A fighter isn’t the same after losing consciousness as a result of blows administered by an opponent. It’s not just psychological, but it’s a physical fact: once that button is pushed, it’s a lot easier to find it again. This is the same reason why NFL players retire after repeated concussions. If your head has been separated from your neck once, it’s bound to happen again.
5. Manny’s time has passed
There are still rumblings of a Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather mega-fight. But, Pacquiao won’t beat Bradley, who essentially is a smaller, much less skilled version of Mayweather. Bradley is younger, hungrier, in his prime, and has enough good fundamental boxing skills to beat the aging Pacquiao. I hope I’m wrong, because I’m a big fan of Pacquiao as boxer and a human being. But in boxing, as in life, you can’t always get what you want.