By Ivan G. Goldman
Timothy Bradley, whose fights often feature a distressing cycle of head clashes, will have to move in close to get dirty with Manny Pacquiao, if that’s how he wants to play it June 9. But getting close to Pac Man has time and again proved to be a dangerous location. He has a deadly arsenal of his own, and even if he refuses to fight fire with fire there are plenty of counter-moves he can make.
In fact, former WBA bantamweight champ Paulie Ayala, an astute student of the game, believes Bradley was made for Pacquiao. “I think Manny’s going to be stronger and quicker too. I know he and Freddie (Roach) will work on throwing uppercuts when Bradley comes in low. Also side-stepping him. You can push him off. There’s plenty you can do.”
Ayala pointed out that like Bradley, he too was a southpaw and suffered his share of head clashes against orthodox fighters. Fighting clean or dirty, it happens. “I got a concussion from one of them. It really affected me. My style is to come in at the body, so I have to be aware” of head positions. “I would angle off to the side. . . . You throw your combinations, and he’s going to try to duck.”
If he’s trying to come up with his head, “you push his head down. And you keep him outside if you have to. You can still do body work from the outside with long shots. And uppercuts will bring him up. Or you feint him. You tag him with a few jabs, then you catch him with the uppercut again.” Yes, pushing the guy’s head down is a foul, but it beats serving him free lunch.
Ayala said it’s not that clear Bradley throws his head on purpose, but he agreed that when skulls collide “Desert Storm” does seem to come out on top more often than not. It’s quite possible that Bradley, having experienced his own share of accidental butts, worked on what to do about them as a defensive move against the inevitable. He agreed that Bradley doesn’t seem to worry about crashing skulls, and that poses a danger. It’s a distraction, like watching out for three fists. If your opponent slams you with a big right while you’re avoiding a swing of his head, you were arguably a victim of his head strategy.
Referee Pat Russell, who’s been the third man in the ring for two of Bradley’s fights, once told me he thinks a good way to counter head-chargers is to bang them on the ear, but landing a glove on an ear attached to a swinging head is easier said then done. Russell was critical of Devon Alexander and his trainer Kevin Cunningham for having no apparent strategy to counter Bradley’s head “except to complain to the referee.” In their January 2011 contest, a twelve-rounder that was crucial to both their careers, bloodied Alexander lost a tenth round technical decision.
Ayala figured that a dedicated cranium crasher will usually get “at least two free ones before he loses a point.” It’s the kind of calculation employed by experienced foul-masters. But Ayala didn’t want to single out Bradley. He noted that Floyd Mayweather, for example, has been accused of making extracurricular use of his elbows.
Ayala doesn’t see the Pacquiao-Bradley match as being decided by fouls, and he doesn’t think Bradley, 28, will be up against a fading Pacquiao, at 33. “He doesn’t take beatings. There’s less abuse, less injury, less damage to him. He’s not engaging in wars.”
Also, at this stage of their careers Pacquiao will be more comfortable and solid at welterweight. Whatever undefeated Bradley does, you can bet Congressman Pacquiao won’t just be standing around watching.
Goldman’s next novel, Isaac: A Modern Fable, will be out next month from The Permanent Press. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon HERE.