By Ivan G. Goldman
Las Vegas oddsmakers have Manny Pacquiao favored against Timothy Bradley, and that looks about right, for a number of reasons.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
The line is set for Pacquiao at -200 and Bradley at +162, meaning you have to bet $200 to win $100 on Congressman Manny. Wagering $100 on WBO welterweight titlist Bradley can win you $162.
First, consider what I call the Morales-Barrera syndrome. Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera fought three times, all bouts in Las Vegas. In their first contest, in 2000, Barrera edged out his rival in the ring but lost by split decision on the scorecards. It was everybody’s Fight of the Year.
Two years later Morales did enough to win, even putting Barrera down in round 7, but the judges, knowing Barrera got screwed the first time, awarded him the victory. I guess you could call that left-handed justice, Vegas style.
(Barrera won the third contest in 2004 by majority decision. Also a Fight of the Year.)
It’s a pattern, and you can see the logic even as you shake your head at the absurdity. When a fighter gets screwed on the scorecards and everybody knows it, the judges’ pencils are poised in his favor in a rematch. Bradley’s trainer Joel Diaz has even alluded to it by concluding that Bradley needs a knockout to win on Saturday night. Almost no one in boxing believes Bradley deserved his split decision over Pacquiao two years ago.
Another Bradley problem? He doesn’t get knockouts. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. He’s 31-0 (12 KOs), but remember that includes early fights against journeymen and tomato cans. Bradley’s a scrapper who can hurt people, but he doesn’t have the kind of paralyzing punch that’s supposed to be there for world-class fighters to call on. He stopped an aging Joel Casamayor in round 8 in 2011, putting him on the canvas three times. His previous stoppage? Seven years ago against Nasser Athumani. He’s stopped only two opponents in his last 14 outings.
So if Bradley, 30, can’t knock out the Pac-man and a decision is likely to go against him, how is he supposed to win? And it’s all happening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, home of left-handed justice. That explains the odds. And bear in mind that even if the Morales-Barrera syndrome didn’t exist, Pacquiao, even at age 35, is still one dangerous dude.
I know what you’re going to say next, and I don’t blame you – that Pacquiao, at least lately, hasn’t achieved much in the kayo department either. He scored his last stoppage against Miguel Cotto in 2009, which means he’s won early only once in his last eight outings. But looking at it analytically, I’d have to put an asterisk on that record.
Joshua Clottey didn’t come to fight, but to survive. And after Shane Mosley felt Pacquiao’s power, he took Clottey’s strategy a step further by trying to make nice to Pacquiao. He must have touched gloves 200 times per round. You almost expected him to pull out a snapshot of his kids.
Pacquiao pounded Antonio Margarito’s head into what looked like a rump roast and then backed off. At one point he asked his pulverized opponent, “Are you okay?” It angered long-time trainer Freddie Roach, who knows a fighter needs to retain his killer instinct to survive. Bradley has alluded to Pacquiao’s niceness repeatedly, calling him a great fighter who’s lost his brutal edge. We all know that Pacquiao has become much more religious these days, and sometimes he lets it interfere with the business at hand. But by now it’s been mentioned so often he appears determined to put that theory to rest. Bradley can expect no mercy, and southpaw Pacquiao, 55-5-2 (38 KOs) packs power in both fists.
On the other hand, Bradley doesn’t need mercy. He’s one heck of a fighter, and this time he’ll be in there with socks on his feet (as opposed to the first Pacquiao bout, in which his feet got so torn up they required hospital treatment). He’s quick, unpredictable, and he proved against Ruslan Provodnikov that he’s willing to die if that’s what it takes to achieve victory. Lots of fighters say that, but Bradley has walked the walk. That’s why the odds are 2-1, not 3-1 or steeper. Bradley finds a way to win.
Their first fight was relatively boring, but with so much on the line, this one promises to be better. These are two solid fighters with deft moves in their arsenal, and one of them can really hit. Whether the telecast is worth seventy bucks for high-def viewing I leave to you. It looks like promoter Bob Arum spent about 40 cents putting the undercard together. In fact, it’s so undistinguished it just might surprise us.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.
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