By Ivan G. Goldman
We know Manny Pacquiao will come forward against Tim Bradley on Saturday night. Even at age 33 and after 59 pro outings he remains a hungry fighter looking to mix it up. And hungry describes Bradley too. These two don’t run from trouble, and their backs rarely touch the ropes. What’s that add up to? An exciting night.
Photo: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
But there will be a lot more going on than a contest with a winner and loser. That’s because the specter of Floyd Mayweather and the possibility of the superfight everyone wants to see will hover over the ring, invisible, but still a solid, unavoidable presence.
As always Pacquiao wants to be victorious and give the fans their money’s worth. But face it, he also wants to put on a better show than Mayweather did against Miguel Cotto on May 5 in the same MGM Grand arena. The two fights are like back-to-back auditions, and winning dull doesn’t cut it, especially with pay-per-view prices nudging past $70. (Where will they stop? At the price fans refuse to pay)
But if Pacquiao really wants to sign for the superfight with Floyd that everyone clamors for, and if he still thinks it’s possible to get Floyd in the ring before the Polar icecaps go lukewarm on us, Pacquiao would also have to make sure he doesn’t look too formidable against Bradley. That would be similar to shaving points in basketball. Don’t expect him to do it. One, he’s a straight-shooter, remarkably so for a politician. Two, nobody wants to hang around with a tough, head-butting customer like Bradley any longer than he has to. If Pacquiao can take him out in the first round, that’s what he’ll do. But that’s unlikely to happen. Bradley, 28-0 (12), protects himself at all times.
Pacquiao hits harder than Bradley, throws faster punches, and we know he can take a shot. But how do we know? Because he’s taken so many. Too many, and from the likes of Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, and Agapito Sanchez, one of the dirtiest fighters to put on gloves in the last two or three decades. (Sanchez was shot to death in a Santa Domingo bar in 2005, four years after a technical draw with Pacquiao that involved a steady onslaught of Sanchez head butts and low blows) Pacquiao has been around so long that most of us tend to forget some of the hurdles he had to climb to get where he is. But you can bet his body hasn’t forgotten the Sanchez experience and others like it.
Neither Bradley nor defensive-minded Mayweather has taken anywhere near the punishment that Pacquiao has. Plus, lately he complains about cramps in those meaty calf muscles of his. If they bother him Saturday he’ll find it harder to avoid Bradley’s head charges. And no, I’m not making excuses for him. Boxing isn’t golf. Nobody earns a handicap. Neither am I picking on Bradley. He’s a likable guy. But facts are facts and he’s a dirty fighter whose skull-swinging ways have been noted by analysts such as Roy Jones. They’re part of his game plan, and if you watched HBO’s 24/7 series you know trainer Freddie Roach has for months been developing strategies to overcome Bradley’s cranial-cracking attack.
Mayweather, who began serving 90 days on June 1 for slapping around his ex-girlfriend again, will, whenever he gets to see the fight, be watching Bradley with almost as much interest as he pays to his Pac Man nemesis. So will his trainer Roger Mayweather. In fact, given Mayweather’s history of picking and choosing opponents, the lighter-hitting Bradley is more likely to be in his future than Pacquiao.
Floyd, 35, definitely passed his audition against the hard-hitting Cotto last month. As he gets older he’s more fun to watch. His aging legs won’t get him away from trouble the way they used to, so he goes to the ropes, where, with great reflexes and brilliant shoulder rolls, he metes out more punishment than he takes. But here’s another fact. It was Pacquiao, not Mayweather, who stopped Cotto. The only other fighter to do that was Antonio Margarito, who, you can bet, built his victory on a villainous foundation of loaded wraps.
We’ll know more about what the future holds for these fighters after we see what promises to be a heck of a battle Saturday night. But the future will still hold an element of mystery that, after all, makes it more fun to contemplate.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE