Timothy Bradley-Manny Pacquiao Rematch Promises to Reshape Welterweight Division


By Ivan G. Goldman

If Manny Pacquiao can’t score a solid victory over Timothy Bradley his career goes on life support. Yet WBO champ Bradley is a tough man to beat, and their April 12 bout in Las Vegas is his chance to prove he belongs on top.

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Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

The marketing campaign for this key match kicks off today with a media luncheon in Beverly Hills. Oddsmakers have tabbed Pacquiao as an approximate 2-1 favorite. He’s minus 200 while Bradley is plus 162, meaning you need to wager $200 to win $100 on Pacquiao, while $100 on Bradley wins $162. Those odds will fluctuate right up to the opening bell, depending on where the money goes.

Bear in mind that the oddsmakers try to set the line at a comfortable median where the house takes no gamble and just takes its profits off the money spread. The line isn’t designed specifically to reflect the fighters’ chances although in many cases it does.

Meanwhile, although Floyd Mayweather has yet to sign the contract to fight Amir Khan May 3 in the same MGM Grand Arena where Pacquiao and Bradley get it on, oddsmakers have already set odds on the contest. It’s a prohibitive minus 1100 for Mayweather and plus 600 for Khan, which tells us the house doesn’t really want to bet against Mayweather. It’s treating that particular wager like a bet on whether the sun will rise tomorrow.

This tells us that Bradley-Pacquiao is likely to be more compelling while Mayweather-Khan is viewed as a kind of sparring match, a chance for Mayweather to exhibit his skills before a big audience. Meanwhile, if we are to believe a recent tweet from Mayweather, he’s toying with the idea of fighting Marcos Maidana instead of Khan, who’s put himself on ice for months in hopes of getting the Mayweather match. Khan would attract plenty of interest in England, whereas Maidana’s Argentina carries little financial clout. Floyd asked fans to tweet him with their preferred opponent.

At this point it’s clear that the welterweight division rules. It’s the spot where networks figure they can attract pay-per-view money even when, as in the case of Mayweather-Khan, just about everyone agrees on how the fight would come out. Mayweather, 45-0 (26 KOs), has come a long way from the days when you could show up at one of his Las Vegas bouts and find scalpers selling tickets at a discount.

Fan interest in a Mayweather-Pacquiao match was revived when the Philippines congressman looked like his old self when he won a lopsided decision over tough Brandon Rios in November. His career crashed after he suffered a controversial decision loss to Bradley followed by a devastating knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth battle.

If somebody scores a solid win in the Bradley-Pacquiao rematch, Mayweather could put one last jewel in his crown by defeating that winner. Although Mayweather-Pacquiao has for years been the most lucrative contest that anyone could put together in any weight division, Mayweather was curiously delighted when Marquez scored his knockout victory over Pacquiao and removed, at least for a while, the pressure for a superfight with Pacquiao.

Bradley, 31-0 (12 KOs), is a fierce, proud champion who earned much respect when he outpointed Ruslan Provodnikov last March in a grueling, back-and-forth contest that many in the boxing media (including me) called Fight of the Year.

The main problem with the pivotal Pacquiao-Bradley rematch is that the first fight was a stinker. However, history shows that the second contest could look very different. People forget that the historically great match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in the Garden was followed by a crummy rematch. Then the third bout, the Thrilla in Manila, was so compelling it defied adjectives to describe it.

Although the April and May welterweight title matches could create great possibilities, there’s little chance that dueling networks HBO and Showtime will welcome them. They’re out to line up exclusionary contracts without regard to the consequences. The networks are far-flung territories within the empires of the huge global corporations that run them – corporations that don’t give a rat’s ass about boxing.

sick 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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