By Tyson Bruce
Boxing is not a sport that can be sorted by numbers, facts, and stats the way let’s say baseball or football can. Still, modern technology affords us an objective method of analysis that shouldn’t be ignored. In the case of the upcoming rematch between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao the stats illuminate the kinds of performers they are and have been on the big stage.
In the first fight between Pacquiao and Bradley the numbers support the opinion that the fight was one of the worst decisions in boxing history. Sometimes a fight appears to be one-sided but the numbers tell another story. In this case both public perception (only two members of the press scored the fight for Bradley) and the raw data indicated what should have been a landslide victory for Pacquiao. Pacquiao landed a total of 253 punches to just 159 for Bradley. That’s a difference of 94 total connects.
In fact, Pacquiao out-landed and scored with a higher percentage of punches than Bradley in every single round of the bout according to compubox. Just to put this in perspective, in the much-maligned Pernell Whitaker vs. Julio Caesar Chavez draw the punch differential was 93.
In the plus/minus category—determined by subtracting an opponents connect percentage from the listed fighter’s connect percentage—we have a statistic that best indicates fighters that exemplify boxing’s Golden Rule of “hit and not get hit.” Pacquiao lands an average of 35% of his blows against other top ranked fighters, while limiting his opponents to 25%. This gives Pacquiao a +10 rating, which ranks him 9th among active top fighters. Timothy Bradley lands an average of 31% of his total punches and his opponents score with 29% of theirs. This gives Bradley just a +2 rating, ranking him 24th among top ranked fighters.
So, what does this mean, if anything? Bradley has often been criticized for not being able to separate himself from his opponents in big fights. His +2 rating is proof of just how close many of his top fights have been. Pacquiao, on the other hand, has shown an ability to dominate other top ranked opponents. This may also be indicative of the difference in punching power between the two men. Opponents are afraid to come forward against Pacquiao where they perhaps wouldn’t be against Bradley, who has just a 37% knockout ratio.
Statistics do not take into account the level of opposition fighters face, which is why a guy like Saul Alvarez ranks so highly in so many categories. However, you could argue that Pacquiao has better numbers against an equal or even superior level of opposition than Bradley. Still, it doesn’t always affect the results, as Bradley managed to defeat Marquez without controversy, whereas Pacquiao suffered a knockout loss in his last outing against the Mexican. However, if Bradley wants to get the respect he so viscerally demands then he must start to create a bigger gap between himself and his opposition.
Just to show how close many of Bradley’s victories in top fights have been just check out these numbers. In his eleven title fights Bradley has scored three controversial or at least very narrow victories. Bradley won the title on a split decision against Junior Witter by scores of 114-113, 115-113, and 112-115. In his recent win over Ruslan Provodnikov the scores were 115-112, 114-113, and 114-113. Bradley scored another split decision in his last win against Juan Manuel Marquez by scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 113-115. If you were to add up the total scores of all of these fights the difference would be just 9 points in favor of Bradley.
Considering that Pacquiao has only failed to win by knockout or unanimous decision on just two separate occasions (both against Marquez) since 2005, against the highest level of opposition, it’s fairly remarkable that so many now regard Bradley as the more dominant fighter. It’s possible that all his numbers and past fights no longer resemble the fighter that Pacquiao still is. However, they do serve as a reminder that Pacquiao is far from being an underdog.