By Sean Crose
“I’m not angry.”
Those words came from Manny Pacquiao during a media conference call on Tuesday to promote his rematch with Timothy Bradley on April 12th. Pacquiao was speaking of his infamous decision loss to Bradley back in 2012. It was odd, hearing a professional fighter say he wasn’t mad about a controversial decision. Yet Manny wasn’t done.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
“I always respect the officials,” he went on. “Nobody’s perfect in this world, so sometimes you make mistakes.”
Welcome to the world of Manny Pacquiao. It’s a positive place where even brutal knockouts, bad decisions and tax problems can’t knock the smile off your face. Manny’s human, of course, which means he’s flawed, just like the rest of us. Still, it’s hard not to admire the guy when you hear him speak.
Even Timothy Bradley’s recent criticism of the man can’t seem to get him down (which may be what Bradley intended to have happen). When a reporter on Tuesday asked Pacquiao about Bradley’s assertion that Pacquiao now lacks heart, Manny implied he turned the negative into a positive.
“I’m happy that he told me that,” he said of Bradley’s direct and bold accusation. “It inspired me.”
Whether Bradley’s words have inspired Pacquiao or not, they’ve carried a lot of weight around the boxing community lately. And that’s especially true with regards to the media. You can’t hear or read Pacquiao’s name these days without someone questioning his determination, his age, his problems outside the ring or the fact that Juan Manuel Marquez cleaned his clock over a year ago.
Yet there are good reasons for these questions being brought up repeatedly. Marquez DID clean Pacquiao’s clock, after all. Plus, Manny is no kid. Oh, and the tax problems, what’s the deal with them?
And let’s not forget the matter of religion. Pacquiao, for those who don’t know, has become an intensely devout Christian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Heck, lots of great fighters have been deeply religious. When you hear stories of Freddie Roach pointing out scripture in order for Pacquiao to be properly aggressive, however, you begin to question Manny’s willingness.
I asked Manny outright if his religious beliefs had made him question the morality of boxing. “No,” he responded immediately. “The religion that I have is a personal thing. Fighting in the ring is boxing. That’s my career and my God is always helping me and giving me strength.”
So then religion won’t be holding Pacquiao back against Bradley. In fact, it sounds like the contrary might be true. Still, the man hasn’t had a knockout in years. Besides, Manny’s trainer, Freddie Roach himself, claimed that Pacquiao wasn’t aggressive enough during his first match with Bradley.
“We need to be a little more aggressive this fight,” Roach admitted. Still, the famed trainer wasn’t lacking in confidence during the conference call. “Whatever Bradley brings to the table we’ll be ready for it.” he said.
So can fans expect a return of Pacquiao the knockout machine? “ If we fight the right fight,” Roach claimed, “we’ll knock this guy out.” Still, Roach was quick to point out that going for a knockout isn’t always a wise strategy. “We don’t go into fights looking for knockouts,” he said, “because if you do that, it’s not gonna happen.”
Be it by knockout, stoppage or decision, Pacquiao needs this win if he wants to remain as relevant in the sport as he currently is. Of course, he’ll probably never get to fight Mayweather, no matter what he does. That will be Mayweather’s issue to deal with, however, not his. For the truth is that Pacquiao is the anti-Mayweather, a humble guy who gives it his all and is willing to at least try to rise to the occasion, no matter what the consequences may be in the ring.
“I really think this is gonna be a monumental fight,” promoter Bob Arum said at the end of the conference call. Judging by the two combatant’s words and attitudes beforehand, it’s easy to conclude that Arum just might be right.