After taking his time to decide on who he’ll face in what is being called the final fight of his legendary career, Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao chose a third encounter with a resurgent Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on April 9, 2016. It is not the fight that he nor trainer Freddie Roach wanted, but ultimately, it was decided that it was the fight that made the most sense from a business stand point. It is also the reason why its become very difficult to be a consistently excited fan of boxing.
Back on November 7th at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, just prior to Bradley’s successful defense of his WBO welterweight belt via 9th round TKO, I’d already decided what the title of the article on that bout would be: “Pacquiao vs. Bradley III: Blame it on Rios”. Not because of any special crystal ball or powers bordering on omniscience, but because Top Rank’s Bob Arum is woefully predictable. He knew Rios was a mess and in terrible condition heading into the fight, and that Bradley was a surefire way to return a surgically repaired Pac back to championship heights.
Never mind that he’d already won 20 out of 24 rounds against Bradley (if you think Bradley won their June 2012 fight, to borrow from Roger Mayweather, you don’t know @%$# about boxing), it is not a fight that fans really wanted to see at all. Pacquiao, who along with Kazakhstani menace Gennady Golovkin, has been an 80’s fighter in these new millennium ’10’s, and wanted to face WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford if he couldn’t get Floyd Mayweather (he couldn’t- at least for now). He’ll deny it, but Mayweather secretly met with wealthy investors in Moscow and Dubai in a vain attempt to finagle a deal on a rematch that fell apart. So as Pac essentially settles for Bradley, unfortunately, so do we.
From a purest standpoint, the hardcore fan well knows that Crawford or WBC super lightweight champion Viktor Postol represents the future of the sport and a much tougher challenge than Bradley. But because their name recognition doesn’t register with the public and perhaps sensing a loss to Pacquiao would damage their prospects, Arum (it should be clear this was his decision) chose what he felt was the path of least resistance. Arum also considered the prospect of Pac ending his career with two painful losses in a row and being somewhat responsible for it. But this is in stark contrast to what Pacquiao has been about his entire career.
We understood third fights with Juan Manuel Marquez or Erik Morales, but a trilogy with Bradley is uncalled for unless you follow the logic of Arum. After an October 2015 that saw Postol go, well, “postal” on Lucas Matthysse, and Crawford bludgeon former Pac sparring partner Dierry Jean, Arum’s promotional eyes had seen enough. The obvious angle to sell this will be Bradley’s stoppage of the once indestructible Rios (Pac pounded Rios in November 2013 but couldn’t finish him) and the uncertainty of Pacquiao after being arm-barred by Mayweather and the NSAC.
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The strange thing is, it’ll probably be one helluva fight. There’s a saying that goes he that expects nothing shall never be disappointed, and that’s primarily the reason why we were all so thoroughly disgusted with May & Pac. The clues that it would be a historic stinker were all over the place in the week leading up to the fight. With full perspective on Mayweather and the prescient words of his (eh-mm) “final” opponent Andre Berto, Floyd’s opponents ‘are always exciting until he gets in the way’. With Floyd out of the way and the brash Teddy Atlas in to rival Roach for soundbites, a reasonable facsimile of the Bradley who showed up against Ruslan Provodnikov may be in the cards here. If that proves to be the case, then that can only mean good things for the soon-to-be-Senator Pacquiao and us.
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