What a difference 48 hours makes. Scurrying to get to Madison Square Garden in New York City from Boston on time for the press conference to promote the April 9 bout between eight division world champion Manny Pacquiao and WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley, the cabbie is urged to step on it.
“What is going on there?” asked Mr. Cabbie, as he’s weaving through New York’s nappy-haired traffic. “Its a press event for Pacquiao and his last fight and I should’ve been there 15 minutes ago, so let’s do this,” said yours truly, a tad bit testy. Revealing a surprisingly quick wit, the cabbie-turned-comedian started urging the need to calm down and showed no desire to even remotely come close to running a red light. “Oh well nobody cares about that, besides, he owes me money from what he did to me last year.”
This produced laughter, as irony flashed all over his meter when re-interpreting what he’d just said. To me it translated: He owes me “Money” for what [they] did to us last year.
Casual and hardcore fans with an ax to grind against Floyd Mayweather showed their saltiness by not supporting his grand finale last September against Andre Berto, something which has carried over to “Pac”with a little more venom and indifference. The popular choice to leave Floyd undone by the masses on May 2, 2015, became a poster boy for extortion and larceny in a long list of political liars. There was no throng of wild fans and flashing bulbs waiting to greet him at LAX when he arrived from the Phillipines on Monday for the Tuesday launch of their 3 city press tour.
During what was a 30 minute ride from the financial district at Four World Trade to MSG, I had time to review footage from the presser in L.A. just two days prior and gauge the soundbites. Bradley was asked why Pacquiao had chosen him for his last hurrah and made some interesting comments. “I don’t know,” Bradley admitted before doing his best to issue an ominous warning in advance of their bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “But he’s in trouble. … [I] just have [a] completely different mind-set going into this third fight.
Believing that the hiring of Teddy Atlas as his trainer before his last fight has made him capable of upsetting Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs), Bradley sounded like a man prepared to successfully defend his WBO welterweight title. In their first fight together, Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC) spanked a weekend warrior version of Brandon Rios (33-3-1, 24 KOs) on his way to a ninth-round technical knockout victory Nov. 7.
Atlas, an ESPN boxing analyst, hadn’t trained a fighter in nearly five years before agreeing to work with Bradley. They seemed to click immediately and Bradley, who says he had stopped listening to former trainer Joel Diaz, said he’s now a smarter fighter who’s better defensively.
“Everyone’s going to be in for a surprise,” Bradley said on Tuesday in Hollywood. “From [our] first fight until now, Manny’s not the same fighter that he was. When I first fought him in 2012, that’s when Manny was at his best.”
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There were no such ridiculous promotional statements like the one above on Thursday (I mean, Tim, you got beaten badly on April 12, 2014 by Pac. C’mon man.). There was nothing but effusive praise coming from Bradley on this day and extreme gratitude for having been selected a third time. In the months since the Mayweather bout, Pacquiao had attempted to put together fights with either Amir Khan or Danny Garcia for the WBC welterweight belt vacated by Mayweather’s retirement, but Al Haymon wasn’t having it, and Top Rank’s Bob Arum was not going to allow Pac to fight (and possibly ruin) budding star and WBO super lightweight champ Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford.
Those developments, along with Bradley’s surprising stoppage of Rios, is what brought us to what should be called “Pacquiao vs. Bradley III: Blah, Blah, Blah-Blah, Blah”, as their was absolutely no buzz in the building for this bout at all. Even the taping of HBO’s “The Buzz” for the bout was corny. Seated alongside Pacquiao’s extremely supportive and lovely wife Jinkee, I asked Mrs. Pacquiao if she was certain that this was it for her husband.
“We can never say never, but I think Manny is truly ready to walk away,” said Jinkee, before offering a caveat. “I think only if Mayweather or [Juan Manuel] Marquez presented something real, he would have a hard time refusing that. But I hope and pray this is it.” Judging by the look and feel of this event so far, we all might get on our knees and pray for the same thing.
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