And yea, Manny Pacquiao will walk through the shadows down the aisle to the ring, for the dawn of His welterweight fight with Tim Bradley is upon us.
Oh, sorry. Thought this was my Bible study group.
There has been an awful lot of talk about biblical matters in the buildup to the HBO pay-per-view main event between Pacquiao and Bradley, with Pacquiao’s recent religious awakening being chronicled by both HBO’s 24/7 cameras and irresponsible Internet journalists everywhere (or, at least, on Examiner.com).
But Bradley has shown that he has as much belief in himself as Pacquiao does in his religion, and the unbeaten but anonymous Californian has convinced some that he will upend the Filipino megastar when they meet in the ring on Saturday night.
And lo, with another big fight imminent we gather the TQBR crew around the sacred Roundtable to turn water into wine, wine into scotch, and scotch into a roaring debate over boxing. This week’s participants are Mark Ortega, Andrew Harrison, Tim Starks, Alex McClintock, Patrick Connor, Karl Greenberg, Jeff Pryor and Scott Kraus.
1. Do you think the Juan Manuel Marquez fight indicated a decline in Pacquiao's abilities, or do you just think Marquez has a perfect style to push Manny to the limit? Do you think the recent changes in his lifestyle will influence his performance in the ring? Are Manny Pacquaio's best days in the ring behind him, or do you expect him to deliver more highlight-reel performances as he did against Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto?
Mark: Pacquiao has probably less than three fights left in him, total, win or lose Saturday night. I think he is being setup for a fall and who better to capitalize than a still hungry Timothy Bradley? Unlike previous Pacquiao opponents, Bradley is making his first $4-5 million payday while a lot of these guys were grabbing hold onto their last big payday. That is quite some motivation and I think that proves to be a bigger difference in this fight than what Manny is going through.
Andrew: The Marquez rubber match illustrated that, all physical things being equal, the Distrito Federal ring general is a far more intelligent fighter than his nemesis. Pacquiao has been steamrollering opponents who were naturally far larger than he over recent years with a freakish mix of speed and power -- resembling Aaron Pryor with a bionic punch. Saying that, the majority of his victims held the same level of defensive acumen as Tex Cobb might wearing a catcher’s mitt taped to his face -- they were willing skittles. Once Marquez elected to put himself on the same physical plane as his rival, he reset their argument to one of skill rather than might, and Marquez is all the way around a better boxer.
How do you pre-empt a Pacquiao performance? The man defies human physics and there isn't anyone to compare him with in a historical sense, so it’s extremely difficult to find a point of reference to base any supposition. At this stage of his career I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him teleport mid-fight, grow another arm, or breathe fire onto the other guy whilst intermittently whistling "Sometimes When We Touch."
Tim: My suspicion is that he's on the decline, but with Manny being Manny, it's hard to tell. There's this mysterious calf thing that Gary Andrew Poole wrote about, and then there's always this or that distracting him outside the ring -- like his wife reading him biblical passages about infidelity in the locker room, per this Kevin Iole piece. Then, yes, there are match-up issues; Marquez makes most everyone look like an amateur, and Shane Mosley ran, and so forth. I just know that the trend doesn't look good -- Pacquiao was consistently astounding for a while there, and isn't anymore. I wouldn't put it past him to turn in another "holy moley" type performance again, because even boxers on the decline have spikes where they show off their old form (Mosley-Antonio Margarito, for instance). But at 33, I doubt Manny returns to, and stays on, the level he once was.
Alex: I'm going to go with a little from column A and a little from column B. "Pacman" and "Dynamita" would probably split 100 fights 50/50, but the third installment seemed to provide the clearest result (which ironically was not reflected on the scorecards). I doubt the Pacman's "lifestyle changes" will have much of an effect (though that multiculoured Jesus/Pacman slideshow in 24/7 was hilarious). I think the real question will be whether Pac can use Bradley's bullrushing to put him on to the end of his punches or whether he'll struggle with the pressure.
Patrick: I think Manny has indeed declined a bit, as any fighter that's been in the ring since their teen years and fighting on a world class level for a decade-plus tends to do, but the Marquez fight was styles making fights as well. Marquez just seems to have whatever "it" is that evens up what Manny does in the ring. As for his lifestyle changes, it's more silly to me than anything else. Good for him if he truly made positive changes in his life, but his list of excuses and/or distractions seems to grow bigger and bigger with each passing fight. I wouldn't expect him to be fighting all that much longer, though, so I'm not entirely sure what we'll see him do from here on out.
Karl: I don't think the Marquez fight says anything about the arc of Pacquiao's career any more than Floyd Mayweather's less-than-perfect fight against Miguel Cotto means May is declining. Manny has -- as is well known -- been distracted in recent months, which may have said something about his fight with Marquez, so I have to think he'll deliver a much more dominating performance on Saturday night. The "if" has less to do with Pac than with what Bradley can bring. Short answer: I don't believe that one fight can end a career or indicate a decline unless the fighter in question suffered a concussive loss in that fight.
Jeff: Marquez and Pacquiao will always make for close tense fights. They are just very balanced against each other and I don't take too much from Manny's last performance outside of that observation. That said, Pacquiao is in decline at this point in his career. He's been in some tough fights, and while I don't think he's all that compromised physically yet, I do think mentally he's not as hungry as he was when he first moved to 147 lbs. I think he's capable of delivering a highlight reel KO of Bradley, and if Pacquiao comes out with fire it could very well happen. Look at the knockdown from Bradley's fight with Kendall Holt. It was the type of catastrophically explosive punch that should end a fight and Bradley bounced up immediately... BUT the fact that he got caught with that kind of punch at all really illustrates what could happen here. I think there is a very good chance he goes down in a firefight.
Scott: Manny can still win this fight, and he’s still one of the best boxers in the world, but he’s not what he was at his peak. And given that he relied on his freakish physical attributes to achieve his greatest successes, I see him struggling more to adapt to a decline in skills more than a more technically-oriented fighter would.
2. Is Bradley equipped to hand Pacquaio his first loss in more than seven years? Has his performance hyping the fight and introducing himself to the public via 24/7 convinced you that he could become a crossover star with a win or a strong showing against Manny?
Mark: Being a strong supporter of Timothy Bradley as a fighter for a number of years prior to him getting the Pacquiao fight, I've enjoyed what he has brought to the table. Still, the gate hasn't done as well as other Pacquiao fights and for once there are tickets available this close to the fight, and secondary brokers are offering them at less than face value. That kind of flies in the face of Bradley being a potential crossover star.
The interesting thing is, what if Bradley wins? Floyd wasn't necessarily a crossover star until he got the Oscar De La Hoya fight, and through a great promotion that fight did the biggest numbers of any fight ever. While this fight won't touch even the top five PPV buys ever, if Bradley wins convincingly you have to imagine a rematch would do big numbers. If he loses, I think he is still bankable as a star on the tier below Pacquiao and Mayweather BUT I wouldn't expect him to get a Floyd fight.
Andrew: Bradley is a guy who maximises what he’s been given. In that regard, he's brings to mind a miniaturised version of Evander Holyfield, another bald and moustachioed overachiever who bookmakers were able to dine out on for many a long year. Bradley will come to fight hard, which always gives a man a chance; however, it would be a surprise to see him topple Pacquiao.
I haven’t been privy to the HBO show. Does Bradley even have a following?
Tim: I do think Bradley can do it, as I outlined here. Andrew: Bradley has come off pretty well in 24/7. He's got a good personality. Win or lose, I think he'll benefit from such widespread exposure of it. My girlfriend has taken a rooting interest in him, and all the reviews on Twitter are positive. The issue with him is his fighting style. When I've hosted people at my apartment for fights, the non-hardcore fans tune out the mauling/fouling guys, including Bradley in his fight against Joel Casamayor. It's ugly, aesthetically, and even people who don't follow the sport pick up on that. So he'll be limited, to a degree, in what kind of star he can become unless he fixes that.
Alex: Yes, Bradley's equipped to do it. Yes, he's been charismatic on 24/7. And yes, beating Pacquiao (who's an unbeatable machine in the minds of many) would make him an instant crossover star. A strong showing in a loss probably wouldn't hurt his chequebook, either.
Patrick: "Crossover star" might be a slight exaggeration, but there's a certain prestige or reputation that would come from beating Manny, that's for sure, and he's done an outstanding job hyping the fight considering he's all but unknown to the general public. I've long been of the opinion that Bradley is underrated in general and does indeed have the tools to at the very least trouble Manny, though. He might not be better in any glaring area, but I have a feeling he'll be able to neutralize Pacquiao a bit en route to losing a close decision.
Karl: Um... I think in this fight anything's possible. He’s not a technician, but Bradley is smart, aggressive, fast and hungry, if not as scintillating in the ring as Pac. If I had to bet, and I won't: I'd bet on Manny, of course. As for Bradley becoming a crossover star, that's tough to begin with in boxing. You know how the part of a volcanic mountain rising out of the South Pacific (speaking of Manny) is just a fraction of the actual mountain (the underwater part can be larger than Everest)? Well, if, say, a football star's ascent to crossover stardom starts at sea level, boxers have to start at the ocean floor. It's a tough slog because most people don't know from boxing. Bradley in any other sport would be a big star. He'd be making commercials for Kia, Under Armour, he'd be one of the Gillette Young Guns. If he beats Manny AND he were the kind of obsessive, clever self-promoter like Mayweather, he could be big.
Jeff: I think Timothy Bradley is one of the best six or seven fighters in the world. I didn't waver in that thought after his ugly win over Devon Alexander -- he did what he had too, and I think critics were too hard on him. He absolutely has the tools to beat Manny Pacquiao. He has speed, tenacity and stamina. If Manny has slipped or is listless, I think Bradley can outwork him to a decision. Would that make him a crossover star? Not really. He doesn't have star quality. He just doesn't have "It." More marketable, bigger paychecks, more opportunity? Of course... but I don't know if I can envision a rabid fanbase ever forming around Bradley.
Scott: I think the stars could align for Bradley to become a star. He’s fighting Manny at the perfect time, when he no longer looks superhuman but is still a megastar who has yet to lose officially. If he managed to upend Manny, he would have the rematch in store, but he would also be the most natural non-Pacquiao opponent for Floyd Mayweather regardless the result of the rematch. And if he beat Floyd, notching the scalps of the two biggest stars in the sport? The sky is the limit. It’s a somewhat unlikely scenario, but far from unfathomable.
3. Will Bradley's noggin play a factor in the outcome of the fight? If you were a Vegas bookie, what odds would you put on it?
Mark: The over/under in this fight is tricky because Bradley's head has been a problem in many of his fights and against a southpaw who lunges in like Manny it is all the more likely. I would place the odds on Manny being cut by a butt at -175.
My pick is Timothy Bradley by a 12 round split decision. I expect Bradley to win eight rounds and get discredited on one scorecard.
Andrew: Perhaps, and Pacquiao hasn't always reacted well to being roughed up in the past. Bradley would need to get close enough to "Pac-Man" to use it, which isn’t a given. And if he's unable to deal with the Filipino’s warp speed, he may as well save himself the bother of polishing that bad boy up. Odds of around 7/2 seem about right.
Tim: Betcha the head butt establishes itself in the very 1st round. It's a real factor. As a Vegas bookie, I wouldn't even put up a line. I could only lose money.
Alex: It could, because Pacquiao has shown that he's not a big fan of getting cut (as much as you can be a fan of getting cut). My friendly neighbourhood bookmaker is paying 41/1 on either fighter being disqualified, and at those odds, I'd have a cheeky flutter.
Patrick: Odds are his head makes its way into the outcome one way or another, whether it's a technical decision, or even just Manny's wariness of getting butted affecting how he approaches the fight. But Bradley does have the option of laying back and boxing a bit, so it might not be as big of a guarantee as the recent joking suggests.
Karl: It could. But I think Pacquiao will be careful enough in this fight to avoid that. I was thinking about the bookie odds today actually, when Top Rank ran the live press conference embedded in their banner on Ringtv. I was thinking I'd do 5 to 2 odds, if such a think exists. I really don't see Pacquiao losing because as good as Bradley is, he doesn't have MP's extraordinary angles.
Jeff: I think it's pretty likely that heads will clash. If Pacquiao starts bleeding I think it could be a major factor... maybe a determining factor. The Filipino doesn't react well to being fouled or cut (see the second Barrera fight and the first Morales fight respectively). If a cut slows Manny down or puts him on the defensive, I think Bradley will seize the opportunity to come guns blazing and pour it on. As far as odds it gets stopped on a head butt related injury... if they are fighting ten times I'd guess a couple of those end with just such an event. It's a legitimate issue with Bradley's style, and I think if there is any weakness in Manny it will come out in a situation where his eye is compromised and it's in the first couple rounds.
Scott: Like most, I see Bradley’s head coming into play. I see early warnings and perhaps a point deduction. I see the potential for a fight-changing cut on Pacquiao. And most importantly, I foresee the next installment of Pacquiao camp excuses featuring the chrome dome of Mr. Bradley.
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