Who woulda thunk it, say, five years ago that the road to Manny Pacquiao's next big bout would have been interrupted with a big ole pothole kerfuffle about same-sex marriage? You have to shake your head, and maybe chuckle, at how far Manny Pacquiao, the boxer-Congressman-political lightning rod, has come these last fews years. HBO's first 24/7 ahead of the June 9 Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley scrap, “Road to Pacquiao-Bradley” debuted on Saturday night, and none of last week's detour into culture war territory popped up, thankfully; instead, we got a deeper look into the less well known portion of the promotion, Bradley, saw a bit more about what makes him tick, and received a deeper look into Pacman's fuller embrace of Christian values.
The marvelous and majestic Liev Schreiber referred to Manny Pacquiao as “one of the most famous people in the world.” Pacman is now a “statesman” and an “ambassador,” a source of promise to millions, the narrator intones as we see the icon hop into a copter. “Without God, we are nothing,” the 33 year-old hitter says.
We then see Bradley, at home cavorting with his kids in Cali, and then working out in the gym. He tells us he knows that he can beat Pacquiao and that Team Pacquaio and Top Rank doesn't know what they got themselves into.
Bob Arum is seen announcing the match at a presser, and we see a montage of clips from the press tour. Bradley says he likes being an underdog, it's the way it's always been. We see his four bedroom home in Indio, and the boxers' kids tell us that Manny better be ready. “I'm a family man,” says the fighter who grew up in the desert of Palm Springs, the north end. That section is home to many Have Nots, and Bradley says he wants to prove to all that winners come from there too. We see Bradley's pop, who the boxer says he looks up to. Tim Sr. aka Big Ray, said he trained 24-7 when Tim was young, and Tim followed in his footsteps. But Jr. did have a chip on his shoulder, and got into lots of fights. He admits he whupped the boy to get some sense into him. “I was a bully,” Tim admits. He said he whacked a kid in a wheelchair who nudged him by mistake, in third grade, and regrets it to this day.
At age 10, Bradley picked up some gloves. He didn't put them down for 18 years, and says he deserves this shot.
In General Santos City, Manny does a semi-public workout, before his camp starts officially. For not having been in the gym, his shape is amazingly cut. He doesn't look like he gained more than four pounds from his fighting weight.
After the workout, Manny leads a Bible study session in the gym. We hear that last November, he had a dream. He was in forest, and he heard a voice. It was God, he said. “Why are you away from me?” God asked him, he said. “When you hear the voice of God, it's like you're melting.” He touts the Bible as a manual for life.
We hear that Manny and wife Jinkee are tighter. She says that before she could only trust Manny about 50% of the time; now, the trust is full, she says. She says they closed Pacman's sports bar, to get away from the drinking, gambling and girling.
Back to Bradley…in early April, in Indio, Bradley is in top shape already, it looks like. We see clips from some of his greatest hits. He beats Junior Witter, and Joel Casamayor. His dad brags that he was Tim's strength and conditioning coach since he exited the womb. The son recalls that dad grabbed a boulder to use as a medicine ball one time. Dad pushed his son till he made him cry, the challenger says. We see him getting knocked down by Kendall Holt in 2009 in round one, and he battled back. Big Ray will be in the corner on fight night, but Joel Diaz leads the prep process.
What was it that pre-President Obama drew such heat for saying in August 2008? How in tough times, people cling to God and guns? We see Pacquiao at a firing range, indulging in a newfound passion. He takes part in a shooting competition in General Santos City. He likes the focus and discipline of the practice.
Jinkee then says that she doubted him before the De La Hoya fight, but not after. If he has one hundred percent focus in training, she says, he's really hard to beat. We see high and lowlights from his last fight, against Juan Manuel Marquez. Jinkee says that their squabbling affected him. The rollercoaster relationship didn't help his mental state. Pacman says that he didn't train properly, didn't use plyometrics like before. Manny says the Marquez fight was a good lesson, not to underestimate his foe.
Back to Bradley…he is coaching his stepson's football squad. Wife Monica says he has energy at the practices, even if he is sapped. Bradley will train close to home, so he can be near his family. Family doesn't distract, he says. She loves that he has fully embraced her children from her previous union. He says he almost passed out when daughter Jada was born. “I use my family is motivation. Their happiness is my happiness. I want them to have an easy life,” he says. The boxer says all who have labeled him too small, or lacking in pop will see otherwise June 9.
All in all, one could take from this that Bradley has for a few decades been grounded, and didn't need an epiphany to wake up, and become a truly devoted family man, while Pacquiao did. The cycnic is left to ponder: will Pacquiao's fundamental overhaul last, or will he succumb to old temptations and practices?
Some folks whine that these 24/7's are old hat, but I am not burnt out on them, for the record.
24/7 runs next Saturday, at 9:30 PM.