This coming April 12th, WBO welterweight title-holder Timothy Bradley 31-0 (12) will defend his title in a rematch against the man he won it from 22 months ago, Manny Pacquiao 55-5-2 (38). The controversial split decision in favor of Bradley has been the topic of debate since the decision was announced. In a ringside poll after the fight, 48 out of 51 observers who cover boxing saw Pacquiao as the winner by an overwhelming majority. Harold Lederman, HBO’s unofficial judge, scored the fight 119-109 for Pacquiao as did ESPN.com. On June 21st 2012, five WBO championship committee judges scored the fight 117-111, 117-111, 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113 all in favor of Pacquiao and basically said if they had the power, which they do not, they would’ve overturned the result.
Yes, I’m the same person who emphatically insists that if you don’t score the fight live and in the moment, your score doesn’t count after you go back and score the replay after knowing the result. So let’s throw out the WBO committee’s scores because they watched the tape of the fight a week after it took place. I just mentioned them because they were another faction who like everyone else saw Pacquiao as the winner. Instead, let’s go by those who scored the fight live and were polled immediately after the fight along with Lederman and ESPN.com. That makes it 50-3 in favor of Pacquiao. In addition to that, I haven’t encountered one fan who said they had Bradley as the winner. I could care less how any fan, writer or official scored Pacquiao-Bradley or any other fight regardless whether or not they agree or disagree with me. It just doesn’t effect me because I know what I saw and heard. During the fight the commentators didn’t focus on Pacquiao’s lack of killer instinct or aggression, aside from mentioning that he hasn’t won by stoppage since 2009. And after the fight boxing writers and fans weren’t focused on Manny’s civilized demeanor either. The talk was centered on one topic, and that was how convincingly Pacquiao, 35, won the fight and how the decision was an out-right robbery. Nobody was talking about Pacquiao’s complacency or lost desire. However, somewhere along the line that changed and the debate now is more pointed to what Manny must do to win and how he needs to find his mean streak again, as if that’s what cost him the decision last time.
Excuse me, if I go by what everyone has said regarding how the last fight went and who won, wouldn’t Bradley, 30, be the fighter who has to change and be better this time since 50 out of 53 supposedly knowledgeable observers saw Pacquiao winning it going away back in June of 2012? If I am to be led by what those supposed experts concluded 22 months ago, Pacquiao did everything right but get the decision the last time.Yet there’s been a plethora of newspaper, internet and blog articles and posts specifically pointing out how Pacquiao has to rediscover his meanness again if he really wants to win this time. Even Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach has been sucked into the conversation, but then again he always wants Manny to win by kayo. What!?? The fighter who everybody thinks won the last time and only lost two or three rounds out of twelve, he’s the one who has to reinvent himself? Maybe what they’re really trying to say is that they fear the fight might be similar to the last one and Bradley may get the decision again. But how is that possible, unless the same judges who worked the first fight work the rematch, which of course will not be the case.There’ll be a ton of articles written between now and the fight with cookbook analogies and breakdowns as to what both Pacquiao and Bradley must do strategically to win. But since everyone is insistent that Pacquiao handled Bradley the first time, why write what he has to do this time aside from making sure the same judges don’t work the fight? I think those writing and suggesting what Pacquiao needs to do on April 12 are writing more for themselves in an effort to try and showcase what they know more than anything else.
It seems that’s there’s a new template for boxing writing unfolding. And in that world A+B=C every time. There’s also a faction who try to view boxing as rocket science and view fighters as robots that can be programmed. Some believe that strategies and fight plans are rehearsed like Seal Team Six would rehearse for an overseas op. No, that’s not the case. Fighters cannot work on three or four things at one time especially during the fight, and if anyone preaches so, they’re wrong and never spent meaningful time around championship caliber fighters and trainers. Actually, good trainers try as hard as they can to keep things simple/stupid. And that’s because things happen too fast during a fight and they don’t want to bog down their fighters mind with too much info and instructions. And that applies in the gym too.
There are legitimate fight plans and good fighters and good trainers use them, but they’re subject to moment by moment change, and they are never elaborate. Sure, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard showed the boxing world that Marvin Hagler wasn’t unbeatable if he was forced to lead and carry the fight. On paper or in the boxing laboratory that’s sounds great, “if you’re fighting Hagler, make him lead.” I saw dozens of fighters eaten alive moving away from Hagler. The problem with that cookbook analogy is, name the fighters not named Duran or Leonard who could neutralize Marvin while fighting in retreat? The cookbook formula is only as good as the fighter in the kitchen.
Look at how many punches Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes missed in their fights with Jimmy Young and Michael Spinks. The fact is Ali and Holmes hated to fight in the role of George Foreman, however Jimmy and Michael forced them to fight as the predator against them because that was Jimmy’s style and Michael’s style during his heavyweight days. How many other fighters would’ve had so much success forcing Muhammad or Larry to fight as the aggressor being they had two of the best jabs in heavyweight history, but Young and Spinks could and did?
Remember when it used to be said how Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson couldn’t fight if you made them go back? And that was true, neither Joe or Mike were terribly effective while going back. The problem with that was how many fighters were good enough to force them back when they were in their prime?
Since mostly everyone thinks Pacquiao won the first fight, what does he have to do different in the rematch? Manny knows how to fight and what he basically has to do is make Bradley more uncomfortable this time than he did last time with volume punching coming in waves and hopefully the judges won’t be wearing blindfolds. Since Manny doesn’t fear being knocked out by Bradley, he and Roach can roll the dice and take the risk and try to go for a knockout this time. And if that’s the case, what are Bradley’s options? If he wastes his time thinking about perfect foot positioning or glove placement, he’s sure to be a former champ the morning after the fight. The best case for Bradley is that he can give Pacquiao just enough to think about with his quick combos/boxing/movement and then get out, or try to catch him in between exchanges.
But if Manny is really aggressive, he’ll be limited in that department as well. Basically, Pacquiao wants to make it a war and Bradley needs to keep it a boxing match. When I was training at Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia as an amateur there was a period when Meldrick Taylor was training and sparring every day etc. As you know, Taylor was one of the quickest handed and best boxers you’d be likely to find. And his co-trainer, George Benton, forgot more about boxing than Freddie Roach will ever know. It was understood that Meldrick already knew to keep his hands up, his chin down and his feet placed right. What they worked on more than anything else was keeping his combinations flowing effortlessly. Nothing tricky about it. The idea is if fighters of that caliber stay in really good condition, and do all the basics right, then learn how to punch in combination, you’ll do well. Does Mikey Garcia really do any more than that?
Ray Arcel, who was a great trainer (infinitely better than anyone today, with the exception of Nacho Beristain) was once asked what advice he gave Roberto Duran. He said, “Roberto Duran already knew how to fight. I didn’t show him anything. Once in a while I’d pantomime throwing a jab, just to remind him to throw it. That was it.” To make a salient boxing point it really doesn’t have to be broken down molecule by molecule, unless you’re trying to sound smarter than everyone else. Boxing doesn’t work like that because nobody is punching at or moving away from the perfect fight plan in the boxing laboratory. Maybe to some writers and fans, boxing is so mysterious, so beyond anything they can do, that they have to attribute things to it that simply don’t exist. In a sense, they’re right: it is something that almost no one can do.
On April 12th both Pacquiao and Bradley will enter the ring with two, perhaps three things on their mind that they’ll try to execute against each other during the bout. Once the fight starts there may be a few tweeks but that’s it. No scripts or cookbooks in the corner on fight night. It isn’t rocket science, it’s boxing fundamentals and basics conveyed via the trainer to the fighter. And often times it’s more simple/stupid than what most think or want to believe it is.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com