Here is the outcome everyone already has in the back of their minds. Manny Pacquiao wins his third bout with Timothy Bradley this coming Saturday, April 9th, probably by decision, and he goes on to fight two or three more times.
After all, heading into this weekend´s HBO pay-per-view showdown, the sport books have installed the Pac-man a -230 favorite, with Bradley returning at +190. They fight, Pacquiao wins, business as usual. The line may actually be tighter than the general consensus, which sees most people picking Pacquaio to win again.
But what if Bradley is able to do the unexpected? More importantly, what if Pacquaio is not the same fighter anymore? The circumstances leading up to this fight for the two fighters appear to be opposite and are worth examining.
Pacquiao is 57-6-2 and he has been one of boxing’s top box office attractions for a decade. In the Philippines, he is the most famous person in the country. He sits in the House of Representatives and there has been talk of a future presidential run if he wins his run for the Senate. Whether he plays basketball or sings karaoke, it is news and his every step is followed.
In May of 2015 Pacquaio fought Floyd Mayweather Jr in a fight that was easily the biggest box office take in boxing history, and he pocketed eight figures for the fight. He lost by unanimous decision, the fight generally disappointed, and we haven’t seen Pac-man since.
The past eleven months have seen Pacquiao turn 37 years old and have surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff. That is a pretty serious injury for a boxer, even if he is a southpaw. There is a very real question as to whether he will be the same. In one press engagement, his promoter, Bob Arum stated that Pacquiao did not look good in training. Arum has since back-pedaled on that statement, but whether Pacquiao's shoulder will be the same come April 9th is not known by anyone.
In the build-up to this fight, Pacquiao has been all over the news, and for the wrong reasons. He spoke publicly about homosexual behavior and it caused a furor that has not gone away. The issue now hangs over him at every step because he stood by his comments in subsequent statements.
With the April fight signed, February saw Pacquiao shift his training camp to Los Angeles and the Wild Card Boxing gym. This has been his routine for years, as he normally relocates with a large entourage that is “known” around Los Angeles and its hot spots.
The media outlet TMZ recently reported that Pacquiao went to the L.A shopping mall called “The Grove” to see a movie. Certainly Pacquiao was not inconspicuous as his entourage numbered sixteen people, but Mall officials saw him and banned him from the “The Grove” because of his anti-gay pronouncements. So much for that afternoon at the movies Pac-man was looking for.
The atmosphere around Tim Bradley is much different. He is thirty two years old, and he has lost just once in a career that has spanned a dozen years. Currently the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board has him ranked at number four on their pound for pound list. Considering his resume, he may be right when he says he gets no respect. He is known as an extremely hard worker and as an extremely disciplined fighter. Over-training has been cited as one of the culprits that caused his loss to Pacquiao.
Bradley’s career did appear to grow stale after the second Pacquiao fight. He fought to a lackluster draw with Argentina’s Diego Gabriel Chavez in 2014, and in June of 2015 he won an interim WBO Welterweight belt with a close UD win over Jessie Vargas that did more for Vargas’s reputation than it did for Bradley’s.
Talk in the boxing world was that Bradley was slipping and was not the same anymore. Bradley needed a change and that came by way of his departure from longtime trainer Joel Diaz. Bradley moved on to the camp of long-retired Teddy Atlas and the effects have been noticeable. Atlas is dedicated to Bradley completely, with no other clients. While Pacquiao is definitely a VIP with trainer Freddie Roach at Wild Card, he is part of a factory over there, plain and simple.
Keep in mind it is not important if you are a fan of Teddy Atlas or not. What is important is that he has Bradley’s complete buy-in and he has worked to make Bradley even tougher mentally. The pair appeared together for the first time for the November of 2015 meeting between Bradley and Brandon Rios which Bradley won via a 9th round stoppage. The win was nice, and the pair received very good reviews – Bradley for his excellent performance and Atlas for bringing it out of him. It was a solid start and definitely had the effect of cleansing Bradley’s memory of his recent rough period, laying a strong foundation between him and Atlas. Pacquiao still has his last ring experience as the Mayweather bout, and he needs to get that behind him.
Had Bradley taken a loss to anyone other than Pacquiao, it would have crippled his career. Now he has a chance to go up 2-1 in his trilogy with Pacquaio who is most assuredly one of the top three fighters of this era. A win for Bradley would lay a strong foundation for his legacy, and that is something that Bradley does think about. For Pacquiao, a win means the cycle begins all over again, ending with a 747 plane full of hangers-on flying to his next big fight on Manny's dime, be it in Macao or Vegas. Time is ticking, and Manny will be 38 before the close of 2016.
On April 9th the world will see Pacquiao-Bradley III. Who wins will be decided in the ring, but in the build-up to the fight the real pressure appears to be all on Pacquiao. And when you are an icon to millions, that pressure can get overwhelming. What if Bradley can turn that into a win this Saturday? Teddy Atlas would tell you he knew it was going to happen all along.