By Frank Lotierzo
With the countdown to Pacquiao-Bradley III drawing to a close this week, it seems that the fight hasn't captivated the public's interest the way the first two did. Promoter Bob Arum says all but 2000 seats have been sold, but the electricity just doesn't seem to be there — which seems kind of odd as Pacquiao has been a huge draw in Las Vegas and there have been suggestions that this will be Manny's last fight, although Arum has stayed away from saying that to hype up the bout.
I think it's safe to say most believe if Manny Pacquiao 57-6-2 (38) beats Timothy Bradley 33-1-1 (13) conclusively this coming Saturday night, there's no way he's going to retire and focus solely on his political career. An impressive showing by Pacquiao insures there's still too much money out there to make by fighting Terence Crawford or the Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter winner later this year. And perhaps I should amend the previous sentence – Pacquiao doesn't have to win impressively or look great….all he needs is to have his hands raised when the fight is over regardless whether or not he won decisively.
For the past 10 years Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have dominated the sport of boxing. With Mayweather temporarily out of the picture, its Pacquiao whose words, excuses and antics been under the microscope the most. A few months ago Manny said some things that offended the gay/lesbian community. Personally, there's nothing any athlete or celebrity could say to offend me because I couldn't care less what they think or believe off the field. That said, his words were offensive to some and he's been trying to extinguish the fire ever since.
The things that bother me most are the new excuses for the sub-par showing against Mayweather in his last bout and the changing story in regards to the bad shoulder. At first he was supposed to have hurt it training for the Mayweather bout….and just a few weeks ago it was said and confirmed by Arum and trainer Freddie Roach that's it's been an issue since 2007, only it was kept quiet. Also, the fact that Roach insists that Manny beat Mayweather last May removes any credibility he had. And this past week Roach said Pacquiao would really whip Floyd if he could get another crack at him — something that nobody, at least nobody who knows anything worth knowing about styles and match-ups, believes.
On top of that we've heard Roach say that Manny's really looking great in camp and he expects him to stop Bradley this time. How deaf are we to that crock? It's been 10 consecutive bouts since Pacquiao won by stoppage. In fact, in the only bout of his that ended inside the distance, it was he who was counted out face first courtesy of a single right hand landed by Juan Manuel Marquez at the end of the sixth round of their fourth meeting back in December of 2012.
In all honesty, I'm just as tired of the Pacquiao/Roach circus, as I am the Mayweather circus. Unfortunately, professional boxing is star driven like all other major professional sports. If you take away the hype and future big fight potential down the road, it's easy to see how the sentiment has changed and there are probably more fans rooting for Bradley to win this time then there were before their first two encounters. And the reason for that is that Bradley is a regular guy who is genuinely authentic. No, he's not the greatest fighter around, but he sure has squeezed every last bit of his God given ability out of his mind and body.
Bradley is not a drama queen or diva like Pacquiao…he's a fighter. His problem is that that isn’t enough to captivate fans. He's a good boxer with quick hands and feet but lacks one- punch fight altering power, the kind Pacquiao used to own. When fans watch Manny fight, there's that hope in the back of their mind that it could show up again without notice, and that's what makes the prospect of him fighting Crawford or the Thurman-Porter winner much more intriguing and potentially drama-filled than if Bradley were to fight one of them.
Most believe (including me) that Pacquiao out-pointed Bradley the first time they fought; only it made for better business in the long run to give the fight to Bradley. Pacquiao won the rematch fair and square and Bradley has even admitted that. But for some reason I can see the role reversal of their first meeting being in play this time. Bradley could get the better of Pacquiao legitimately and yet come out on the wrong end of the decision because the name Pacquiao is a bigger draw than the name Bradley, in spite of the fact Manny isn't the same box office smash he used to be.
Even at this late stage of his career, the threat of the next Pacquiao offensive explosion is better hype and drama than watching Bradley try to out-box and out-think Crawford, Thurman or Porter. And for those reasons it's hard to imagine Bradley getting the benefit of the doubt this time.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com