Filipino living legend Manny Pacquiao is faced with a conundrum – after going 0-2 in his last two bouts, he needs to win, and win big, if he is to retain his position at the very top of the boxing hierarchy.
Initially, the fight that was expected to be announced from Team Pacman was Part V of his soon-to-be boxed set with another living legend – Juan Manuel Marquez. Trouble is, this is a 50/50 fight for Pacquiao – at best!
Some (okay, many) fight fans would argue that Pacquiao should be 0-4 vs Marquez, not 2-1-1. The most realistic assessment of their head-to-head is more likely 2-1-1 in the Mexican´s favour, but we are getting off the point.
The point is, Pacquiao needs at least one big scalp under his belt before he even thinks about putting his chin on the line against another prospective Marquez right hand counter, and following his thrill a second war with unfancied Russian Ruslan Provodnikov, that scalp just might belong to Timothy Bradley.
”But he already beat Bradley!” I hear you bellow, and quite rightly. Pacman and Tim Bradley have already crossed gloves; it happened last June and the result that saw Bradley steal a split decision was one of the biggest stinkerooneys of recent boxing history. Pacquiao looked great against Bradley, as he did for the first five rounds vs Marquez. Better than he had against Shane Mosley and Marquez in 2011. That’s the conundrum – does Pacquiao continue fighting in that exciting, freewheeling manner that we all love to watch and has been so productive for him, or does he start to slightly adjust his style so he takes less shots.
Against Marquez he was taking unbelievable risks to land his shots which showed an overconfidence in his own abilities and a contempt for the Mexican´s power. Pacquiao is 34 years old, with 18 years experience in the pro ring. His style has always involved being prepared to take a shot (he was KO´d twice in the 1990´s) and he has engaged in a multitude of ring wars against warriors like Erik Morales (three times), Marco Antonio Berrera (twice) as well as his four battles with Marquez. Undoubtedly he has ´´lost a yard of pace“ as they say in soccer, i.e he is a tad slower than he was. Super smart fighters like Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather know how to make subtle adjustments to their styles to add to their career longevity. It remains to be seen if Pacquiao can do the same.
For the time being, Pacquiao needs an opponent, preferably a marquee name. Bradley fits the bill on three counts; he is a reigning world welterweight champion (WBO), he holds a win over Pacman however controversial, and he just might fight a rematch with Pacquiao the way he did against Provodnikov. Bradley, who was never even a big light welterweight looks way too small at 147, but his heart is as big as they come. As if anxious to rid himself of the endless abuse he´s received following his ”win” over Pacquiao, Bradley approached the Provodnikov bout like a man possessed – trading from the start against the Russian who is in terms of appearance and fighting style like a mini version of WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Bradley was rocked and dropped in the first round (referee Pat Russell failed to call the first round knock-down a knock-down), was out on his feet in round two. He then proceeded to out-box the Russian for large portions of the next nine rounds, and then almost threw the fight away in the twelfth when he elected to go toe-to-toe with Provodnikov once again, and got staggered and dropped, just beating the count before the final bell. It was a truly sensational crowd pleasing fight, one of the top-3 of the year so far. Bradley may have suffered two knock-downs and taken heavy shots, but Provodnikov finished the fight looking like he had been in an auto smash.
Suddenly, Pacquiao Bradley II is an event fight, because no matter which version of Tim Bradley turns up, a peak Pacquiao should be able to beat him, but might not. And if the brawler version of Bradley shows up, it will be a slug-fest par excellence, at least while it lasts.