Historic farewell for Manny?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2016 - 9:00am

WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley has something Manny Pacquiao wants. It’s the belt strapped around his waist. Pacquiao isn’t used to not wearing a crown. And if their coming April 9 rubber match in Las Vegas will end his storybook career, Pacquiao wants it to be a historic farewell where he rides into the sunset back on the championship saddle.

For sure, Bradley won’t be an obliging opponent. He’s lost only once as a pro and that defeat was to Pacquiao. Bradley, 32, will do anything within his power for lightning not to strike twice. The problem is – will his power be enough to fend off Pacquiao? WBO superbantamweight titlist Nonito Donaire Jr. said he doesn’t think Bradley has the punch to make Pacquiao see stars. Bradley’s mediocre knockout rate supports Donaire’s claim. The so-called “Desert Storm” has scored only 13 KOs in 33 wins or a stoppage rate of 39.3 percent. In contrast, Pacquiao’s knockout rate is 67.4 percent or 38 KOs in 57 wins.

What makes Bradley such a tough customer is his granite chin. He’s been floored only once in his career by Ruslan Provodnikov in the 12th round of their brawl in 2013. Bradley also went down in the first round but referee Pat Russell ruled it a slip. Bradley, however, beat the Russian on points. In two fights, Pacquiao wasn’t able to put Bradley on the deck. Can he do it in their third meeting?

Since losing to Pacquiao in April 2014, Bradley was held to a split 12-round draw by Diego Chaves, outpointed Jessie Vargas and blasted Brandon Rios into submission in nine rounds. He hooked up with celebrated trainer Teddy Atlas for the Rios fight after terminating long-time cornerman Joel Diaz. Bradley’s domination of Rios fueled talk that he’s a new man on a mission with Atlas credited for transforming him into a mean fighting machine.

It didn’t matter that Rios was badly out of shape for the fight, ballooning from 147 pounds at the weigh-in on the eve of the match to a bulging 170. After absorbing a horrific beating, Rios said, “My body ain’t the same anymore … I’ll hang up the gloves and call it a night.” Bradley pointed to Atlas as his redeemer. “We had seven weeks (training together), I wonder what a year will do,” he said. “I wonder what two years will bring. The sky’s the limit from here.”

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Joseph Catena, writing for USA Boxing News, said Bradley was untouchable against Rios. “Whether it was the Atlas effect or a renewed vigor or maybe a combination of the two, Bradley was on his A game,” said Catena. “Speed, accuracy, footwork and ring generalship were all working in harmony. Bradley was supremely conditioned. For Bradley, it may well have been the finest performance of his distinguished career. He blended boxing and punching along with terrific movement to overwhelm Rios. He stuck to Atlas’ gameplan and executed it with mastery. Bradley began the fight with tremendous footwork and blistering flurries to the body and head of Rios. The champion’s speed and accuracy were second only to his live wire body assault.”

While Bradley’s performance was impressive, it remains to be seen if he can do to Pacquiao what he did to Rios. Of course, Pacquiao must be in excellent condition to beat Bradley. And he will be because there’s so much at stake in the fight. Pacquiao is running for senator in the May elections and he’ll want to face the voters on a winning note from the Bradley fight. He’ll want to be a world champion again when the voting happens.

In their first encounter on June 9, 2012, in Las Vegas, Bradley shocked the world by beating Pacquiao on a split 12-round decision. Judge Jerry Roth saw it 115-113 for Pacquiao but judges C. J. Ross and Duane Ford had it 1156-113 for Bradley. Ross and Ford gave Bradley five of the last six rounds. Roth scored the last three rounds for Bradley but still had Pacquiao on top in the end.

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The punch stats showed Pacquiao won handily. He threw 751 punches to Bradley’s 839 but landed 253 to Bradley’s 159. Pacquiao’s connect rate was 34 percent and Bradley’s was only 19 percent. The disparity was glaring in power punches with Pacquiao throwing 493 and connecting 190 for 39 percent compared to Bradley throwing 390 and landing 108 for 28 percent.

“People know,” said Pacquiao. “I respect the judges. I can’t blame them. It’s part of the game. I put my heart in there. I give thanks to the Lord. I did my best. But my best wasn’t good enough. Do I think I won the fight? Absolutely, yes. Let’s give credit to Bradley. He did well, I respect him. That’s the decision. We respect the officials.”

Bradley said, “Everybody feels I lost the fight, you can hear the boos from the crowd. He’s a strong puncher. He rocked me a couple of times in the fight. I withstood it. I fought hard ‘til the end. It was a good competitive fight. Every round was pretty close. Pacquiao won the early rounds. The later rounds, I controlled with my jab.”

WBO president Paco Valcarcel later ordered a review of the fight and assembled a panel of five selected, top-notch international judges to score it. The judges turned in scores of 118-110, 117-111, 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 for Pacquiao. But the WBO upheld the original decision awarding the WBO title to Bradley.

We’ll review the Pacquiao-Bradley rematch and discuss the rubber match in a future column.


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