Fight Prediction: Pacquiao-Marquez IV

December 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

The fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night in Las Vegas is what it is. No one (other than the people making a lot of money from it) is “excited” about it. Sure, it’ll likely be a close, exciting fight, like the previous three times they met in the ring, but will it really “settle things once and for all” like the fighters and promotions claim? Wasn’t that what the third fight was supposed to do?

Pacquiao-Marquez is a strange rivalry. Trilogies usually have one guy winning and first fight, the other guy winning the second, and then a third fight to determine the ultimate victor. In this case, Pacquiao is officially undefeated against Marquez after three fights (going 2-0-1, although the first fight, a draw, would have gone Pacquiao’s way had one of the judges scored round 1 correctly and given Pacquiao a 10-6 round instead of a 10-7 round after he dropped Marquez three times), but many experts and fans believe Marquez won all three.

So what does this fourth fight achieve? It won’t change the results of the first three bouts. Maybe Pacquiao will knock Marquez out. Maybe Marquez will finally get the victory he deserves. Or perhaps, there will be another controversial decision. Then what? Are we going to see a fifth fight?

Even Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has said it before: that Pacquiao and Marquez could fight each other a hundred times and it will be close and controversial every time. Should we believe anything different will happen this time?

Interestingly, when I looked around online for predictions, boxing experts and writers are predicting a close but uncontroversial Marquez decision. The reasoning is that after the outrage surrounding fight no. 3, which many felt Marquez won comfortably, the judges will be, consciously or subconsciously, influenced to favour Marquez in their scoring. These are, of course, the same people that predicted Pacquiao would steamroll Marquez and knock him out in their previous fight.

There are other factors too. Marquez is looking huge, buffed and cut, meaning he has transitioned to welterweight extremely well and appears to have added power without losing much speed. Pacquiao, on the other hand, hasn’t looked impressive since he beat Antonio Margarito more than two years ago (and hasn’t knocked out or even knocked down an opponent since Miguel Cotto a year before that). He’s obviously slowing down and appears to have lost the devastating form that took him to the very top of most pound-for-pound lists, they say. All other things being equal, the logical outcome is a Marquez points win.

The few that are backing Pacquiao insist he is a different fighter and will finally knock Marquez out. They say Pacquaio had leg cramps last fight (and that he won’t have them again this time), he was distracted (watching a Boston Celtics game before the fight) and his personal life was in complete disarray (his marriage was on the rocks and he was gambling, philandering and drinking).

I’m not sure I buy all of that because we never hear any of the negative stuff about Pacquiao until after his fight or just before his next fight to explain lacklustre performances. It just comes off like a poor excuse. And let’s not forget, Pacquiao supposedly turned his life around prior to his previous fight with Tim Bradley, and he lost that one (though to be fair, everyone apart from the judges thought he won, albeit not very impressively).

Pacquiao supporters also point to suggestions that Marquez, wary of the judges, will be going for a knockout himself and negate his biggest strength: counterpunching. That’s unlikely to me, because he’s a counterpuncher by nature. Marquez said it himself that he will be more aggressive but won’t be looking for the KO, though if the opportunity presents itself he would go for it.

What holds more water is the way Freddie Roach has been talking about Pacquiao. Freddie talks up Pacquiao’s conditioning and form before every fight, but this time he seems genuinely excited. He was eager to point out how Pacquiao has knocked down his sparring partners four times during the camp, which has not happened in a long time. That means a lot more to me than all that religious awakening stuff.

And I also haven’t forgotten that Marquez is 39 years old. Granted, he’s aged well and is no ordinary 39-year-old, but there is a chance his counterpunching reflexes and speed are just that little slower than last time.

So how do I see the fight panning out? Honestly, I don’t know. Conventional wisdom suggests another close fight, one that could go either way. Everyone is guessing that it will either be a clear(er) Marquez decision or a Pacquiao KO. Given that I’ve been wrong in just about all my boxing predictions ever, I thought I’d go out on a limb and guess something different from the mainstream. Accordingly, my prediction is that Pacquiao will shock everyone and win a clear cut decision. I don’t think he will knock Marquez out, but I do believe there could be knockdowns and there will be punishment.

Not again! Pacquiao-Marquez IV set for December 8

September 16, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

It’s decisions like these that make it so hard for me to keep following boxing. Manny Pacquiao, fresh off his ludicrous decision loss to Timothy Bradley, has decided to fight Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. The bout is scheduled for December 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and everyone involved will make lots of money.

In fact, it appears money was the driving factor for this bout. Floyd Mayweather Jr, the guy who represents the most dough, just got out of prison and has shown no interest in fighting this year, so the bout everyone wants to see is still out of the question. (And let’s face it, even if all the stars were aligned these two would probably still refuse to fight.)

Consequently, Pacquiao was presented with three options, all three of whom he has fought before. The apparent order of interest from Pacquiao was as follows:

1. Miguel Cotto, who refused to come down in weight and chose to fight Austin Trout in New York instead. Pacquiao dominated and knocked out Cotto in a catchweight fight in 2009 that was actually closer in the first few rounds than most people remember. It was also financially lucrative, with Pacquaio getting a reported $22 million to Cotto’s $12 million.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez, who has fought Pacquiao three times, with Pacquiao leading 2-0-1 (the two wins were a split and majority decision). Many people continue to insist that Marquez won all three. The last time they fought was in November last year, with Pacquiao escaping with a majority decision and Marquez storming off in disgust.

3. Timothy Bradley, who outpointed Pacquiao in a June fight Pacquiao clearly dominated, and even sparking a post-bout review into the iffy decision. Bradley continues to be thought of as a minor draw despite the victory.

Is this picture wrong to you? Shouldn’t the order of preference be the other way around? Shouldn’t Pacquiao be furious with the Bradley decision and want an immediate rematch so he could knock him out, regardless of how much money he would be making? And if Bradley’s not available, shouldn’t Marquez be more enticing than Cotto considering many people think Pacquiao lost to him three times already? And what’s the point of fighting Cotto again when he’s already knocked him out convincingly? And if you really wanted to fight him that bad, then why not fight at the higher weight rather than forcing Cotto to drop down in weight again?

As a Pacquiao fan for many years, this is a massively disappointing piece of news. I’m disappointed in him, personally. I’m sure even some of his most fervent fans feel the same.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s long-time trainer, made his objections known — he wanted Bradley. “Manny knew I would prefer Bradley,” he said. “I think the money was a huge factor. Bradley doesn’t bring the people Marquez does. But I would have rather had revenge for that bad decision in June.”

Roach also knows fighting Marquez for a fourth time represented an enormous risk because of the controversy surrounding their last bout. Chances are Pacquaio would start off down three rounds on the scorecards as the judges might feel like they need to right a past wrong, he said.

I agree. From a quality perspective, Pacquiao-Marquez IV is obviously higher than Pacquiao-Bradley II, but it’s a stupid move from a career perspective for Pacquiao. With dwindling skills and a political career to look after, he doesn’t have that many fights left. That loss to Bradley didn’t harm his career that much because everyone knew he won. But a legitimate loss to Marquez, which is highly likely by the way, will kill just about all interest in the Mayweather fight. Moreover, it will be an affirmation for the many people that believed Pacquiao has never been as good as Marquez and should have lost all four bouts.

Of course, nothing is a surprise anymore with Bob Arum running the show and whispering in Pacquiao’s ear. Arum is scum who only cares about how much money Pacquiao can make him and keep making him. We’ve all tried to rationalise some of Pacquiao’s questionable opponents in the past, but it’s gotten to a point where everything looks like an excuse now. There’s no excuse for this one. If he wanted to settle the score with Marquez, there is no reason why it couldn’t have come after avenging the loss to Bradley, or even after setting up the Mayweather fight (win or lose).

I have a feeling a few years from now, we’ll be looking back at Pacquiao’s career (and Mayweather’s, for that matter) and be saying, “He was so good, but it’s such a shame he tarnished his legacy with such stupid career choices.”

Desert Robbery: Tim Bradley shocks Manny Pacquiao in controversial decision

June 10, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

I told you it was gonna be a weird fight. Everything about it felt a little “off”, from Manny Pacquiao’s religious awakening, his well-publicized calf problems and the drama with conditioning coach Trevor Ariza to him weighing a career-high 147 points. From those predicting a Timothy Bradley upset (including himself, with a mock Bradley-Pacquiao II poster and ticket) to the delay over the Heat-Celtics game 7 and Pacquiao’s bizarre stalling just prior to the bout (warming up his calves on a treadmill). The night just had a surreal feel to it.

And those concerns were proven right. Despite dominating the fight – and when I say “dominate” I mean it in every sense of the word – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao somehow lost a split decision to Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley at the MGM tonight. Inexplicable. 115-113 three times, twice to the winner.

This was not a “close fight that could have gone either way”, like the first two fights between Pacquiao and his arch rival and Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez. It was not a “close fight that one guy ought to have won”, like what some have said about Pacquiao-Marquez III (with Marquez being the rightful victor). It wasn’t even a case of one guy taking his foot off the pedal with the fight seemingly in hand, only to allow the other guy to sneak home a victory, ala Oscar de la Hoya vs Felix Trinidad. This was, frankly, a flat out robbery, the worst of its kind.

Not one of the experts covering the fight gave the bout to Bradley. In fact, I can’t see a single scorecard (apart from the three official ones), that gave Bradley more than four rounds (which would mean a 116-112 Pacquiao decision). Many gave Bradley ONE round, which made it a 119-109 virtual shutout. Personally, I had it 118-110 after giving Bradley two rounds, and one of those might have been a pity round. Put it this way: even Bradley’s own manager reportedly had it 8-4 in Pacquiao’s favour. Heck, even Floyd Mayweather’s dad, Floyd Sr, said Pacquiao won and there was clearly “a gap” between the two fighters.

Whichever way you look at it, this has to be one of the most outrageous decisions in boxing history, and one that is almost certainly dirty. Even the worst incompetence could not have produced this kind of result.

Bradley was the busier fighter of the two, but Pacquiao was by far the more effective. It’s hard to remember a single clean punch from Bradley, and certainly not one that troubled Pacquiao. On the other hand, Pacquiao landed several crisp shots throughout the fight (though to be fair, most of them early on), and some of them forcing Bradley to bend his knees and wobble back.

CompuBox stats are said to be misleading, but not when they are this wide. Pacquiao landed 253 punches at 34% to Bradley’s 159 at 19%. He landed 63 jabs to Bradley’s 51. He landed 190 power punches at 38.5% to Bradley’s 108 at 27.7%. And he landed more punches than Bradley in 10 of the 12 rounds.

There will now be a rematch in November as per the option clause in the contract. Is anyone else suspicious? Bob Arum, the promoter for both men and very possibly Satan in disguise, acted outraged by the decision. Apparently, he had it 10-2 in Pacquiao’s favour. He added, before the decision was announced, that Bradley told him, “I tried hard and I couldn’t beat the guy.”

Interestingly, Arum also  said, “I have both guys, and I’ll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it’s ridiculous.” Mmm…does anyone smell fish? The popular conspiracy theory making the rounds on the internet now is that Arum rigged the fight to make more money from the rematch, and so that Pacquiao could continue delaying his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr – maybe even kill any possibility of the megabout happening altogether. Another theory is that Pacquiao’s contract with Arum’s Top Rank is nearing its expiration date and his cash cow has not signed an extension, suggesting he might jump ship to rival promoter Golden Boy. (For those of you who don’t remember, Pacquiao stirred up controversy last time when he allegedly signed with both promoters, only to have a judge later rule that he belonged to Top Rank, with Golden Boy taking a small percentage of earnings.) Could this be Arum’s way of trying to hold on to Pacquiao for a little longer or to punish him for not signing an extension?

Some might say it is karma for Pacquiao’s decision over Marquez in their third fight, but at least that fight was close. This was just another black eye on the already-battered sport of boxing.

Fight Preview: Pacquiao vs Bradley

June 9, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

Wow, is it the weekend of June 9 already? Pound-for-pound king (or the no. 2 behind Floyd Mayweather Jr, depending on your perspective) Manny Pacquiao is about to face off against undefeated but relatively unknown junior welter champion Timothy Bradley, who is coming up to 147 for the biggest challenge and payday of his career.

This is a weird fight. Bradley is virtually unknown but a lot of people are predicting an upset, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael. Many believe a boxer is only as good as his last fight, and Pacquaio has looked frighteningly human in this last couple of bouts. About a year ago, Pacquiao dominated an over-the-hill Shane Mosley but couldn’t chase him down to knock him out. It was a horrible fight. Then at the end of 2011, he eked out a majority draw in his third encounter with Juan Manuel Marquez, and probably more than half felt Pacquiao not only lost but he lost convincingly.

And there’s been a lot of weird news popping up before this fight. First of all, Pacquiao has apparently had this “calf problem” for a very long time now (read here), even though we didn’t hear about it until after his bouts with Mosley and Marquez. Excuse, perhaps? Secondly, Pacquiao’s long-time conditioning coach, Alex Ariza (the guy credited with  his amazing rise through the weight classes), made himself look like a complete douche by causing a major rift through the Pacquiao camp. He apparently left the Pacquiao camp during training to assist a fighter in another country after obtaining Pacquiao’s consent, but he “forgot” to tell Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach or his other client, Amir Khan. Khan has since fired Ariza and Roach apparently said Ariza will not be in Manny’s corner on fight night. Thirdly, Pacquiao caused a mini storm when he was accused of making homophobic remarks during an interview, but as it turned out, he was misleadingly misquoted.

Lastly, and most bizarrely, Pacquiao has apparently re-devoted himself to Catholicism. Hang on, wasn’t he a devout Catholic before? Well, if the articles are to be believed, not really. He was never really that dedicated to his training either, so they say. According to the new stories, Pacquiao was a gambling, drinking, smoking, womanising dick that spent a lot of late nights out during training and frequently came in tired. He was also on the verge of a divorce because his wife Jinkee was sick of his philandering. Now, he has sold all of his bars and nightclubs and has re-dedicated himself to God, and no longer goes out at night. Instead, he studies the Bible whenever he can. This means a happy Pacquiao, a happy Jinkee and a fitter, healthier Manny.

What I find strange is how none of this stuff ever came out earlier. Was there a gag team working overtime to avoid negative press for Pacquiao, or did journalists stop themselves from articles that made Manny appear in a bad light? For years, at least internationally, Pacquiao has had the image of a clean cut saint, but as it turned out, he’s a bit of a hypocrite. Not that it was a surprise. And not that it has anything to do with his ability as a boxer and the other positive things he has done for his country and people. I just find it bewildering that this stuff is coming out now — after Pacquiao has rectified the problem, so to speak.

Bradley, on the other hand, has been called a ‘live underdog.’ He’s young (28 to Pacquiao’s 33), fast (some say just as fast as Pacquiao), super fit, ambitious, hard working and motivated — after all, this is by far the biggest fight of his career, and a magnificent chance to put his name on the world map. A lot of people say he’s never fought anyone on Pacquiao’s level, but his resume is not all that bad. He beat Junior Witter when Witter was still good. He virtually shut out previously unbeaten Lamont Peterson, who went on to beat Amir Khan, a guy who gives Pacquiao fits in sparring. He also handed Devon Alexander his first and only loss. Come to think of it, he’s arguably the first in-prime opponent Pacquiao has faced in a very long time. Could he potentially ‘expose’ Pacquiao as an overrated fighter who looked good because of carefully selected match ups?

That’s why this is such a weird fight. We are supposed to be believe that Pacquiao’s life was in disarray before and that everything is rosy now. But how much of that is marketing and how of it is genuine? And is Bradley a sheltered pretender or the real deal?

Oh, and the weigh-in, which took place earlier today. Bradley, who is coming up from 140, weighed-in at 146 and looked absolutely shredded, whereas Pacquiao came in at the welterweight limit of 147 and to be honest didn’t look as ripped as he did at his peak. This is the heaviest Pacqiuao has ever fought at; remember, when he fought Margarito at a catch weight of 150, he came in at 144. Is this yet another sign that Pacquiao might not be 100% or could be taking Bradley lightly?

The weigh in

I think anything is possible in this fight. Bradley is regarded as a feather-fisted boxer (only 12 KOs from 28 wins and a no contest) so it is unlikely that he can knock Pacquiao out. But a clinical decision in Bradley’s favour is certainly not out of the question. Pacquiao, who is fighting the 6oth bout of his career (54-3-2, with 38KOs), also has the ability to make quick work of Bradley. He is the favourite but only a 3-1 favourite (he was a 6-1 favourite against Mexican great Marquez, and look how that turned out).

Stranger things have happened in boxing, and for some reason I feel uneasy about this fight for Pacquiao. However, after going out on a limb last time and predicting that Miguel Cotto would beat Floyd Mayweather Jr, I’m going to bet on the favourite this time. While it would not blow my mind to see an upset, I think Pacquiao could surprise everyone by putting in a dominant performance against Bradley. I’ve seen some clips of Bradley and he seems a little wild and his defense is suspect (funnily that’s what everyone has said about Pacquiao throughout his career). I think it’s likely Pacquiao will overwhelm him with precision flurries and knock him out by the 10th round.

Fight Preview: Mayweather vs Cotto

May 5, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

Love him or loathe him, you have to respect Floyd Mayweather’s boxing skills and ability to make tens of millions of dollars every fight. Apparently for his upcoming fight (May 5 in Las Vegas) against Miguel Cotto at the junior middleweight/super welterweight limit 154 pounds, Mayweather is being guaranteed a record US$32 million, which will probably swell up to US$50 million or more because he gets a chunk of the PPV profits.

I have to say, the numbers have surprised me. I felt like Floyd’s star was fading a bit because he’s going to jail after this fight (for beating and threatening the mother of his children) and because the megafight with Manny Pacquiao fell through again for the gazillionth time. Miguel Cotto, while still a dangerous fighter, just didn’t seem like an opponent that would generate this kind of buzz. After all, few would argue that he isn’t quite the same fighter after having suffered brutal beatdowns at the hands of Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao.

However, Cotto avenged his questionable loss to Mr Plaster Hands and has allegedly put those confidence issues of the past behind him. Plus he is fighting at a comfortable 154 pounds, where he has fought his last three fights, whereas Mayweather is coming up to this weight for just the second time in his career (the other being a “split” win against Oscar de la Hoya that was really a unanimous victory). Does Cotto (37-2, 30KOs) have what it takes to hand Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) his first loss?

Cotto’s advantages

Let’s be honest. On paper, at least, Cotto doesn’t look like he stands much of a chance against the defensive maestro Mayweather. But unlike Mayweather’s last fight against the untested Victor Ortiz, I think Cotto stands slightly more than a puncher’s chance.

First of all, as mentioned above, 154 is a better weight for Cotto than it is for Mayweather. This was proven when Cotto weighed in at the limit while Mayweather came in 3 pounds light at 151. Even though he won, the last time Mayweather fought at 154 he wasn’t as impressive as he had been at 147, which makes one wonder whether the added weight will make a difference.

Secondly, Cotto is four years younger than Mayweather at 31 years of age. Granted, Cotto has a lot more mileage on his boxing pedometer than the rarely marked Floyd, but as they say, age can catch ip to boxers in a hurry. I doubt it will happen to Mayweather in this fight, but if he loses, I’m sure it will be one of the first excuses brought up.

Thirdly, Cotto has the tools, as least theoretically, to bother Mayweather. No one has been able to execute the plan, by the way, but the supposed blueprint to beat Mayweather involves a nice, stiff jab and a lot of powerful body shots. Cotto has both of those things and the mental discipline to carry out the game plan. And he should be stronger than Mayweather at this weight. I wouldn’t say he is a devastating puncher but he definitely has the requisite power to hurt the Pretty Boy.

Fourthly, Mayweather could be distracted by his upcoming jail sentence. He hasn’t shown it so far, but it’s hard to believe that it isn’t lingering in the back of his mind. Interestingly, some commentators have pointed out that Mayweather relentlessly taunted the late Diego Corrales before their bout because Corrales was heading to prison for domestic violence against his pregnant girlfriend. Oops.

Lastly, Cotto said he has renewed his passion for boxing after his revenge victory against Margarito last year. I don’t know if he’s just saying this to mess with Mayweather (remember, Cotto was named as one of the guys that Floyd was “ducking” years ago), but if that’s true then we might see the Cotto of old that was considered one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet.

Mayweather’s advantages

Okay, Mayweather pretty much has an advantage in everything else. Mayweather is taller (5’8″ to 5’7″), has a significantly longer reach (72″ to 67″), has taken much less damage over the years, has better defense, is quicker, more durable and more skilled in just about every way. And to top things off, they are fighting in his hometown of Las Vegas. It’s hardly even fair.

Prediction

Common sense dictates that Mayweather should dominate. So many of his opponents have said the same thing: the dude is simply in a different class. You might not be able to see it on the screen but when you face him you find out the hard way.

But there’s something about this fight that just feels a little different to me. I’m no clairvoyant but when every expert predicts that a fight will turn out a certain way (in this case, Cotto being competitive early on but Mayweather turns it up and peppers him into a beehive for a late stoppage or unanimous decision) — the outcome usually ends up being entirely different.

You’d be crazy to pick against Mayweather here, and arguably, in any fight (I’ve never picked against him before), but you know what? I’m feeling kinda crazy. All the analysis in the world isn’t going to be able to foresee how the fight will pan out. My head says Mayweather with ease, but my heart says Cotto in a stunning upset (and putting an end to those Pacquiao-Mayweather dreams). And I have to go with my heart.

Tomorrow I’ll either be eating crow or saying I told you so.