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.

Brilliant Mayweather beats Cotto, I face facts

May 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

I finally got a chance to watch the Mayweather-Cotto bout fought last night in Las Vegas.

Just the day before, when previewing the fight, despite admitting that Floyd Mayweather Jr had all the advantages, I decided to go out on a limb and pick Miguel Cotto to score a stunning upset. Part of it is because Mayweather is 35 and is going to prison in less than a month. But subconsciously, it may have simply been because I wanted Mayweather to lose his perfect now-43 and 0 record.

And now, after Mayweather defeated Cotto in a unanimous victory (117-111, 117-111, 118-110), I have to give the man props and eat crow. Quite simply, Mayweather was sensational, and together with the game but outclassed Cotto, put together the most exciting fight of his illustrious career — which hasn’t always had a lot of action.

Watching the fight after already having read the fight recaps was a strange experience because it turned out slightly different to what I had expected. I thought Cotto would come out strong and fade in the later rounds, but it was Mayweather who came out on the offensive, being, surprisingly, the more aggressive fighter in peppering Cotto with jabs and right hands. After the first three rounds I wondered how Cotto would be able to get back into it, given that Mayweather was clearly faster, sharper and more accurate with all his punches.

But to Cotto’s effort — the dude is a flat out warrior — he fought back like a champion, busting up Mayweather’s nose and making him bleed profusely from the nostrils and mouth for the majority of the second half of the fight. It was the first time I had seen so much blood on Mayweather’s face. I’m not sure if it was a strategic decision by Mayweather to make the fight more exciting by often exchanging with Cotto in the corners (and if so, good on him), but the fact is Mayweather took Cotto’s best shots and dished back his own, and then some.

The difference between the two fighters was clear. Cotto was more plodding, looking to trap Mayweather against the ropes and the corners where he could unleash furious body blows and powerful head shots. The problem was, even when he got Mayweather where he wanted he still couldn’t do significant damage — for the most part — due to the incredible defensive reflexes and that famous shoulder roll of his opponent.

On the other hand, Mayweather simply controlled distance and pace like a masterful technician. Hate the man as much as you want for being an arrogant show-off, a wife-beater or a racist, but watching him fight last night was an absolute pleasure. He was always moving to a distance that suited his offense, which allowed him to get off first with his lightning quick hands. When Cotto closed the gap, he either opened it up again or closed it up even more so that Cotto couldn’t get off his own shots. When Cotto appeared to be getting the other hand with his relentless pressure, Mayweather just used his arms to tie up Cotto’s gloves. And later on in the fight, Mayweather adjusted and found a new weapon — the left uppercut — that became his most effective weapon down the stretch. He was just flat out better.

Let’s not forget Cotto here because his effort ensured that we were able to see Mayweather at his best — Money himself admitted afterwards, with rare marks on his face, that Cotto was the toughest guy he had ever fought. I had the fight a little closer than the judges in the end with a 8-4 scorecard (116-112), but there was no doubt Mayweather had won it convincingly. There was no feeling that Mayweather would have faded had the fight continued either. In fact, round 12 was probably Mayweather’s best round, in which he rocked Cotto with several vicious left uppercuts and right hands.

Cotto left the ring before interviews, and Mayweather, as usual, was back to his irritating self, basically ignoring all of Larry Merchant’s questions to say only what he wanted to say. Needless to say, Manny Pacquiao’s name came up and it was the usual excuses, showing that there’s almost no point in expecting something to happen at this point.

But that’s still not going to stop people from fantasising about what might happen if they do eventually meet in the ring. And despite years of having believed that Pacquiao has the tools to beat Mayweather, after this fight and Pacquiao’s last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, maybe I’m not so sure any more.

Supporters from either side are going to point to their common opponents as evidence that their guy will win. Pacquiao beat Oscar de lay Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and now Miguel Cotto with more ease and in more dominating fashion (though it is impossible to overlook that they fought at different weights — especially Cotto, who weighed 154 for Mayweather and just 145 against Pacquiao; and the popular argument that Mayweather had softened them up first). Mayweather, on the other hand beat Marquez, a guy many believe bested Pacquiao one or two or maybe even three times, with utmost ease (though that was at a catch weight too ).

Previously, I believed that Pacquiao’s relentless activity, punching power and endless stamina would eventually wear down Mayweather en route to a points win. But I realised that was an oversimplification of the facts. It’s not that Mayweather doesn’t like to throw — he showed against Cotto that he can be a very active offensive fighter himself, landing 179 of 687 punches compared to 105 of 506 from Cotto — it’s just that he prefers to just do enough to win. That’s why Mayweather hasn’t been as impressive as Pacquiao in beating up some of their common opponents.

I was also wrong about Mayweather’s inability to throw combinations. Before this fight I thought he had become more of a pot shot puncher who threw only one or two punches at a time. But against Cotto, he was tearing it up with sick combinations from all angles. These combinations were different to Pacquiao’s, which tend to be quicker but wilder; Mayweather’s combinations were more methodical, not in rapid Pacquiao-like succession but each one was snappy and dead on the mark , and arguably, even more effective.

If the two were to match up now, you’d have to pick Mayweather, with his bigger size, longer reach and superior defense, as the favourite. As much as I like Pacquiao and want him to win, it’s time to face the reality of the situation.

But does that mean Pacquiao is sure to lose? I don’t think so either. After having watched Cotto land a few on Mayweather despite his orthodox style and plodding speed, I still believe Pacquiao has the best chance of beating Mayweather than anyone else on the planet. If Cotto could land some effective punches throughout the fight, then surely Pacquiao, with his blazing speed and footwork, could as well — and with greater snap and power. Pacquiao is also less likely to fade, as Cotto did a little when he put together a string of three solid rounds from around the mid-point of the fight. However, what I see as Pacquiao’s greatest advantages are his southpaw stance (kryptonite against the shoulder roll) and his bizarre punching angles and timing, which could catch Mayweather off guard. That said, Mayweather is better than adjusting mid-fight than anyone else in boxing, so perhaps that’s not saying much either.

What is maybe more worrying for Pacquiao now is Mayweather’s offense. We all know Pacquiao can get a little out of control at times, and against Mayweather, the ultimate counter puncher, he will surely pay for it. It might depend on how disciplined Pacquiao can be, because we know he’s going to be pissed off. I suppose what I am trying to say is that Mayweather might have become more of a favourite after the Cotto fight, but Pacquiao may also have a bigger chance of winning than he had before. Does that even make sense?

At the end of the day, there are going to be people from both camps who are going to defend their guy no matter what. Right now Mayweather seems to have the upper hand, but who knows if that will change if Pacquiao comes out and blasts Tim Bradley away on June 9.

So all of this back and forth banter between the two sides is rather pointless because no one will really know for sure until these two get it on. Unfortunately, right now it looks as unlikely as ever.

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.

 

Excuses running out for Mayweather-Pacquiao

January 13, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

The latest Ring Magazine cover featuring Mayweather and Pacquiao

The Mega-fight that may never happen

The biggest boxing match of all-time between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao has been (or not been) in the making for almost three years, ever since Pacquiao defeated Ricky Hatton in May of 2009.

But of course, there has always been something in the way.  First it was a dispute over Olympic-style blood testing not required by the sanctioning bodies.  Then it was Floyd Mayweather Jr wanting to take a break.  Then there were the negotiations that supposedly took place but supposedly didn’t.  Then it was the defamation case against Mayweather for alleging Pacquiao used/uses performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Then it was the legal troubles of Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle and trainer.  Then it was Mayweather going to jail for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.  There was always some crap in the way, and after a while, it all smelled the same.

[If you want a headache, check out Fighthype's negotiation timeline of Mayweather-Pacquiao: Part I; Part II]

New developments

Just when it looked like the most lucrative fight ever would never take place because of greed, egotism, selfishness and (for lack of a better term) cowardice on both sides, there was an unexpected twist.  A Las Vegas judge agreed to delay Mayweather’s short 90-day jail sentence to 1 June 2012, allowing Mayweather to commit to his pre-scheduled 5 May 2012 fight date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Interestingly, Mayweather’s camp initially announced the 5 May 2012 fight date on 2 November 2011, less than a week after Pacquiao’s promoter,  Bob Arum of Top Rank, claimed that the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would “never, ever”  happen because of Mayweather.  At the time Mayweather announced the date, they were without an opponent (a strange thing in itself), but they did proclaim that they were after the biggest fight possible, and that was with “the little fella”.  It could not have been more clear that they were finally and officially calling out Pacquiao, who was coming off an unimpressive victory over Shane Mosley and was about to head into his third war with Juan Manuel Marquez 10 days later .

After Pacquiao narrowly escaped with a controversial majority decision win against Marquez on 12 November 2011 (which many thought he lost), the stage was set for the two to finally make the fight happen. But then Mayweather was sentenced to jail (6 months, 3 months suspended), essentially derailing the fight once again.

A follow-up to Mayweather's challenge tweet

Arum ducking and dodging

Following the handing down of Mayweather’s sentence on 21 December 2011, Bob Arum declared that he was going to the Philippines to present to Pacquiao four options for his next fight, none of which included Mayweather because he was going to be unavailable.  The options were: Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao had already knocked out, Juan Manuel Marquez, whom Pacquiao had already fought three times, and Lamont Peterson and Timothy Bradley, two young but relatively unknown opponents.

None of the four were even remotely as appealing as a Mayweather bout, but Arum enjoyed using Mayweather’s jail sentence to justify that he had no other alternative.  More importantly for the greedy 80-year-old, it meant he could milk his cash cow Pacquiao for longer, as a loss to Mayweather would clearly diminish Pacquiao’s value or even send him into permanent retirement.

What Arum didn’t expect was the judge to delay the sentence and allow Mayweather to fight on 5 May 2012, and for Mayweather to then expressly call out Pacquiao on Twitter.

“Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see,” Mayweather tweeted, followed by, “My Jail Sentence was pushed back because the date was locked in.  Step up Punk.”

The temporary reprieve for Mayweather must have caught Arum off-guard, because he was obviously flustered and began contradicting himself as to why Pacquiao could not fight Mayweather on May 5.  When Mayweather became unavailable, Arum was happy to suggest 5 May 2012 (which is Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo) as a possible fight date for Pacquiao’s next fight, especially if was going to be a fourth bout with the Mexican Marquez.  When Mayweather suddenly became available, May 5 was suddenly “out of the question.”

“June 9 is perfect,” Arum told The Times from The Philippines. “May 5 is out, that’s impossible.”

To make the excuse less pathetic, Arum said he would be willing to chip in for lawyer fees to try and postpone Mayweather’s jail sentence until after 9 June 2012, but everyone could see through it.

Other lame justifications Arum proffered included the cut Pacquiao suffered against Marquez (even though it would be completely healed by May) and the fact that Mayweather would need to be re-licensed to fight again in Nevada (even though there is ZERO chance of that not happening).

Arum basically shot the whole thing down: “We’re fighting in June, one of the four guys,” he said to ESPN.  “My mission is to go over to the Philippines and talk about these four guys. If Manny feels he wants to go in May, he will tell me. I want to make sure Manny’s cuts are healed. We won’t fall under this kind of pressure. June is much more likely for Manny’s fight, not May.”

When pressure persisted, Arum came up with alternative “reasons” for why 5 May would not work.  This time, it was because the date made no “economic sense”.  According to Arum and Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz, the MGM Grand’s 17,000-seat capacity was too small and that they ought to wait until a 45,000-seat outdoor stadium in Vegas is completed in late May to host the fight.  This larger arena would fetch an estimated additional $30 million.

For whatever reason, reports later surfaced that Arum was no longer pushing the new arena “reason” and was willing to stage the fight at the MGM Grand, but he still wanted a date in late May as opposed to Mayweather’s scheduled May 5 date.

He also added a new potential excuse: Mayweather will need someone to guarantee his fight purse (as Golden Boy Promotions isn’t going to do it), something which he will do for Pacquiao.  It’s not really something he needs to be concerned with as this will need to be worked out from Mayweather’s side.

Manny Pacquiao speaks out

Manny Pacquiao, for his part, has received a lot of flak from critics and fans alike for “hiding behind his promoter”.  In the past, Pacquiao simply said that he left the matchmaking up to his promoter (Arum), and that it was his job to fight whoever they put in front of him.  That stance is no longer working, because at the end of the day, Arum works for Pacquiao, and if Pacquiao wants to fight Mayweather, all he has to do is tell Arum to make it happen no matter what.

Initially, Pacquiao’s camp was defiant, posting this statement on the Examiner.com: “We don’t take MAYWEATHER’S tweet seriously, and are always ready to fight the undefeated AMERICAN anytime. Sign the contract, sign a statement. If you really want the fight, we say yes.”

Later, perhaps due to mounting pressure, Pacquaio has become more vocal, telling Filipino news outlets that Mayweather is definitely the one he wants.  “I’ve said this over and over before and I’m saying this again, I want Floyd Mayweather Jr to be my next opponent and I haven’t changed my choice despite recent developments,” he said to PhilBoxing. “I am meeting with my promoter, Bob Arum on Tuesday and I will insist that the fight with Mayweather be given the preference than the four others in the list I will fight next.”

Pacquiao also added: “I will abide by his [Mayweather’s] demand for drug testing. I am even agreeable to get lesser purse just so the fight would push through. In other words, as far as my side is concerned, there will be no problem.”

Perhaps Pacquiao spoke too soon, because shortly after he backed off the “lesser purse” comment.  In a later interview with ABS-CBN news, Pacquiao said: “To all my fans, we are still waiting for Mayweather to say ‘yes’ to a 50 percent split of the revenue and the fight is on.  He should be the one to say ‘yes’ because he has so many representatives. If he accepts it, he will make $50-60 million.”

However, it was also reported that if Mayweather does NOT accept a 50-50 split, then the fight will not pull through and Pacquiao will fight one of the four pre-named opponents.

So now we wait for Mayweather to respond, though given the history of this debacle, a number of other “issues” could potentially pop up at any minute and derail the whole thing again.  But one thing is clear: both the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps are running out of excuses to make the fight happen, and if the fight is not made by the end of 2012 (some would say May), both men’s legacies will be tarnished forever.

Thoughts

If what Pacquiao says is to be believed, the only thing holding up the fight is Mayweather agreeing to a 50-50 split, something he is bound to do regardless of whether he believes he is entitled to the lion’s share.  After calling out Pacquiao in such a public fashion, there is simply no way that Mayweather can allow the fight to fall, certainly not for something like the purse split.  Everyone has always assumed the split will be 50-50, and suggestions of anything else will be met with the condemnation of the whole boxing world.

Sadly, reality is much murkier.  Pacquiao makes no mention of the bigger issue, the date.  There is a real possibility that something as silly as the date of the fight will stop it from happening this time (after all, all other excuses have been exhausted).  The crux of the matter appears to be whether Mayweather can genuinely get out of his 5 May 2012 commitment.

First of all, we know there is no real reason why Arum cannot accept a 5 May 2012 date.  Sure, a later date and a bigger venue might make more money, but if it comes down to it, the fight is going to be the biggest fight of all time no matter where it is held.  Earning say $50 million instead of $70 million is better than not earning anything at all.  If Mayweather can legitimately prove that he cannot budge from the May 5 date for contractual or court-stipulated reasons, then Pacquiao and Arum will become the “duckers”.

On the other hand, there is not enough information out there about the flexibility of Mayweather’s arrangements with the MGM Grand.  Is he contractually locked in to 5 May 2012?  What will happen if he doesn’t fight on that date?  If they were just “holding” the seats for him and it’s not really that hard to get out of it, and with jail not commencing until 1 June 2012, there is no real excuse for Mayweather not to agree to a later date either.

News outlets outside the US appear to be siding with Pacquiao, saying that he has “called Mayweather’s bluff”, but if you ask me, both sides are trying to test each other.  Both sides want to be the one left standing at the end, the one that can say, “I told you, he was the one ducking ME!”

Both sides to blame

The truth is, this fight could have been made back in 2010, after Mayweather defeated Juan Manuel Marquez and after and Pacquiao dismantled Miguel Cotto, when both men were at their peaks.  Even if they do fight in 2012, Mayweather will be 35 and Pacquiao 33, and it’s arguable that the best years of both men are now behind them.

Now disgruntled fans have become sick and tired of all the posturing and mind games and criss-crossing accusations from these two very wealthy athletes and all the false hope and broken promises they have delivered over the past few years.

Initially, the fans were split.  Probably more blamed Mayweather for the fight not happening the first couple of times, but some also blamed Pacquiao for not accepting the blood testing protocols.  Then the tide shifted, and while Pacquiao still has his loyal supporters, the blame has gradually but surely shifted to him and Bob Arum.  Arum’s latest excuses has only worsened the situation for the Filipino superstar, who is already going to be fighting off PED accusations for the rest of his life, thanks to baseless accusations of the Mayweathers, of course.  More recently, a large contingent of fans in the middle has emerged, fans who see both of them as co-conspirators in this tiring charade.

Despite the passionate rantings of supporters from both sides, the objective truth is the both camps are to blame.  It comes down to two egotistical sides who want to make the other side look bad and their life difficult simply because they hate each other and simply because they can.

The first time around, the fight fell through because Pacquiao refused be submitted to Olympic-style random blood testing up to the day of the fight.  Mayweather deserves blame for making up his own rules by insisting on testing not required by the sanctioning bodies.  Whether or not random blood testing SHOULD be introduced in boxing (of course it should be), it is not Mayweather’s job to force it upon others and it’s not something Pacquiao ought to be forced to accept.  If Mayweather did not make such demands, the fight would have happened already.  What the demands did do, however, was plant seeds of doubt about Pacquiao, which has slowly but surely grown into an army of people who are, despite not having a shred of evidence, utterly convinced that “Pacroid” either used or still uses PEDs.

Conversely, Pacquiao also deserves blame for refusing Mayweather’s demands.  As many have pointed out, why refuse if you have nothing to hide?  Why turn down a potential $50 million pay day because of a few needles, needles Mayweather would also be subjected to?  For whatever reason, whether it’s superstition or because Pacquiao believes it “weakens” him, he turned it down, and for that, he must bear some of the blame, and he must also accept the backlash and rumours that have accompanied it.

On the whole, the blood-testing issue was arguably more Mayweather’s fault and reflected an unwillingness to seriously put his undefeated record on the line — at that time.  Many people have forgotten that Mayweather implemented a “sliding” cut-off date in negotiations.  Mayweather initially wanted a 14-day cut-off for random testing while Pacquiao wanted 30, though he was later willing to drop that down to 24 days as some pointed out that he had blood drawn 24 days out from a previous fight.  By the time Pacquiao agreed to 14 days (this was around the second fallout), Mayweather had begun to insist on random testing up to the day of the fight.  If 14 days was good enough before, why not the second time around, especially it would have essentially ruled out any PED usage anyway?  Seriously, what can one hope to achieve with 14 days of PED usage that would not be detected in post-fight tests?

Of course, when Mayweather decided to embark on one of his famous “vacations” when the time was ripe for negotiations, that would also be his fault.  He is obviously entitled to take time off when he wants, but when the whole world wants to see the fight, it’s certainly a curious decision, one that does not help his “ducker” status.

There was also that whole bizarre debacle when Arum stated that he had been negotiating with Mayweather advisor Al Haymon through HBO’s Ross Greenburg, while fellow Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe refuted that any negotiations took place at all.  Greenburg eventually backed Arum, but given Arum’s history of lies and the dispute over what actually constituted a “negotiation”, it was safe to say that even if “negotiations” took place, they didn’t get very far at all.

At the time, it was easy to label Mayweather as “running scared”.  After all, Pacquiao had demolished in superior fashion former Mayweather foes such as Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and was coming off an impressive victory over Miguel Cotto, a guy some say Mayweather also “ducked.”  Mayweather faithfuls clung on to Mayweather’s right to a break and not be pressured into a fight when he isn’t ready, the opinion that Pacquiao was feasting on Mayweather “leftovers”, and the always useful “take the test” line to shift the blame back to Pacquiao.

Shifting blame

It’s difficult to recall when the momentum shifted in Mayweather’s favour, but there is no doubt that it did.  Perhaps it started with Pacquiao’s decision to fight and his lacklustre win over a seriously declined Shane Mosley on 7 May 2011, another Mayweather “leftover”. Remember, Mosley was thoroughly outclassed by Mayweather a year before that, and had shown nothing in a stinker of a draw against Sergio Mora.  No one wanted Pacquiao to face Mosley and yet he did, over better alternatives in Marquez and Andre Berto.  Pacquiao copped flak for the decision and deservedly so.

Not long after Pacquiao announced his next fight against Marquez, Mayweather made a comeback statement: he was going to take on young lion Victor Ortiz.  Many people applauded the decision — Ortiz was a dangerous opponent, young and strong and a southpaw, meaning he could be viewed upon as a Pacquiao tune-up.  At the time, Ortiz was certainly considered a more dangerous opponent than either Mosley or Marquez.

And then, Mayweather dominated and KO’ed Ortiz, while Pacquiao put in another disappointing performance against Marquez, an opponent most thought he would steam-roll the third time around as catch-weight welterweights.  The fact that Pacquiao got a majority decision when many thought he lost only added more fuel to the Pacquiao hate-wagon.  The defiant “Pactards”, who defend Pacquiao no matter how unreasonably, only made things worse for the Filipino congressman’s reputation.

Pacquiao had been at the top for too long and people were starting to wonder whether he still deserved it.  While Mayweather was tackling dangerous foes, Pacquiao was still allowing greedy Arum to dictate his every move and forcing the public to endure his crappy fights against unworthy opponents.  It is no wonder why several news organisations replaced Pacquiao with Mayweather as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, a position Pacquiao had held ever since his impressive victory over De la Hoya.

Coupled with the latest developments, where Mayweather has called out Pacquiao and Arum has responded with some unconvincing and transparent “excuses”, it ‘s easy to see why Pacquiao has switched places with Mayweather as the person to blame for the fight not happening.

Nevertheless, just as it was harsh to put all the blame on Mayweather at the beginning, it’s not quite right to say it’s all Pacquiao’s fault this time.  Mayweather did, after all, lock in a date and place before even speaking to Pacquiao’s camp.  It’s the biggest fight of all time and Mayweather isn’t exactly allowing much room for negotiation.  If Mayweather was entitled to “take a break” to avoid the fight for no good reason, why can’t Pacquiao refuse Mayweather’s arbitrary date?  Why can Mayweather make his own rules all the time and why does Pacquiao have to accept them?

Then again, this harks back to the previous failed negotiations just before the Pacquiao-Margarito fight, when the two sides were reportedly close to agreeing to a deal, only to have everything fall apart at the last minute.  That time, Arum was the one making the ultimatums and forcing Mayweather to “take it or leave it”.  If Arum can do that, then why can’t Mayweather?

But like it or not, the bigger share of the fault WILL lie with Pacquiao this time if the fight falls through.  For years they have been saying that Mayweather doesn’t really want the fight.  Well, Mayweather has made it crystal clear that he not only wants the fight, he wants it to be his NEXT fight.  He even has a date and venue locked it.  Sure, Pacquiao and Arum can come up with all the excuses in the world why May 5 or the MGM Grand is not a good time or place, but unless they can come up with a legitimate reason to shift the burden back on Mayweather, no one will forgive them if the fight doesn’t happen.  And they know it.  May 5 or late May — either way, it’s got to happen.

The waiting game

Notwithstanding all of the above, the fight can still very well be made for May 2012.  This is the closest they’ve been, and all that’s required is for Mayweather to agree to 50/50 and late May, or Arum and Pacquiao to agree to May 5.

Pacquiao will likely go in as the underdog in this fight, and there is a good chance he will be outclassed (or “exposed”, as some Mayweather fans like to say), but it’s better to see him take the beating of a lifetime than to not step into the ring with Mayweather at all.  If he truly fights for the fans like he says, then he’s got to make the sacrifices necessary to make the fight happen.

The same can be said for Mayweather.  While he will be the favourite (as he always is), there is still a sizeable risk of losing, but having an “L” on his record against Pacquiao will do far more for his legacy than to retire undefeated but with that big question mark hanging over it.

And so we wait.

Pacquiao-Marquez III: Close, Controversial Pacquiao Win

November 13, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

Does this look like the face of a winner?

Seems like some things will never change.  Few people believed that the old adage ‘styles make fights’ would apply every single time, but once again it prevailed tonight.

Despite what many expected would be a brutal annihilation, Manny Pacquiao just won a close, controversial majority decision over arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez (114-114, 115-113, 116-112).

Plenty of people thought Marquez won the first two fights, in 2004 and 2008, and the same will be said for fight number three.  I’ve only watched the fight once, but I had it a 114-114 draw.  However, I cannot begrudge anyone for thinking this was a 115-114, 115-113 or 116-114 fight in Marquez’s favour.  In fact, when I heard the scores being announced, I had a feeling that perhaps an upset was written in the stars.

Honestly, it was that difficult to score.  Several boxing analysts on ESPN had it a draw.  Some had Pacquiao winning by one round.  Others said it was another robbery.  Certainly, from the boos that showered the ring immediately after the decision was announced and Marquez left the ring in disgust (in fact, objects were being showered too), it appears many ringsiders felt the same.  I was also just on the ESPN message board and the overwhelming sentiment is that Pacquiao should have lost.  Not sure if it is just the anti-Pacquiao or pro-Mayweather trolls but it is what it is.

I watched the fight via online streaming, and it was commentated by a British station which featured Pacquiao stablemate Amir Khan.  Interestingly, they had Marquez winning the fight, and winning it easily, and Khan even said before the decision was announced that he’d be open to fighting Marquez if Pacquiao loses.  I’d be very fascinated to see how the commentators from other stations called the fight (apparently Harold Lederman from HBO had it 116-112 for Pacquiao).

If you have watched the fight with the commentary on, I suggest watching it again without any commentary — because they tend to be very misleading.  Watch the fight without the views and opinions of others and decide for yourself.  Did Pacquiao earn the victory or was Marquez robbed (again)?

Fight analysis

Pacquiao weighed 143 and Marquez weighed142 at the weigh-in the day before.  Both were under the catch weight limit of 144 pounds.  Marquez looked huge, at least as big as Pacquiao, and in contrast with his fight against Mayweather, his midsection was much more taut.  Pacquiao, as usual, looked ripped and fantastic.

Unlike the previous two fights, this one was more technical and more of a chess match.  No knockdowns but still a brilliant and exciting fight from start to finish.

To be fair, Pacquiao did look a lot more cautious in the earlier rounds and he appeared utterly confused at times.  He simply didn’t know how to solve Marquez’s style.  He didn’t throw as many combinations as I thought he would, or perhaps it was Marquez’s counterpunching that discouraged him from doing so.

Marquez, to his credit, bulked up successfully this time and fought using a perfect game plan.  He stood his ground, throwing jabs and rapid combinations to unsettle Pacquaio, and when Pacquiao unloaded a shot Marquez simply took a step back to get out of range, and then immediately followed with a counter combination in return.  He also threw some hard body combos, especially earlier in the fight.

To the casual observer it might appear as though Marquez was the more successful fighter throughout, but Pacquiao, who was clearly the aggressor in the latter stages of the fight, did block a lot of the combos and landed a few hard shots of his own.

I gave the first round, a ‘feel-out’ round, to Pacquiao, who was more aggressive and landed the better shots.  From there, Marquez won most of the rounds up to the midway mark, prompting Freddie Roach to tell Pacquiao in between rounds that he was behind and had to pick it up.  Pacquiao listened to his trainer and increased his work rate, but Marquez still fought very efficiently.  Those second-half rounds became very hard to score, and even if most of them they went to Pacquiao they were still extremely close rounds.  I had the fight dead even at the end of round 10.  The last two rounds were practically a wash.  I had Pacquiao winning the 11th and Marquez the 12th, but they could have easily been the other way around (two of the three judges gave the last round to Pacquiao).

When the fight ended, Marquez raised an arm in victory, and Pacquiao retreated to his corner to pray.  Boxers in close fights always think they won, but upon seeing that scene I thought maybe Marquez did achieve the upset after all.  When the first score was announced, 114-114, I thought we were on our way to a majority draw.  I still thought it might end up a draw when they announced the second score, 115-113.  The third score, 116-112, raised an eyebrow.  The fight was too close to deserve that scoreline.

I think a draw would have been the right result, but I couldn’t fault judges for a 2-point swing in either direction.  Perhaps Pacquiao, with his reputation as the reigning champ and P4P king, had enough influence, subconscious or not, to pull the judges to rule in his favour.

Post-fight quotes

Marquez:

“This is the second robbery of the two that we had, and I think this was even more clear than the first.  We won with the clearer punches. The audience protested because they saw us win again. I thought I got robbed. It happens again and again. I don’t know what else I can do to win.”

“It’s hard when you’re fighting your rival and the three judges, too.”

Nacho Beristain (Marquez’s trainer):

“I’ve always confided in this commission here, but this has been a robbery in the utmost.”

Pacquiao:

“The fans of Marquez, of course, aren’t happy, but my fans are happy.  I clearly won the fight. He is a good fighter, but I do my best. It is very clear that I won the fight.”

“He was ready for my punches.  I thought I blocked a lot of his punches.”

Re Mayweather: “Anytime, anytime, I am a fighter. My job is to fight.”

“Let’s get it on,  Let’s make the fight happen and give the people a good fight.”

Freddie Roach (Pacquiao’s trainer):

“It was a very close fight. It could have gone either way.  I asked Manny to move to the right and he didn’t.”

Punch stats

Those suggesting a robbery might want to take a look at the punch stats.  Of course, they are not fully accurate and are open to interpretation, but according to Compubox Pacquiao landed 176/578 punches (30%), while Marquez landed 138/436 (32%).

Pacquiao also had the edge in power punches, 117/274 (43%) to 100/254 (39%).

Per round, Pacquiao averaged 14 of 49 punches, Marquez averaged 11 of 36.

Not to say that this is proof of a Pacquiao victory, because it is not, but it does add weight to the suggestion that this was a close fight that could have gone either way.

Where to from here?

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter (and Marquez’s promoter for this one fight) has suggested a fourth fight between the two in May to decide once and for all who is the better fighter.  I dunno.  I thought this fight would be it.  They could fight 100 times and the result might be the same every time.

I say let Pacquiao fight someone else (ah hem, MAYWEATHER — who must have loved the result and might finally be willing to take the fight now given how it turned out) and regardless of whether he wins or loses, and if Marquez is willing, let their fourth fight be the last of Pacquiao’s career and let him ride off into the sunset.

Mayweather recently announced through a spokesperson that his next fight is in May, and they alluded to the ‘little fella’ as his next opponent, which everyone assumes is Pacquiao.

As for the drug testing problems that have derailed two prior negotiations?  Both Pacquiao and Arum have said it is not a problem anymore.  Pacquiao is now willing to be subjected to Olympic style blood testing (ie random up to the date of the fight), and the only problem was that Mayweather allegedly had an issue with Pacquiao training overseas, as this would mean that two drug testing associations are required to carry out the tests (as the Philippines is out of the USADA’s jurisdiction).  But provided it is still Olympic style drug testing carried out by a credible testing body, it is hard to see this being the issue holding back potentially the most lucrative boxing match of all time.

So now we wait and see.  And hope.

PS: On paper, you may argue that Pacquiao has widened the gap.  The first fight was a draw, the second a split decision and now a majority decision…

 
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