What happens when you get six boxing writers together to talk about Tim Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday on HBO pay-per-view? An outpouring of man love for “Dinamita,” pretty much pretty much (though not from Andrew Harrison, who has some questions about the source of the 40-year-old Mexican’s youthful vitality). We’ve convened our metaphorical roundtable to discuss one of the best fights on the calendar, and none of us fancy poor old Tim Bradley’s chances (not even Andrew). Agree? Disagree? You’re invited to pull up a chair and join in in the comments.
What do you make of the psychology of both fighters going in? Is Marquez taking Bradley lightly? Is Bradley in a bad place after the Manny Pacquiao and Ruslan Provodnikov fights?
Patrick Connor: One factor that may wind up affecting the bout is that Marquez could be thinking about closing out his career, but absent evidence, scoring a KO like he did over Manny Pacquiao probably still has him on cloud nine. The confidence that comes with a win like that likely lasts a while. As for Bradley, while he might be pushing the envelope in terms of his physical ability after the Pacquiao and Provodnikov fights, there's no way he could've made it through those battles without steely resolve. We've seen a few hints that he might be psychologically weird going into the Marquez fight, but I wouldn't make too much of it.
Andrew Harrison: Bradley seems agitated – like a man against the world. Mentally, he’s likely to be feeling vulnerable in the aftermath of the beating he took from Provodnikov. He’s also professed to feeling stonewalled with regard to the drug testing protocol. I suspect he attempts to box early, but should Marquez ding him he’ll try to storm the barricades — which will likely see him undone.
Marquez seems supremely confident as well he might. You take a legendary fighter – a master of space, timing and distance — and give him the fitness of a 21-year-old coupled with unlimited power and you’ve got a monster on your hands.
Alex McClintock: I have to say I agree with Andrew. There’s something a bit off about Bradley’s attitude to this fight. His personality seems to have changed a little since before he fought Pacquiao. I get the feeling he’s trying a little too hard to prove his doubters wrong, and that’s not a good attitude to take into a fight with a master counterpuncher. Marquez, for his part, seems as cool, calm and collected as ever.
Jeff Pryor: Marquez has to feel amazing coming off of that knockout of Pacquiao, the most sensational one punch KO of the last generation. However I think he is a realist and knows that before that punch he was in troubled waters. With that knowledge, Marquez will be taking Bradley very seriously. For his part, Bradley is so strong mentally that he's in a great place, determination-wise… however, physically he may not be the same man after Provodnikov. This may be the fight where his huge heart and determination hurt him.
Sam Sheppard: I'm not sure Marquez has ever taken an opponent lightly, from the 24/7 episodes I've seen he appears as focused and motivated as ever. I worry for Bradley, though. The more I see him talking up the prospects of war and going out as a warrior in the ring, the more I worry that he's given up playing the ghost, as it were. I think the criticism he received in the wake of the Pacquiao fight has deeply affected him, to the point where he almost seems not to care what the fans (or anyone else) thinks anymore. He acts as if he's got nothing to lose, but we all know he has plenty. He's always been single-minded, but it's starting to appear detrimental at this stage.
Tim Starks: I'm with most of you guys: Bradley is simply too eager to prove himself, still. I don't think it's from a place of vulnerability so much as it's from a hunger to show he is truly one of the best; he's using the Pacquiao fight like bulletin board material, to motivate himself. That drive served Bradley well every time he's gotten into trouble in his career prior to the Pacquiao bout — he has a tremendous will to win and it's helped him scrape himself off the canvas before. I don't think Bradley doubts himself, particularly. I actually believe that he thinks he beat Pacquiao. In other words, his self-belief is so enormous it can lead to reality denial, and lead him to do foolish things. As for Marquez, the retirement talk doesn't worry me too much for his state of mind — he seems confident, but he's sizing up Bradley appropriately.
If you were in Bradley's corner, how would you approach this fight, tactically – box, brawl or some mix of the two?
Patrick: Certainly a mix, but with far more boxing than brawling. Bradley's assets in the ring, aside from intangibles, are his quick hands and feet and an active style. Contrastingly, Marquez can tend to slow his pace down and comfortably counterpunch, and a faster pace has seemed to offset that in the past. But given Marquez' tendency to throw fission missiles in recent fights, if Bradley's going to brawl, he has to do it very carefully.
Andrew: I’d have Bradley box — countering and moving in big circles. Marquez appears to have gone nuclear after his hook-up with Angel Heredia and the last thing the American needs is to walk onto the type of shots that put Pacquiao on his back and his front.
Alex: I’d have him stick as closely to Juan Diaz’s fight plan as possible. Bradley can imitate that punch output and he hits harder, at least to the body, than Diaz ever did. If I were totally cynical, I’d also recommend he use that big old noggin’ of his too. The thing is, I don’t think Bradley has the skill set to fence with a guy like Marquez, so he may as well roll the dice and see if he can go one better than Diaz.
Jeff: Box and be reserved, make Marquez push the fight. Change it up for quick bursts of aggression, but fall back to moving and boxing before Marquez starts getting into a rhythm. Frustrate him. If Bradley opens up, Marquez, while not as athletic, will figure out ways to time and dissect him. I agree with Alex, this could end up looking like Juan Diaz vs. Marquez if Bradley is aggressive, but I see that favoring "Dinamita,” with tough spots for Marquez, but his better precision punching winning out late in the game.
Sam: I don't think Bradley is in the right frame of mind to box for 12 rounds, and I don't think he'd have the power to keep the new, hulk-like Marquez off him even if he was. After all, Pacquiao hits a lot harder than Bradley and he couldn't discourage Marquez. I imagine Bradley will end up both boxing and brawling, but more out of desperation than anything else. It's possibly he can go the full 12 rounds with Marquez, he's an extremely tough guy after all, but I'm convinced the Mexican is going to put a beatdown on him in this fight.
Tim: I would only have him box. Box box box box. Marquez has struggled some with his share of pure boxers, even if he deserved the wins against a couple of them — Floyd Mayweather (the clear loss), Chris John, Freddie Norwood. He's a natural counterpuncher who's more comfortable leading than he used to be, but doesn't have the speed he once did, isn't as mobile. Do I think Bradley will only box? Nope, and I'll save what that means for the fight for my fuller preview and prediction piece.
We always ask this, but considering the $65 price tag (at least in the US) how do you think this fight will go, popularity wise?
Patrick: My guess is it will do better than most fight cards in terms of visibility, popularity and buys, ratings, etc., but it won't be a blockbuster. Neither fighter has a particularly large following that's willing to travel far for their fights. I went with the lowball guess earlier with somewhere between 350 and 400 thousand pay-per-view buys.
Andrew: It’s one for the hardcore fringe isn’t it? I don’t imagine it even outdoes something like Paulie Malignaggi-Adrien Broner in sales despite being a full level above it in terms of quality. It also offers something that hasn’t been on the table for quite some time – a fight the oddsmakers deem to be competitive.
Alex: I think it’ll do OK. The money from Mexican TV will be excellent because JMM, who for so long laboured in the shadows of Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, is now a huge star south of the border (arguably bigger than Canelo Alvarez). Bradley, for his part, doesn’t really bring a fan base, which limits the show’s potential success somewhat. On top of that, it’s expensive and only a few weeks after Canelo/Mayweather, so fans might not have much change left. Long story short, I think it’ll do OK business – maybe a bit better than expected (and expectations are low) but nowhere near what is traditionally considered a good PPV buy rate.
Jeff: Marquez has to be near God status in Mexico after his last win. Those fans will be there. Real boxing fans will want to see the excellent matchup, but there has to be some fatigue with this bout coming so quickly off the Mayweather/Canelo PPV. The buzz and star power aren't nearly the same and it also doesn't have a show stealing co-feature like Angel Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse. The perception may be you're getting a lot less for your cash than you did last month.
Sam: I think they'll be very happy with around half a million buys. Six hundred thousand would be a great return, in my view. It's simply not a pay-per-view fight, regardless of the price point. It's an exceptionally high level World Championship Boxing showcase, arguably too high given the usual quality of match ups on that show, but it's not quite PPV level. There's a world of difference between the two, and I don't think either guy has quite the star power to bridge the gap, no matter how many hardcore fans are enthralled by this fight.
Tim: Not too well. It's a wonderful fight, kind of a crazy one given how much more money either man could've made against Pacquiao in a rematch, but then Marquez and Bradley are people who fight for more than just cash, and I wish we had more like them. Of course, the guarantees they got aren't bad at all. It's just that they would've made more elsewhere. Anyway, I'm thinking in the 300-400,000 range. Anything more than that would exceed most people's expectations, based on the predictions I've seen. It just comes at a bad time of year sandwiched between Mayweather and Pacquiao PPVs. And it needed a better undercard.