Weekend Afterthoughts On Pacquiao Bradley 2, Next For Raymundo Beltran, More

Manny Pacquiao’s mom loves Jesus, but maybe she has a little bit of that Santeria in her.

This is not a full-fledged Weekend Afterthoughts, really, because I’m in Indonesia for a spell (no pun intended) and some fights from the past weekend have been difficult for me to track down. So we’ll confine ourselves mainly to Pacquiao’s welterweight rematch Saturday with Timothy Bradley on HBO Pay-Per-View. We’ll discuss the various injuries and conditions of both men, what’s next for most folk from the card and the pointless war of words between Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza and Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer over Floyd Mayweather.

(For fuller-fledged reports on the individual fights from the weekend, I commend you to our Sam Sheppard and Matthew Swain.)

  • Manny Pacquiao’s performance. No, he’s not the Pacquiao of old, nor will he ever be again. Maybe it’s that he’s slower, as an old trainer suggested, and it affected his power; maybe it’s that he just doesn’t hit as hard at 147, as his current trainer Freddie Roach acknowledged; maybe it’s that nobody knocks out Bradley or much of any of the guys he’s fought since 2009; maybe it’s that he wasn’t implementing everything in the ring Roach wanted him to, as Roach himself said. As usual, it’s probably some of all of the above, mixed with the whole “compassionate Christian” thing, although Pacquiao did in this fight very much seem to be trying to sit down on his punches, which was good enough to hurt but not put away Bradley. But he still has an awful lot left by my eye. He handed Bradley, no worse than one of the five best  his first official loss. He won nine rounds on my scorecard. He outboxed and outworked a determined, intelligent younger opponent — his punches were straighter, his defense better. That’s good enough to get him back into the discussion with Mayweather and Andre Ward as one of the best few fighters alive, keeping in mind that Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez (Pacquiao’s last conqueror, last edged out of a decision himself by Bradley) are all necessarily bunched in the same vicinity given the weird Conquest Triangle they all inhabit. It’s a touch sad that we’ve lost that little dynamo of old, that once-in-a-lifetime fighter and the most accomplished boxer of the past decade. But Pacquiao still can make good fights — I thought the first half of this one was excellent — and fight at an incredibly high level for a while longer, it’s safe to say.
  • Timothy Bradley’s performance. Bradley himself fought well enough to split the first six rounds on my scorecard, but only sporadically fought as he should’ve. I concur with what HBO’s Max Kellerman offered, which was that Bradley was better off when he was pressing and backing Pacquiao up rather than when he was only loading up with counters meant to score a home run knockout. My own pre-fight suggestion was for Bradley to counter mainly and lead occasionally, but in reality he did better with the equation reversed. But that knockout plan? Probably not the best. Bradley doesn’t knock anyone out, and by gunning for a KO from the opening round in a more disciplined manner then late in a sloppy one, he was putting all his eggs in the “Pacquiao’s chin is permanently broken” basket. Bradley hits hard enough to stun people, and Pacquiao admitted to getting rocked once. But he also doesn’t get hit as much as he used to, whether it’s by a rudimentary Brandon Rios trying to notch the feat or a more sophisticated (but ragged version of) Bradley. It was a solid performance — in that he won some rounds and hung in there throughout — that had a chance of working, certainly not the great performance Bradley needed to overcome all of Pacquiao’s speed, power and ever-improved boxing ability. And for all of Bradley’s excellent conditioning, he might’ve worn himself out early swinging for the fences like that.
  • Injuries for Bradley and Pacquiao. Bradley’s “it’s not an excuse but I hurt my calf” line was kind of lame. Yeah, that’s an excuse, fellow Tim. Assuming he did indeed hurt it, this would be the second time Bradley suffered a lower leg injury against Pacquiao, so maybe that’s something he should examine in preparing for his next fight during camp, or maybe it’s just what happens when he tries to match foot speed with a faster fighter. Pacquiao also suffered the familiar old leg cramps. When that was happening while strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza was in his corner, people were suspicious of a steroid regime; now that they’re back, I wonder what they’ll think. The cut he suffered in the final seconds of the fight don’t figure to delay a fall date by much if any, gross/32 stitches and all.
  • Next for Pacquiao and Bradley. It still makes sense under the circumstances to match Pacquiao with the winner of Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado, and still makes sense for Bradley to fight the loser. Failing that, a rematch for Bradley with Ruslan Provodnikov would hit the spot. Pacquiao-Marquez V didn’t interest me moments after Marquez knocked him out so suddenly. The rivalry felt settled, and I worried for Pacquiao’s future in the sport. Now that the future from that moment has unfolded, and now that Marquez has shown moderate signs of his age in his previous fight, Pacquiao-Marquez V doesn’t scare me or disinterest me any longer. It’s the most marketable fight for both men (absent Mayweather for Pacquiao, which we’ll roll our eyes at momentarily), to boot. If Alvarado beats Marquez somehow, we’re probably talking about a real dip in PPV buys for Pacquiao even from Bradley. Alvarado is more on the level of Rios in selling power — fan-friendly, yet obscure with the casual fan — and  Pacquiao-Rios sold poorly, and would’ve probably even if it had been in America. No word yet on the Pacquiao-Bradley II PPV sales, btw. I’m thinking  about 750,000, maybe a touch more.
  • Bob Arum vs. Stephen Espinoza and Richard Schaefer. Arum was bashing Mayweather again after the fight, saying fans should boycott his next bout against Marcos Maidana as a way of forcing Mayweather-Pacquiao, telling writers to call Mayweather-Maidana for the mismatch it is unless they’re scaredy-cats about losing access — as if  Top Rank doesn’t play the access game the way all the other promoters do. This kind of thing comes off as beyond petty, and it’s the kind of thing that explains one of the reasons why boxing is so dysfunctional: Everybody holds a grudge better than they sign fights. Espinoza did some firing back about what a rich event Mayweather-Maidana is compared to Pacquiao-Bradley II, and he’s probably right, and I don’t suppose I can blame him for answering, although he takes his share of unprompted pot shots in the direction of HBO and Top Rank.  And then Schaefer has to jump in, of course. It is all very unproductive, just more people talking shit and not giving one about delivering the best fights to fans. If you enjoy soap operas more than history-making fights, it probably aroused you, but for the rest of us it was just plain tiresome.
  • Next for Raymundo Beltran, Jessie Vargas and Bryan Vasquez. The undercard winners have varying degrees of “next” going for them. Raymundo Beltran could be doing a lightweight tilt against Terence Crawford, an ideal fight for both men: It gets Beltran back on HBO, presuming that HBO is done with its mystifying “now you see him now you don’t” act with Crawford; and it gives Crawford the kind of aggressive foil he needs to make for more compelling fights. (P.S., that this good fight might happen with the aid of one of the alphabet belts only speaks to the occasional aid those belts provide in making good fights; if it were up to the alphabets, lineal champ Floyd Mayweather would be defending his junior middleweight trinket against Sergey Rabchenko, a fight nobody wants or cares about except Rabchenko and that not even the alphabets’ weird media cheerleaders would want, either. If you cherrypick, you can distort the value of the fights the alphabet gang mandates one way or the other.) Khabib Allakhverdiev is demanding a rematch with fellow junior welterweight Jessie Vargas after their fight, which some have labeled a robbery of Allakhverdiev, some have labeled a legitimately close fight that could’ve gone either way and which some scored for Vargas. He might get that rematch, according to Allakhverdiev’s manager. Junior lightweight Bryan Vasquez’s future — if you read much into hazily sourced reports — could include a return date on HBO, although not a rematch against Takashi Uchiyama, apparently, the owner of the “full” alphabet belt Vasquez got an interim version of. Javier Fortuna, then, maybe?

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.