by Cliff Rold
The best fights in boxing often combine the naked promise of violence between two notable warriors in peak form with, to borrow from the musical “Chicago,” a little of the old razzle-dazzle. If the fight is right, it doesn’t need bells and whistles but boxing can’t help itself.
Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali I was already the biggest fight anyone could ask for in 1971, but it still brought extras like Frank Sinatra taking pictures for Life Magazine because he couldn’t get a ticket. Does anyone in their right mind really think, really, the Chairman of the Board couldn’t get a ticket anywhere he wanted in NYC? Ever?
There are plenty of fights where the razzle-dazzle is turned up a notch because the promise of violence has to be hedged. The late, great Bert Sugar would have called it ballyhoo, using the total experience of a prizefight event to mask flaws in the matchmaking alone.
The promotion of Manny Pacquiao, for all his great accomplishments, has seen some razzle-dazzle recently. While Antonio Margarito and Juan Manuel Marquez performed better than most assumed they would, Marquez nearly pulling off the upset last November, there is no denying his last three fights were all viewed as suspect before the opening bell.
Margarito was sold in part with the allure of Cowboys Stadium and his past hand wrap transgressions, Mosley on the shadow of what he had been (and some odd ringwalks with Survivor and LL Cool J). Marquez was sold on an old rivalry, less razzle-dazzle then the rest but still unmistakably able to be categorized with the other two encounters.
They were all fights where Pacquiao was seen as a prohibitive favorite.
The opponents were viewed too largely as props. At over a million buys on pay-per-view for all three shows, they were damn fine props but they fell short in terms of opponents who, before the fight, could be viewed as men capable of defeating Pacquiao.
This weekend, it’s something different. There are many expecting this fight to fall short at the box office relative to Manny Pacquiao’s last three fights. It will still be the second biggest fight of the year after Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto, but the business of Pacquiao operates on a different stratosphere and isn’t judged by the standards of everyone else.
There are two measuring sticks in terms of dollars just like there are two measuring sticks in the ring. Mayweather and Pacquiao are measured against each other and no others. Mayweather met his measure at the gate with Cotto and also in the ring. That was a fight with promise and razzle-dazzle.
Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley is lacking razzle-dazzle. The violence promise is there. Boxing fans, the real ones, they know. No matter what happens in the ring, this is the first Pacquiao fight since before Margarito where serious fans know for sure they have a real fight on their hands.
Once the bell rings, fate takes its course but fate doesn’t feel the least bit given here.
One of the reasons the razzle-dazzle isn’t at work here is because Bradley doesn’t bring that to the table. He’s largely unknown outside regular boxing circles and the mainstream hasn’t bitten as hard as they should yet on the best 140 lb. fighter in the world. There are hints of Marvin Hagler and Evander Holyfield in the way he carries himself, a professionalism of substance. It might always make him a tough sell as the lone draw, especially without the finishing abilities of the men mentioned.
But Bradley is a proven commodity in his prime. He went on the road to beat the very tough Junior Witter for his first title. He’s left the ring with his hands raised in two Jr. Welter unification bouts and has a lopsided defense over Lamont Peterson, last seen beating Amir Khan before falling into a massive PED controversy. Bradley has been on the floor briefly, sure, but never come close to losing.
When Pacquiao toppled Ricky Hatton for the lineal 140 lb. crown in 2009, Bradley was the leading threat in that division. Since then Pacquiao has moved to Welterweight and Bradley has grown his credentials, if with bursts of inactivity. Pacquiao is the next level of challenge, the challenge Bradley sat out fighting Amir Khan to get. It’s his natural progression.
We’ll find out if he’s up for it.
It’s one hell of a boxing match. The show business might be lacking, but the fight business is healthy this week. Those looking for razzle-dazzle will have to wait for the bell.
But wait, there’s more…
Rosado Shreds Powell: http://www.boxingscene.com/gabriel-rosados-stock-continues-grow-154--53541
A Wink and a Nod: http://www.boxingscene.com/farewell-winky-weekend-review-ratings-update--53647
Updated Ratings: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--53646
Cliff’s Notes… The Lane suicide on Mad Men was unsettling but not shocking. What a rough episode...A change in cable plans means finally catching up on the second season of Spartacus. If there is better trash T.V., point me to it…Have to give Nonito Donaire credit for stating he made the call on Mathebula over Mijares as his next foe. If he’s serious about seeking unification at Jr. Featherweight, it only adds more allure to what could be boxing’s best class by the end of the year…We are less just two weeks from Kazuto Ioka-Akira Yaegashi. Get excited (and help the people who aren’t know why they should be)…Anthony Mundine versus Bronco McKart? If you have nothing nice to say…Best wishes to Shane Mosley in retirement. He had a excellent run at Lightweight that might have been great with better foes, a good run at Welterweight, and never lacked for guts. There will be some who will legitimately recall BALCO when Mosley gets up for the Hall of Fame, but in the corner the Margarito win and all that came before the Vernon Forrest fight are enough to ensure a first ballot nod to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]