By Lyle Fitzsimmons
There are times when it’s really easy to hate boxing.
Case in point was Saturday night and the immediate aftermath, in which some tossed up roadblocks to the idea that Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao shouldn’t automatically be paired up in a few months time for a rematch of their ugly 2012 decision.
Yes, I know Manny still has a fight in November with an opponent – Brandon Rios – who’s shown some ability to defeat foes with a significant skill set. But let’s face reality; if even a post-apocalyptic-KO version of Pac Man can’t handle a guy like Rios, he’s through as a relevant discussion piece.
There, I said it. Sorry Manila. No hard feelings.
Anyway, assuming he indeed takes care of comeback matters and does dispatch the former lightweight champ back to the Carson, Calif. level from whence he came, it seems the follow-up diagram for Pacquiao should be as simple as a geometric equation.
If Pacquiao is A and WBO welter champ Timothy Bradley is B, then their paths should intersect precisely at point C – which, in this case, is sometime next spring in a tax bracket locale of Manny’s choice.
But lest we think I’m giving Bradley too much credit for his “win” over Pacquiao last spring, that’s not at all the case. In fact, it’d be no different for my purposes had that fight never occurred.
Manny needs to fight him not to settle an old score or to prove the combined vision of Duane Ford and C.J. Ross was decidedly cloudy that night. He needs to fight him because, as of Saturday night, Bradley became the most legitimate – and practical – opponent at 147 pounds.
Note the word practical, people.
Thanks to the crazy, kooky sport of boxing and its amalgam of relationships, rivalries and contractual realities, it’s pretty much a given that many of the fights that we’d like to see simply cannot happen. Whether the fighters are willing or not, matches get KO’d in boardrooms and corner offices long before the gloved principals have a chance to stand nose to nose on a stage or go fist to fist in a ring.
So, given that fact, let’s dispense for the time being with the “He should fight Mayweather” stuff for either of the guys mentioned here. Because as long as the current reality remains the existing reality – until contracts run out or promotional cold wars thaw – it’s not worth the energy.
And thanks to Bradley’s skillful display on Saturday, we’ve got other options.
The Californian made last summer’s controversy a moot point with his 12-round clinic at the Thomas & Mack Center, which re-positioned him not as the guy to whom Pacquiao dropped a title belt to last year, but a guy who scored a more decisive win over Manny’s No. 1 nemesis than Manny had in four tries.
The exhibition came not a moment too soon for the 30-year-old, who’d admitted prolonged effects from a 12-round skirmish with Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year and heard more than a few whispers during this one’s pay-per-view run-up that the Russian had irrevocably stolen some of his aptitude.
Toward that end, Bradley the athlete struck a blow for those with the sense to use physical gifts to handle a foe – “Bradley is frustrating this crowd,” Sky Sports’ Jim Watt said Saturday, “and I don’t think he cares one little bit” – rather than engaging in rock ’em, sock ’em warfare for the titillation of those paying customers who lack the acumen to do it themselves or the intellect to appreciate the difference.
As for Bradley the fighter, he became the man who beat the man who beat the man; which, at least in the lexicon of Ric Flair and old-school pro wrestling, makes him the man most deserving of a star on the stage alongside Pacquiao’s when it comes time for Bob Arum to reveal his next big show for 2014.
Practically speaking, that’s not so bad.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO light heavyweight title – Flemington, Australia
Allan Green (No. 14 contender) vs. Blake Caparello (No. 16 contender)
Green (32-4, 22 KO): Second title fight; Seventeenth fight at light heavyweight (15-1)
Caparello (17-0, 6 KO): First title fight; Won six of last seven fights by decision
Fitzbitz says: “Green has a better resume and more street cred, but he’s also the older fighter and hasn’t been in top form for several years. A hometown southpaw won’t help.” Caparello by decision
IBF flyweight title – Leipzig, Germany
Moruti Mthalane (champion) vs. Silvio Olteanu (No. 4 contender)
Mthalane (29-2, 20 KO): Fifth title defense; Fourth fight outside South Africa (2-1)
Olteanu (14-6-1, 6 KO): Second title fight; First fight in Germany
Fitzbitz says: “The incumbent champion is on a multi-year roll and has fared well since winning his belt. He should continue the momentum against a sturdy, but less accomplished foe.” Mthalane by decision
WBO super middleweight title – Leipzig, Germany
Robert Stieglitz (champion) vs. Isaac Ekpo (No. 7 contender)
Stieglitz (45-3, 26 KO): Second title defense; Held WBO belt from 2009-12 (six defenses)
Ekpo (22-1, 16 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Africa
Fitzbitz says: “Stieglitz surprised some by resurfacing as a 168-pound champion this year, but he should be more than enough to handle a traveling African novice on the big stage.” Stieglitz by decision
Last week's picks: 1-0
2013 picks record: 56-32 (63.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 519-184 (73.8 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.