by David P. Greisman
The first fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley hurt the winner more than it helped him. That won’t be the case in the rematch. Winning is everything. Though that’s almost always the case in boxing, it will be particularly true with Pacquiao-Bradley 2.
So much rides on the result. Pacquiao cannot remain a superstar if he does not defeat Bradley. Bradley might never become one if he cannot win with emphasis, and especially without controversy.
Controversy is what soured Bradley’s split decision victory over Pacquiao in June 2012. The story has been repeated often enough that it’s now best recounted in abridged format:
Bradley promised he’d defeat Pacquiao, and he did. The only people who believed he actually deserved the win, however, were his trainer and team, his family members, a small minority of fans and observers, and two of the three official judges working ringside for his fight.
A win over Pacquiao should’ve propelled Bradley toward superstardom. Instead, he was villainized and cast aside. He wasn’t merely treated as the beneficiary of the robbery, but also as if he were the person who had held the gun. Ironically, he would’ve been better off had he lost. After all, it’s better to wind up with what you deserve than it is to attempt to reap the rewards of something unjustly gained.
In the weeks before the first fight, Bradley held up a mocked-up poster and an oversized ticket for “Bradley vs. Pacquiao 2,” a rematch with their names transposed, the supposed new champion listed first. These props set a date of Nov. 10, 2012. Instead, Bradley would spend the remainder of the year on the sideline. Pacquiao would return in December as if the Bradley loss had never happened, headlining a pay-per-view main event in his fourth fight with longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
The rest is also well known, so let us breeze through it. Marquez knocked Pacquiao out cold, giving Pacquiao something he hadn’t experienced against Bradley — true defeat. Bradley came back in March 2013 with what was presumed to be a stay-busy bout against Ruslan Provodnikov, only to be dragged into a brutal fight of the year candidate that left Bradley concussed and fortunate to escape with a close win.
Bradley fought again this past October, taking on Marquez on pay-per-view, putting on a good performance and leaving with something different than the Pacquiao result: a split-decision win that, while debatable, was far less detestable. Pacquiao broke his losing streak in November with a well-boxed points victory over Brandon Rios.
A fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. remains a pipe dream. Marquez wanted a second shot at Bradley but isn’t yet getting what he wants. And the rematch predicted on Bradley’s fake ticket and poster is finally coming true, just 17 months and 2 days later than Bradley anticipated. They will meet on April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
This is a high-profile bout with high stakes. Depending on your card-game metaphor, they are either doubling down, or pushing all their chips in and seeking to double up. The winner gets to keep his seat at the table.
That’s important. Pacquiao might just be losing his luster. He’s still a remarkable attraction, the second-biggest star in the Sweet Science, but the gap between him and the top draw, Mayweather, has widened. Mayweather’s lowest pay-per-view buy rate in years came this past May; according to Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime, Mayweather’s win over Robert Guerrero came in at a little more than 1 million.
As for Pacquiao, his win over Rios came in at less than half a million in the United States. It was Pacquiao’s 18th pay-per-view main event in his past 19 fights, and the buy rate was his lowest in the five years since he faced Oscar De La Hoya.
Perhaps the buy rate for Pacquiao-Rios was affected by Pacquiao coming off two losses, particularly the Marquez knockout. Perhaps it was affected by Rios coming off his close decision loss to Mike Alvarado and moving up in weight to take a fight that few gave him a chance of winning. Perhaps some of the casual fans also lost interest in Pacquiao, feeling that the Marquez defeat cemented that a Mayweather match would never happen.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank, made up for some of these losses through its expansion into the Asian market, particularly with Chinese Olympian Zou Shiming fighting on the undercard and potentially reaching a huge domestic population. But the lower buy rate for Pacquiao-Rios is meaningful, and it will be interesting to see whether the Pacquiao-Bradley 2 buy rate starts a trend or if it returns Pacquiao closer to normal.
Bradley’s win over Marquez, meanwhile, did about 375,000 buys. That doesn’t indicate that Bradley is a star, but rather seems more like a number that comes from the usual audience for boxing pay-per-views, plus some of Marquez’s fans in the United States. And though Bradley won on pay-per-view, the actual audience for that victory likely is smaller than that which watched Bradley-Provodnikov live (never mind those who caught it later).
Bradley doesn’t necessarily need to be a pay-per-view attraction himself. But while he’s still officially undefeated, he does need a victory to guarantee that he remains in the mix among the top welterweights in the world. His decision over Marquez showed that he’d learned from his wins over Pacquiao and Provodnikov — he engaged enough to make the fight interesting, but not so much that he put himself in unnecessary danger.
He needs to approach this Pacquiao rematch with a style that will help him win, while also helping him win fans over.
As for Pacquiao, it’s not just about how well he does on the business side, but also about how he performs in the ring. The Marquez loss didn’t mean that Pacquiao was done, nor did the Rios win mean that Pacquiao is back.
Barring another bout of controversy, Pacquiao cannot lose another bout clearly. It was one thing when referee Kenny Bayless was standing over him. It would be another if the fans begin to count him out as well.
The 10 Count
1. After his decision win over Dierry Jean this past Saturday, Lamont Peterson said he wants a shot at the top guy at 140 pounds, Danny Garcia.
It could be a very good fight. But I’m not sure if there’s much chance of that fight being made.
Though nothing’s official yet, Garcia’s father and trainer, Angel, has said that Danny will face Mauricio Herrera on March 15. And then there’s the matter of Danny Garcia’s pending move to welterweight, a move he’s said he wants to make soon.
So much can change in this sport, but I don’t see Garcia-Peterson being a priority for Golden Boy Promotions at this moment, not when Golden Boy can test Garcia against some of the second-tier fighters at 147 and then move him toward a bout with one of the big-money names in that division.
2. Jermell Charlo stepped up with his clear decision win over Gabriel Rosado this past Saturday on the Lamont Peterson-Dierry Jean undercard, beating a better opponent than any he’d ever faced before.
And with Charlo’s step up came a major step back for Rosado.
Rosado’s 2012 had been a good year, one that brought him the opportunities he had in 2013.
In 2012 he was a junior middleweight fighting on NBC Sports Network, scoring stoppages over Jesus Soto Karass, Sechew Powell and Charles Whittaker. He moved up to middleweight in 2013 for a chance to fight titleholder Gennady Golovkin and got beaten, bloodied and then stopped in the seventh round.
He then got a bout with middleweight prospect J’Leon Love on the pay-per-view undercard to Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Robert Guerrero. Rosado lost a close and disputed split decision, though that result was overturned to a no contest after Love tested positive for a banned substance.
And Rosado then got another middleweight title shot, this one against Peter Quillin. Despite what the scorecards said, Rosado was giving Quillin a good fight when the bout ended in the 10th round due to a cut.
It was about as good a winless year as possible. But Rosado needed this win over Charlo, a 154-pound prospect. The victory didn’t come, and now Rosado will need to hope for another opportunity to come to him — or he will need to return to ESPN2 and NBC Sports Network-level shows as he tries to earn one more chance.
3. Sometimes the major boxing networks invest in several fighters in deep divisions, and sometimes they dedicate a bunch of money and television time to a single fighters who doesn’t really have much else of note that can be made in his weight class.
That latter scenario seems to be the case with Mikey Garcia, the 130-pound titleholder who topped Juan Carlos Burgos by unanimous decision on HBO this past Saturday.
Per the report by my colleague Jake Donovan, Garcia was clearly superior and Burgos fought as if he was highly aware of that: “As the rounds progressed, Burgos’ confidence and ring activity plummeted,” Donovan wrote. “The three-time title challenger reached a point where he knew, or sensed, that he wasn’t going to win the fight.”
In the past three years, Garcia has been on HBO for 7 of his last 10 fights (and on Showtime for another), as he has progressed from prospect to contender to titleholder, and moved up from featherweight to junior lightweight.
The issue at junior lightweight is that while there are opponents, there aren’t necessarily fights that can be made, or that should be made on HBO. Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura are based out of Japan, Argenis Mendez will likely be in a rematch with Rances Barthelemy in a bout that was on ESPN2, and even a prospect such as Javier Fortuna hasn’t done much of note of late.
Perhaps featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich could move up a division. Needless to say, there isn’t really a rival for Garcia at 130 being pushed right now, which means no natural storyline leading to a collision between two top guys.
4. The only storyline is a forced one, albeit an intriguing one, as Yuriorkis Gamboa and his team have been calling out Mikey Garcia, and Gamboa even stepped into the ring after Garcia’s win on Saturday to have a verbal confrontation.
Gamboa coincidentally used to be promoted by Top Rank, for whom Garcia fights, before rapper/promoter 50 Cent recruited Gamboa and paid Top Rank for the contractual buyout. Yet Gamboa now needs Top Rank to OK a match between him and Garcia; Gamboa has little leverage beyond the name he built in the years before, and before his momentum stalled out.
Garcia might just need Gamboa, too. It’s still not the most meaningful fight at 130, but it’s one of the more meaningful fights that can be made.
5. Being a boxing fan can be a matter of famine and feast, with weeks on end without big-time boxing, and with evenings and nights in which your entire day becomes dedicated to watching people punch each other.
That can lead to some late nights — particularly on Fridays on the East Coast when you’re coming off the work week — where it becomes a race between you and the boxers on screen to see who gets rendered unconscious first.
Fortunately, this past Friday had three cards in which the main events were blissfully quick.
Between Curtis Stevens vs. Patrick Majewski on NBC Sports Network, Thomas Williams Jr. vs. Cornelius White on ESPN2, and Antonio Orozco vs. Miguel Huerta on Fox Sports 1, we had one blowout and two brief but exciting fights.
These three fights saw four of the six boxers hit the canvas over the course of just four rounds — and actually just 7 minutes and 35 seconds combined. Stevens was the only one of the bunch never to be shaken up.
6. And now we get to the drought.
There are various broadcasts on ESPN2, Fox Sports 1, on Showtime’s “ShoBox” and on the Spanish-language networks at the end of January and throughout February. There’s also an HBO2 card on Feb. 22 featuring Zou Shiming.
Yet the biggest name fighting in February is Gennady Golovkin, who makes a voluntary defense against Osumanu Adama on Feb. 1 on a show that will be aired on an independent pay-per-view.
Big-time boxing will return in March. Enjoy the Winter Olympics.
7. Andre Ward, Jan. 25, 2014, as quoted by Bill Emes of BoxingScene: “[Carl] Froch doesn’t want to fight [me.] Right now Froch is behind the scenes trying to get what he perceives to be the weak link, which is [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr. But I can’t blame him. Froch is 36 years old or 37 or whatever he is, he’s trying to cash out.”
Andre Ward, March 2013, as quoted by Luis Sandoval of BoxingScene: “I’m in a position right now where I don’t feel like I got to chase anybody. I’m open to any opportunity that’s the right opportunity. We want the biggest fights and we want a pay-per-view type of situation and I think we’re right around the corner from getting that. But I will throw one name out: Chavez Jr.”
8. I wouldn’t object to Carl Froch vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but there are definitely other fights involving Froch that I’d rather see first — and a rematch between Froch and Ward isn’t first and foremost.
For me, rather, I’d prefer a rematch between Froch and George Groves. They met in November. Groves knocked Froch down in the first round and continued to do well, but Froch battled back and had Groves reeling in the ninth. Their bout ended too soon, however, with the referee jumping in even though Groves didn’t appear to be out on his feet. The ref didn’t give Groves a chance to show he could recover or defend himself, nor did he give Froch a chance to finish Groves off without controversy.
Froch claims Groves turned down a seven-digit offer for a rematch. Nevertheless, it seems like the rematch could still happen — unless Froch vacates his title — thanks to a ruling by the International Boxing Federation.
The IBF announced last week that it has ordered Froch-Groves 2 based on what it felt was inappropriate conduct by referee Howard John Foster that affected the fight’s outcome.
“Groves should have been allowed to continue, as he did not appear to be seriously hurt and was counter punching and attempting to move the action away from the ropes at the time of the stoppage,” the IBF said in a statement, citing the opinion of an appeals panel. “In addition, the referee waved the fight off from behind Groves instead of in front of him and did not look into his eyes. Groves showed no signs of being hurt after the stoppage. In sum, the panel felt it was an improper stoppage.”
The IBF has ordered the rematch to take place by April 24, with contracts needing to be signed by Feb. 8 or a purse bid will be held.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly: Junior featherweight prospect Tramaine Williams had an ill-timed run-in with the law, when raids on accused gang members and associates brought police to a home Williams shares with others, and turned up a semiautomatic weapon underneath his bed, according to the New Haven (Conn.) Register.
He is facing charges of possession of an assault weapon and drug possession, the report said. And beyond that, the arrest came two days before Williams was supposed to appear on the undercard to Mikey Garcia vs. Juan Carlos Burgos at Madison Square Garden. His bout got canceled.
Williams also has a handful of alleged traffic violations pending against him, according to online court records.
The 21-year-old turned pro in April 2012 and has gone 8-0 with 2 knockouts and 1 no contest.
10. The nickname of the year to date belongs to one of the undercard fighters on Saturday’s show in Washington, D.C.
Marlon “The Best By” Farr.
Alas, Farr was 3-3 going into his bout with D’Mitrius Ballard, and 3-4 after he retired just as the third round was about to get going.
The bout ended due to an injury to Farr’s hand. It’s a shame he didn’t get knocked unconscious, because then I would’ve had the perfect headline:
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]