by Cliff Rold
The excitement is not palpable. It might be by fight time, but a week out from Manny Pacquiao’s latest step to scratch there is a relative lack of buzz outside of hardcore fight fan circles that love the game in general.
We may be getting a look at the gap between those fight followers, mainstream passer’s by, and those whose boxing fandom is all about Manny and little else. Pacquiao has one of the toughest assignments of his career coming this Saturday. It’s the sort of fight people should be excited about, a genuine challenge from a younger man with proven credentials.
Instead, there is a lot of ‘who is that guy’ from those who wouldn’t have known most of the names on last Saturday’s Showtime show much less watched and who have no idea how thrilling Carl Froch-Lucian Bute was for those who knew to care.
There is a very real chance that this will be the first show featuring Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather since Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey not to break the million-buy pay-per-view threshold in the U.S. market.
Those numbers have no bearing here.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick It: #1 at Welter Manny Pacquiao vs. #1 at Jr. Welter (Saturday, HBO PPV, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST)
Count this corner as every bit as excited for this Saturday as for last month’s Mayweather-Miguel Cotto tilt. If the two best fighters in the sport won’t fight each other, the next best thing they can do is fight some of the next best out there. Both are meeting the call. Bradley (28-0, 12 KO) is one of the most complete fighters in boxing short of a knockout punch. He can box, brawl, and has exceptional hand speed. Add in real desire and proven heart and Pacquiao has a fight on his hands. Fans have a fight, period. Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO) is in the position of having something to prove. Too many believed Juan Manuel Marquez gone before his third clash with Pacquiao last year and he took the Filipino icon to the brink. Following a dreadful, overly friendly affair with Shane Mosley one fight prior, the question can be raised as to whether Pacquiao has seen his best come and go. Bradley is excellent at setting and maintaining a pace. Pacquiao will have to be able to make him uncomfortable and outwork him to win. Add in Jorge Arce on the undercard as well as Guillermo Rigondeaux and this appears enough to merit a buy from anyone who knows what they’re getting heading in.
Pick Deuce: Kelly Pavlik vs. Scott Sigmon (Friday, ESPN2, 10 PM EST/PST)
The comeback of former Middleweight king Kelly Pavlik (38-2, 33 KO) takes its next baby step against Scott Sigmon (22-3, 12 KO). He’s still rebuilding from alcohol rehab and forming a new trainer relationship with Robert Garcia and already has called out Carl Froch. Pavlik clearly wants to get back to the fights that matter and Friday will be a good gauge for how close he is. With Super Middleweight still red hot, he will be a positive add to the mix. Also, this show will be all full of pre-fight Pacquiao hoopla so it’s an easy must.
Pick Solo: McWilliams Arroyo vs. Felipe Rivas (Sunday, Telefutura, 12 AM EST)
If the pay-per-view ends early, this show should just be getting started. If not, it can be a DVR nightcap. Arroyo (11-1, 9 KO) and his brother McJoe (10-0, 5 KO), also in action, are serious comers at 112 and 115 lbs. respectively even if matched with the Willie Standup twins here. Both young Puerto Rican talents could be headed towards title contention.
Back in seven.
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Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]