by Cliff Rold
Batman will always capture the Joker.
Freddy and Jason will always be back.
Manny Pacquiao will always beat Timothy Bradley.
It doesn’t matter how many times they fight. Bradley could replace Teddy Atlas with the ghosts of Eddie Futch, Jack Blackburn, and Ray Arcel. Pacquiao is just better than him.
Through three fights, about eight or nine winning rounds better. There is no shame in that. In this generation, one can make the case only Floyd Mayweather was greater than Pacquiao. All time, those two forever linked rivals will breath rare air in the pantheon of boxing immortals.
Pacquiao may always be better than Bradley, but to have his strongest win over him at age 37 speaks to the level Pacquiao has operated at for so long. If this truly was the end for Pacquiao, he goes out reminding us of some of what made him the most thrilling battler of his era.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pacquiao A-; Bradley B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Pacquiao B+; Bradley B/Post: A-; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pacquiao B; Bradley B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pacquiao A; Bradley A/Post: Same
As noted before the fight, there will some dispute on it but Pacquiao and Bradley were viewed in many corners as the top two welterweights around after the retirement of Mayweather. That gives Pacquiao at least an argument as the lineal heir to Mayweather, marking a record fifth lineal title. Along with that nod, he would also be the first fighter since Henry Armstrong to win three of the ‘original eight’ crowns (flyweight, featherweight, welterweight in this case).
Considering he skipped over bantamweight, and likely would have been favored to defeat then-lineal lightweight champion Joel Casamayor when he briefly passed through 135 lbs., it’s a remarkable feat. The chance that one will see a former flyweight champion win any share of the welterweight crown again is slim.
It’s happened all of once in history. Pacquiao was also the only fighter to capture history’s crown at flyweight and featherweight back when it seemed like his ceiling might be 130 or 135 lbs. Very few fighters ever navigated the scale the way Pacquiao has. Sam Langford, Jimmy McLarnin, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Ezzard Charles covered similar spans of the scale with quality wins.
That doesn’t make him better or worse than any of those men. It makes him part of their discussion.
It didn’t matter Saturday that Bradley showed up with a different game plan. One of the better Jr. welterweights and welterweights of this time, Bradley just can’t catch up to Pacquiao. The first knockdown of Bradley Saturday was more of a balance issue. The second was not. Bradley was hurt bad. He’s been hurt bad before.
Bradley surviving was one more credit to a gutsy career. Pacquiao taking over the fight while it was still up for grabs was a credit to his. If Bradley was ever going to beat him, it would have been Saturday night. Even at 37, Pacquiao was still more than enough of himself to give the crowd a glimpse of the offensive icon that packed them in and became a global star.
Bradley did have one moment that stood out. He rocked Pacquiao as badly as anyone has since Pacquiao’s fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao endured. He still had the competitive fire to extinguish Bradley’s hopes. The nearly psychotic work ethic it takes to still be competing this way after eighteen years in boxing’s title picture is model stuff.
Bradley has a similar work ethic and probably has a few more great nights left in him win or lose. One of these days, he’s not going to survive being on the verge of a stoppage. Watching him walk that tight rope will remain worthy of viewing.
We can say at least that it was the best fight of their series. If it was Pacquiao’s farewell, he leaves with the series edge over Marco Antonio Barrera (2-0), Erik Morales (2-1), Juan Manuel Marquez (2-1-1), and Bradley (2-1). Add in wins over Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto and the only thing Pacquiao really could have done in his career to further it was beat Mayweather.
That will leave him behind Mayweather in the pantheon (and Saturday should add value to what Mayweather accomplished against Pacquiao). That’s okay. There’s plenty of room for both among the greats.
Pacquiao has carved his space and it’s been a hell of a ride. If it isn’t over, it’s close. It’ll be a long time before we have another Manny Pacquiao.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 12-5
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]