To say the result of the first bout was controversial would be an understatement. I’m one of the few who considered the eventual result (a narrow split decision for Bradley) to be correct although I’d have been happy with any score between the eventual 115-113 Bradley to 116-112 Pacquiao. The bout was close with a number of close rounds and I think in the hyperbole about the decision it was often forgotten that neither Bradley nor Pacquiao was spectacular.
Both men come into this contest with something to prove. Bradley wants to prove the first contest was neither a fluke nor a robbery and that he is Pacquiao’s better. Pacquiao wants to prove he’s back to his best after some underwhelming performances and his chilling knockout loss to Marquez. In the pair’s last bouts they each took a step towards that, Bradley asserting himself as one of the best welterweights in the world with a crafty but comfortable decision win over Marquez while Pacquiao showed he wasn’t shot by utterly outclassing the hapless Brandon Rios.
So what points should we consider going into this rematch?
Who doesn’t love a good fight? A great bout can announce the arrival of a new star, turn a star into a legend or simply entertain a thrilled audience. And let’s be clear here… 2013 was a great year for fights. The hardest part of compiling this list was thinking about what to leave out rather than looking for bouts to put in and there are number of contests that likely deserve at least an honorable mention only to find themselves excluded because I didn’t want to list dozens of contests.
The ability to adapt is often an underrated talent for a boxer to have. As fans we tend to eulogise about the boxers who can do one thing brilliantly… be it power punching, grinding inside work, stick-and-move boxing or counter punching. In contrast we are generally a bit more dismissive of those who can do everything well but nothing brilliantly. That’s not necessarily deliberate; it’s simply harder for them to stand out.
Timothy Bradley showed exactly how effective adaptability can be tonight as he outpointed the consummate counter-puncher in Juan Manuel Marquez in a bout that lacked the outright thrills of the last bouts for each of the pair but was in it’s own way thrilling, a tense chess match of high level technical boxing from two masters. The judges scores of 115-113 and 116-112 Bradley, 113-115 Marquez were a little narrow for my taste (I had it closer to 116-112 Bradley) but I understand why they were narrow.
The two men who have done the most to derail the carrer of Manny Pacquiao… one controversially, one chillingly… meet this Saturday in a bout that will tell us a lot about both men.
It is some ways unfair to reduce both of these talented boxers to just their bouts with the Filipino superstar but there can be no doubt that it is their battles with Pac Man that to a large extent have defined their careers. Marquez’s four bouts with Pacquiao brought him from an underrated and little known Mexican boxer stuck in the shadow of Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales to one of the most well known names in boxing while Bradley’s win over Pacquiao should have turned him from an underappreciated star of 140lbs to a superstar only for the controversy over the scoring to sour the entire episode.
Both men turned down the chance to have another crack at Manny for this bout. So after this weekend, who will think that decision was somewhat foolish?