Is this the end?

Photo credit: German Villasenor

Photo credit: German Villasenor

 

In what might have been his last fight (or not), Manny Pacquiao proved he is still a formidable welterweight by easily outpointing a determined – but befuddled – Timothy Bradley over 12 rounds at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

 

He’s not what he once was – but he’s still pretty damn good.

 

Good enough at this stage that, even at age 37 and coming off left rotator cuff surgery in the wake of his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year, this Pacquiao was lauded was the best version Bradley had faced.

 

Armed with new trainer Teddy Atlas, Bradley simply had no answers for Pacquiao. On this night, there would be no fires being put out by this duo, who found that solving the “Pac-Man” equation was akin to trigonometry in contrast to the basis arithmetic of Brandon Rios. For much of the fight, Bradley tried to set traps for Pacquiao, who was still too quick and fleet of foot for the “Desert Storm,” who could never really get a bead on the Filipino star’s rhythm.

 

Pacquiao is no longer the overwhelming physical force he was during his prime, in which he blazed up weight classes with such ease, that rumors of PED usage became a central storyline to his career a few years back. It’s been 11 fights, encompassing over six years since he scored a stoppage victory (which came against Miguel Cotto in Nov. of 2009). Against Bradley, this past weekend, it wasn’t so much his punching that posed problems but his footwork. Throughout the fight, he was able to dart in and out of range with such nimbleness and speed, that Bradley was oftentimes reduced to swinging at air or being hit with quick punches that he didn’t see coming. Pacquiao is still capable of giving some of the most unusual angles this sport has ever seen.

 

When it was all over, the announced crowd of 14,665 had no doubt who should have their hands raised in victory. And unlike their first encounter in 2012, this trio of judges (Dave Moretti, Burt Clements and Steve Weisfeld) got it right and were in unison with their identical scores at 116-110 for Pacquiao.

 

The big question after the fight was: Is this really IT for Pacquiao as a professional prizefighter? Well, the general consensus from the insiders is he will indeed return to the ring. Pacquiao, a politician in his spare time in the Philippines (or is he a boxer in his spare time?) has waffled on his retirement promises and, at the post-fight presser, said he was ”50/50” on whether he would fight again, citing the concerns of his family, who are pushing for him to call it quits.

 

So is this really the end? Only one person truly knows and he could change his mind soon after the latest elections in his home country.

 

But, by chance it is, this would be a great way to go out.

 

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS

 

– Yeah, like the overwhelming majority of you, I think Pacquiao won all three fights versus Bradley. But that alone shouldn’t diminish Bradley as a fighter. In my opinion, he won about three or four rounds in each fight and had some pretty good moments in there. If you look at the others (Brandon Rios, Chris Algieri, Joshua Clottey) who have failed versus Pacquiao over the past several years, those guys were blanked easily and never troubled Pacquiao in any way.

 

Take out Pacquiao’s name on Bradley’s record and he’s basically undefeated and his resume is among the best in boxing, having defeated Miguel Vazquez, Junior Witter, Kendall Holt, Edner Cherry, Lamont Peterson, Devon Alexander, Luis Abregu, Ruslan Provodnikov, Jessie Vargas and Juan Manuel Marquez. Yeah, to me, by today’s standards, that’s good enough to get you into Canastota.

 

If the one indictment on Bradley is that he couldn’t beat Pacquiao (legitimately), well, so be it.

 

– I’m hearing that, even after the second knockdown in the ninth round, Atlas was still imploring Bradley to stick to their game plan and box Pacquiao. I find this interesting since, at that point, a decision victory for his man was highly unlikely. All three judges had it 87-82 after that round, with three to go. It was at that time Bradley most likely should’ve abandoned that game plan, which called for a lot of boxing and movement, and just tried to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at Pacquiao.

 

Now the problem with that is Bradley has never been a heavy-handed sort, having just scored 13 stoppages in 36 fights, and exchanging with Pacquiao would’ve left Bradley in harm’s way. But the strategy to just continue boxing was akin to establishing the running game in football while down three or four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

 

It’s interesting to note that the punch output for this third chapter of this rivalry was significantly less than the previous two fights. I just wonder if it was a bit of “paralysis by analysis” for Bradley.

 

– As for Pacquiao, it’s clear it’s still going to take a really good-to-great fighter to beat him. If he does continue on (and the guess here is he will), while there is always the possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (and please, no killing of the messenger here), I’d like to see some fresh, new match-ups. I’ve said for awhile that aside from Floyd and Manny, it’s Kell Brook who might be the world’s best welterweight. Honestly, not sure if a Pacquiao-Brook fight is even feasible, so the fight I’d like to see down the line is against WBO junior welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, who is poised to face WBC counterpart Viktor Postol in the summer.

 

Crawford is a skilled and athletic craftsman, at the peak of his powers, and has shown that he isn’t afraid to mix it up. The problem with the Pacquiao-Bradley trilogy was there wasn’t much of a demand for it and, no matter how they sold it, it was a non-rubbermatch going in. There was a sense of “Been-there, done-that.”

 

– While Pacquiao headlined, in many respects, youth was served for Top Rank Promotions with the big victories on the pay-per-view card posted by new WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto Ramirez and Oscar Valdez. It seems, during the lead-up to this event, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum clearly had an eye on the future with the possibility of Pacquiao riding off into the sunset and not being the economic force he once was (word is the pay-per-view buys will not reach a half-million, which is problematic when someone is guaranteed $20 million off the top).

 

After Jose Ramirez grinded out a workmanlike 10-round verdict over the game Manny Perez, Valdez shined brightly in stopping former featherweight beltholder Evgeny Gradovich in four rounds. Yeah, this was perfect matchmaking by the Top Rank staff but it’s still up to the fighter to capitalize and execute in the ring. And Valdez did just that in boxing well early, employing smart movement, throwing striking combinations and then running the “Mexican Russian” into a booming left hook. If Valdez was a stock, he’d be blue-chip and, with Vasyl Lomachenko moving up to 130 very soon, he could be in line for a WBO title shot very soon.

 

As for “Zurdo” Ramirez, he turned what many believe was a toss-up fight against Arthur Abraham into a one-sided rout by employing a disciplined game plan in which he controlled distance using his superior reach, kept Abraham turning for much of the night and understanding that the defending WBO super middleweight titlist could only punch after coming out of his turtle shell defense. If he moved off the center point after punching, Abraham would have problems finding him, which he did for much of the fight as he failed to really build any real momentum.

 

The tall and rangy southpaw is a statuesque fighter, one with a certain look that oozes “promotability,” and Top Rank believes it has its next matinee idol on its hands.

 

– Anthony Joshua blew away Charles Martin in two rounds to capture the IBF heavyweight title in just his 16th professional outing. And while he now has a major belt around his waist, it says here that he’ll still be treated and protected like a prized prospect by Eddie Hearn for the time being. While many thought this was a bit of a risk, there was no way Hearn was going to pull the trigger on this fight unless he absolutely believed his man was going to win. Joshua is simply too important not only to Matchroom Boxing but to the business of boxing in the UK overall.

 

They now have a cash cow on their hands and they will milk this for all it’s worth.

 

As for Martin, well, you could argue he had one of the most ignominious heavyweight title reigns in the history of the sport but he certainly got a lot out of it. Because of that IBF belt, he was able to make millions before heading back into obscurity. Hey, those belts are important.

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

OK, so Arum was telling the press on Friday afternoon that a fight between Pacquiao and Saul Alvarez would be huge. No argument but given that one guy is really a middleweight and Pacquiao is really a junior welterweight, at what weight would this be?…Egidjius Kavaliauskas got some much needed rounds in on Saturday…Oleksandr Gvozdyk scored a highlight reel KO of Nadjib Mohammedi…So the end is near for Kobe Bean Bryant. What a career. My favorite Kobe moment is not his 81-point game – believe it or not. It’s Game Four of the 2000 NBA Finals versus the Pacers. With Shaq fouling out, Bryant absolutely carried the Lakers in overtime. He was brilliant and, in my view, really came of age, that day, as a superstar…It is now officially fight week. The countdown begins for Jesus Soto-Karass vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai this Friday night at the Belasco Theater…I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.

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