Road to Pacquiao-Bradley III Part 1: 2011
By Hector Franco
Next Saturday night boxing fans will be treated to the rubber match between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. The match when first announced was met with little enthusiasm. Many were hoping for a bout between Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao has a tendency to face opponents who may hold a stylistic advantage over him. Bradley has gone 24 rounds with the Filipino and with new trainer Teddy Atlas; it could prove to be a mistake to face him once again. Regardless of how many feel about the bout, it’s between the two top welterweights currently in the division.
Looking back at how we got to the rubber match may gave us a better glimpse into what may occur in the ring on April 9th. The seeds were planted for this match up back in 2011. 2011 was the first year you could see a physical decline in Pacquiao. It was also the year that Timothy Bradley made the official move over to Top Rank from Gary Shaw. Before Andre Ward and Mikey Garcia, Timothy Bradley decided to leave a promoter thus costing him time in the ring. Bradley’s issues were resolved much quicker than the latter.
In 2011, Timothy Bradley was coming off a disappointing 2010. Bradley fought once against former welterweight contender, Luis Carlos Abregu. The bout took place at welterweight. Bradley lost some of his momentum coming off of a great 2009. In 2009, Bradley faced Lamont Peterson, Nate Campbell and Kendall Holt. The bouts with Holt and Peterson were especially impressive as Bradley showed a wide variety of skill. Most famously in the Holt fight Bradley was knocked down in the first and twelfth rounds by brutal left hooks. Bradley got up from both knockdowns and proceeded to get back to work.
In January 2011, Bradley faced off against Devon Alexander. At the time to the two men were considered the two best 140-pounders in the division. The two men fought at a questionable location at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. The bout disappointed as the two men’s styles clashed in the worse way. Bradley was able to impose his will on Alexander and proved he was the better fighter. The bout ended after a cut from a head butt. Alexander was unable to continue and Bradley was awarded a technical decision victory. After the bout, Bradley sat out for most of the year while making the transition from Gary Shaw to Top Rank. Once he made the move to Top Rank the wheels began rolling for a bout with Manny Pacquiao.
2011 was commercially one of if not the biggest year for Pacquiao financially at that point. In the ring, however, it seemed that Pacquiao was going through the motions. Another year without a Mayweather bout, the backlash against Pacquiao by boxing fans began this year. Fans were not happy when it was announced he would be facing Shane Mosley in May of that year. Mosley was coming off of a one sided loss to Floyd Mayweather and a controversial draw against Sergio Mora. Needless to say Mosley did not look good coming into the bout with Pacquiao. The bout was turned down by HBO.
Two years before Mayweather signed a six-fight deal with Showtime, Top Rank took Manny Pacquiao to Showtime for his bout with Mosley. The bout was a success on PPV. It was reported that it sold over 1.3 million in PPV sales. The fight itself was disappointing for both men. Mosley fought in survival mode for the entire bout while Pacquiao looked disinterested through most of the bout. The highlight came in the third round where Pacquiao dropped Mosley with a hard straight left. Pacquiao won a one sided unanimous decision. Mosley looked at his worst and this was Pacquiao’s least impressive performance in years. With the Mayweather bout still unable to be made, Pacquiao looked at a former rival for his next fight.
Ever since the decision was read out loud giving Manny Pacquiao a split decision victory in their second bout, Juan Manuel Marquez has wanted a rematch with Manny Pacquiao. The bout at the time was seen as a one sided bout putting Pacquiao as high as a 9 to 1 favorite over the Mexican. At the time this was Pacquiao’s most financially successful PPV. The press tour for the bout included somewhat of a world tour as the two men held press conferences in Mexico and the Philippines. The fight went on to sell over 1.4 million in PPV buys.
By this time, it was clear that Top Rank and maybe Pacquiao himself were looking past Marquez. Timothy Bradley was put on the undercard of the PPV in a bout against former 130 and 135-pound champion Joel Casamayor. Bradley did his job and stopped Casamayor in a one sided bout. Now it was up to Pacquiao to beat Marquez, to set up a bout with Bradley.
As is the norm with all the Pacquiao-Marquez bouts, the crowd in the arena was incredible. The crowd was also pro-Marquez. Many may have been expecting Pacquiao to blow out Marquez similar to how he did in the first round of their first bout. Marquez had other plans on the agenda. Pacquiao seemed somewhat disinterested in the bout at times, however, it has to be pointed out that many times in the promotion for the bout, Pacquiao and his team said that this had been the best training camp for a fight they have had in years. As the first round ended it was apparent that Pacquiao would not go through Marquez easily.
Marquez had a great game plan and Pacquiao was content to box with Marquez. Every round in this bout was close and debatable. Many rounds could have been scored for either man depending on your preference. This bout was a perfect example of how subjective the sport of boxing can be when it comes to scoring a fight. When the final bell ended, Marquez celebrated in victory and Pacquiao hung his head in disappointment. Pacquiao may have thought he lost the bout or he was just disappointed in his performance. The scores were read and a majority decision victory was awarded to Pacquiao. The fans in the arena filled the MGM Grand with boos. Marquez left the ring in disgust.
This was the most controversial bout within the Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry. Many feel Pacquiao won a close decision and others feel that Marquez clearly won. The fight won Ring Magazine’s robbery of the year for 2011. The bout may fall somewhere in the middle. It was a close and debatable fight that could have been scored for either man. It’s a fight that will be debated for years, in the same vein as the Leonard-Hagler bout of the 1980’s.
Other than the scoring of the bout there was another factor that made the fight controversial. Marquez hired Angel “Memo” Heredia as his strength and conditioning coach for the third bout with Pacquiao. Heredia had been involved in situations pertaining to PED usage in the past. Most notably, it can be viewed in a German documentary on PED use an interview with Heredia explaining how one can pass drug tests while still taking performance enhancement drugs. Marquez has never failed a drug test. Pacquiao has never failed a drug test. Marquez looked bigger than he ever has for this bout with Pacquiao. Unfortunately the bout didn’t have the proper drug testing it needed. Any thought of PED use in this bout has been reduced to mere speculation because of the lack of drug testing.
Even with the controversy surrounding the third Marquez bout, the stage was now set for Pacquiao-Bradley. Fans had no idea that the bout with Bradley would be even more controversial.