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May 24, 2012

By Doveed Linder

If you were to walk into a room of 250 people, all perfect strangers, what are the chances that you would meet either a boxer, someone who knows a boxer, or a die hard boxing fan?  Last Wednesday, while attending a live taping of a game show called “Oh, Sit!”, I met all three. While I and the other audience members were standing in line to be let into the studio, I began chatting with a couple of guys in their early 20’s.  I said, “Are you guys boxing fans?”  One of the guys said, “No, but my aunt was a boxer.  Her name is Fredia “The Cheetah” Gibbs.”  Knowing very little about female boxing, I asked if she fought professionally.  He said, “Yeah.  She’s from Philadelphia.  My mom made me watch all of her fights.”
Once I was seated in the studio, the guy sitting to my left started shadow boxing.  I asked him if he was a boxer and he told me that he competed as an amateur, but he is now a personal trainer who teaches boxing.  From there we began discussing various topics in the game.  The guy to my right chimed in and mentioned that he is friends with Antonio Tarver.  In fact, he claimed that when “The Magic Man” was trying to land a fight with Roy Jones, Jr. in the early 2000’s, it was he who he suggested to Tarver that he call him out and start dogging him. [Editor's note: The strategy worked brilliantly as Tarver's calling out of Roy Jones led to a career-definign trilogy of fights where Tarver beat the furute hall of famer two out of three].  This guy once competed as an American Gladiator under the name “Saber” and he appeared in the first “Mortal Combat” movie.  Apparently, Saber hadn’t spoken with Tarver in a while, because he was completely unaware of Tarver’s upcoming fight with Lateef Kayode.  Once I told him about the fight, he sent Tarver a text and told him that he just met a Boxingtalk writer.
A couple of other guys in our section were also boxing fans and it wasn’t long before about five of us started talking about the sport.  Wouldn’t you know that “The Great Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Debate” soon began and we all started getting very loud and emotional.  I quickly suggested that we switch gears and talk about the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight, which is right around the corner.  Everybody had their own view of this fight.  I’ll give you mine.
Outside of Pacquiao-Mayweather, Pacquiao-Bradley is the best fight that can be made in boxing.  It’s the pound for pound king against a guy who has a realistic shot at beating him (I actually consider Mayweather to be the best fighter in the sport, but Pacquiao has done more to prove that he deserves the #1 spot).  As with a lot of fights, this will come down to who can impose their range.
If Pacquiao can keep Bradley at the end of his punches, he’ll destroy him, but if Bradley can make this an inside fight and crowd Pacquiao, he’ll give “Pac-Man” all he can handle and then some.  Bradley is going to have to be careful that he is either all the way or all the way out.  If he stands at mid range, he’s going to be in trouble.  This is a very dangerous fight for Timothy Bradley.  It’s the first time Bradley has faced a devastating puncher like Pacquiao, and he can’t make any mistakes.  Bradley brings a winning attitude and he’s always ready for war, but he’s going to have to be very smart.
Pacquiao likes to move in and out and side to side, which works best when he has an opponent who “locks up” with him.  The challenge that Pacquiao will face in this fight is that he has an opponent who will be applying a lot of pressure.  He’s going to have to really use his legs to make enough room to punch.  There will be times when it’s very hard for him to get off.  Pacquiao doesn’t fight well going backwards, which is why this will be a difficult style for him to cope with.  The flip side to that is he isn’t going to have to chase Bradley down.  Bradley is not a stick-and-move guy.  He’s going to come to Pacquiao, which could create opportunities for the “Pac-Man”. 
What worries me about Manny Pacquiao is that he’s already reached the mountain top, and sometimes it’s easier to get there than it is to stay there.  He was on a roll for a while with knockout wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto.  After that, he didn’t really have anything to prove.  Even when he fought Juan Manuel Marquez the third time, he had already out-grown the controversy surrounding their first two fights by destroying opponents in the 140’s.  Had he knocked out Marquez as many predicted he would do, that victory probably wouldn’t be held in as high regard as some of his other accomplishments.  The same can be said for this fight with Timothy Bradley.  If Pacquiao beats Bradley or even knocks him out, it would be a great accomplishment, but it wouldn’t top what he’s already done. 
Unlike when he faced Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, and Shane Mosley, Pacquiao is going to have to be at his best if he wants to come out victorious.  Fighters can’t give it 100% every time out.  It’s too draining.  Look at some of Muhammad Ali’s fights after the “Rumble In The Jungle”.  Even when he won, he didn’t always look spectacular, partly because he had already proven his greatness.  Pacquiao has proven his greatness, as well, and he NEEDS to be spectacular if he wants to be as effective as he has been.  There’s a big difference between a Pacquiao who is at 80% than a Pacquiao who is at 100%.  He has some really good skills, but he’s not crafty.  Energy and enthusiasm is a big part of his game.
Unlike Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley has yet to see his dreams come true.  This fight means everything to him, and I believe he is hungrier for this fight than Pacquiao.  Nevertheless, I favor Pacquiao to win by decision (or even by knockout if he catches Bradley clean), because of his punching power.  Power is rarely the deciding factor between two elite fighters, but in this case I believe it is.  Even though Bradley has some slickness to his offense, he’s going to have to pay a price if he wants to get close to Pacquiao.
It was 2:30am when I left the taping of “Oh, Sit!”  As I was walking back to my car, I laughed and shook my head at how I always run into boxing people wherever I go.  Two of my great passions are movies and boxing.  I run into a lot of movie people as well, but for some reason, the boxing people always stand out in my mind.  I guess nothing compares to the bond that is formed when a group of boxing fans meet by chance.

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