On Saturday night, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on HBO PPV, WBO welterweight champion and Boxing Tribune/FOX Sports No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) takes on WBO junior welterweight champion-in-recess (presumably pending the result of this fight) and Boxing Tribune/FOX Sports No. 10 pound-for-pounder Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs).
The main event headlines a night of boxing in which three world titles are on the line, including two crowns at welterweight. In addition to the WBO strap on the line in the main event, the IBF title is at stake as Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) takes on veteran Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs) in what is sure to be an action fight. The third world title fight, at 122 pounds, sees Guillermo Rigondeaux (9-0, 7 KOs) making his first defense of the WBA title against Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 KOs).
Rounding out the night's action is an intriguing opening bout between battle-scarred 32-year-old Mexican bantamweight Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) and Puerto Rican prospect Jesus Rojas (18-1-1, 13 KOs), with no titles or distinctions on the line, simply an opening act.
Stick with us as we breakdown the night's action, one fight at a time.
Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) vs. Jesus Rojas (18-1-1, 13 KOs), bantamweights
Arce has been in the wars. Over the course of 68 pro fights and 390 rounds of boxing, he's captured world titles between 108 and 118 pounds, held the WBC junior flyweight strap for two and a half years and fought seven defenses between 2002-04; been beaten silly by Michael Carbajal (in 1999) in defense of the WBO 108-pound crown; gotten knocked out in the first round by a who-dat (Omar Nino Romero, in the fifth pro fight for both men); been smacked around by Vic Darchinyan for 11 rounds for the undisputed junior bantamweight crown in 2009; and shown the heart and tenacity common to Mexican fighters throughout.
Rojas has, simply, not been in those same wars. In only 20 pro fights, he has a loss and a draw to decent-but-not-great fighters (Jose Angel Beranza, who had lost five in a row before beating Rojas, and 29-5 Jose Luis Araiza, who had lost four in a row before eking out a majority draw). Rojas has yet to claim a scalp of any significance in his career so far. Fighting a guy like Jorge Arce would seem to be a challenge akin to swimming the English Channel after never having been in water deeper than a kiddie pool.
Rojas has been no further than eight rounds; Arce has been scheduled for 12 so many times that your columnist's eyes glazed over trying to count them all, and completed that distance 12 times. Even though this fight is only scheduled for 10, that is still further than Rojas has gone, and Arce, who should he be unable to pummel his foe into submission with his action style, will have the benefit of experience and presumably superior conditioning should the fight go into deeper waters.
This is either a showcase fight for Arce to make his case at bantamweight for a chance to fill the power vacuum left behind by Nonito Donaire and Abner Mares moving up in weight, or else it will be a coming-out party and minting of a new star in boxing in Rojas. For Arce, a loss might very well be the end of the road, since he has a lot of mileage on the odometer and his bandwagon is one good solid defeat away from falling apart like the Bluesmobile at the end of The Blues Brothers.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (9-0, 7 KOs) vs. Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 Kos), WBA junior featherweight title
On paper, this is a complete mismatch. Kennedy is coming off a lackluster performance on Friday Night Fights in which he looked shockingly pedestrian against Chris Martin. Indeed, a fan could be forgiven for asking the question, "What the hell is that guy doing getting a title shot?"
Meanwhile, Rigondeaux showed a flash of brilliance in the Rico Ramos fight on ShoBox just a week after Kennedy's crap sandwich of a fight, where despite Ramos' best efforts to pull an Omar Narvaez (as seen against Donaire) and ugly up the fight en route to a boring loss, an opening given by the referee when separating the fighters in Round 6 led to Rigondeaux deliciously closing the show with a barrage that brought to mind any good payoff shot with explosives on "Mythbusters." Rigondeaux, when the opportunity presented itself, detonated Ramos like a cement truck.
In the process, the Cuban established himself as a guy who "gets it" when it comes to the need to not only win fights, but win them in a way that will make those in attendance want to pay their money to see a guy fight again.
Kennedy has given absolutely no indication whatsoever that he is deserving of this shot. He is 1-1-1 in his last three fights, the only fights that could even plausibly be considered preparation for a world title. He beat 15-0 Jorge Diaz by decision, lost to 21-2 Alejandro Lopez over a 12-round distance, then had the aforementioned stinker against Martin en route to a draw. That last fight was not even for one of those minor trinkets from which bizarre "mandatory" title defenses are drawn. This fight is pulled from so far out of left field that if it caught a batted ball, it would have been a home run a hundred feet ago and the fight would be the paying customer.
Mark it down — this is a mismatch and a joke of a fight. Rigondeaux should quite simply steamroll Kennedy, in the process adding to his marketability among Cuban-Americans and raising his profile for a potential fight with Top Rank-promoted Nonito Donaire. A narrative is being set, and it would be a huge upset for Kennedy to pull this one out, especially since — under the circumstances — he should not bet his life on a fair shake from the judges.
Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) vs. Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs), IBF welterweight title
Your columnist has made the mistake of underestimating Jones before. To wit, from the Cotto-Margarito II preview on which Jones fought Sebastian Lujan on the undercard:
"[Jones] may be in for a long night, and if his own defense is not sound he may be in for a lot more than a long night; it may prove to be the sort of beautiful beatdown that makes Sebastian Andres Lujan so much fun to watch."
Of course, Jones then proceeded to beat the snot out of Lujan en route to a blowout unanimous decision in which even 119-109 may have been giving Lujan one more round than he actually won. Lujan spent most of that fight in survival mode, a far cry from the guy who had demolished Mark Jason Melligen and caused your columnist to overrate him.
Bailey is on the same level as Lujan. He has seven losses (Lujan had five), he has been stopped three times (Lujan has fallen in battle twice) and he has not held a world title since 2000, when he defended the WBO junior welterweight crown twice (here is the difference between the two opponents: Lujan is 0-2 lifetime in world title fights while Bailey is 3-5, admittedly without a win in such a contest in 12 years).
The last time Bailey fought an undefeated fighter, he got the Edward Scissorhands treatment to his face at the hands of Miguel Cotto in 2004, who butchered Bailey's mug en route to a sixth-round stoppage from the cuts. Bailey's only other matchup against an unbeaten came against Ishe Smith in Smith's 14th pro fight, resulting in another loss for Bailey.
If form holds, Jones should add another scalp to his collection, and considering how good Bailey is at creating opportunities for his opponents, chances are very good this may be his fourth knockout loss. Jones has a chance to stand on something of an equal footing with the winner of the main event, as he will have a world title belt at the same weight at which Pacquiao and Bradley will vie for supremacy mere minutes later.
If Bailey wins? He will have a gigantic bulls-eye painted on his back for every two-bit jackanapes from 135 on up to take a shot at — his will be the "easiest to win" challenge for a would-be titlist, since Bailey himself is not going to be in any meaningful position to make a long run of defenses of that IBF crown. If Bailey wins, everyone from Amir Khan to Zab Judah to possibly even Brandon Rios will want a piece of him. From a fan's point of view, that might be even more fun than seeing the Next Big Thing at 147 crowned champion for the first time.
Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), WBO welterweight title
"If he looks bad, he retires. At least I'll tell him to. And he may be the first one who will listen to me." — Freddie Roach
If ever a trainer laid down a win-or-leave-town challenge for his fighter, Freddie Roach just did so for Manny Pacquiao. On paper, this is the kind of fight Pacquiao should win easily. A fighter who comes forward, who doesn't give the angles and the defense and the counterpunching that made Juan Manuel Marquez the victor (in spite of what the judges may have thought) in at least two, if not all three, of the bouts that made up that epic trilogy. Bradley is the kind of fighter whose lunch Pacquiao has eaten his entire career.
The trouble is, boxing is as much a mental game as physical, and nobody knows what Pacquiao has mentally. He is a Congressman in the Philippines who seems blissfully unaware of his nation's place in the world. He has found religion, but found it in a way that suggests putting a Jesus-shaped Band-Aid on a gaping hole in the soul. His financial problems have become the stuff of legend in the boxing press, picked apart by anyone who Bob Arum hasn't been able to pay off to stay silent. It seems that all the press about Pacquiao has been about everything but the "ripped, shredded beast" who will stand across the ring from him.
So the conventional wisdom goes out the window. Three years ago, only a fool would take 2012 Timothy Bradley at any price against 2009 Manny Pacquiao. Against 2012 Manny Pacquiao, who has not faced a serious challenge to his supremacy since the David Diaz fight at lightweight, who has developed a tarnished reputation on the backs of fighters who were shopworn or hopelessly overmatched? Against 2012 Manny Pacquiao, who is known more for his out-of-ring issues than his in-ring prowess? That's a very, very live underdog.
That's what makes this worth the 65 bucks to watch it in high-def. Unlike most of Pacquiao's fights, this is one where the price of admission is not a ticket to watch a boring fight involving a has-been or a chance to watch the Bob Arum Propaganda Machine buy off the judges. What we have got here, in all of its print-the-money glory, is a fight.
Make no mistake, this is going to be a war. Bradley knows the only way anyone can beat Pacquiao is to knock him out — the judges will see to that, as Marquez learned in such howling-from-the-press clarity in Pacquiao's last fight. So what we're left with is a guy who needs to kill or be killed, who may not have enough power in his fists to accomplish the Sisyphean task in front of him.
The only way Bradley is going to win this fight is if Pacquiao's personal and professional problems have left him unprepared. If that is not the case, the pride of General Santos City lives to fight another day and Bradley goes groveling to the WBO to let him try to wrest the 140-pound title back from Marquez, who snarfed up the belt when Bradley let slip he was going to fight at 147. If this fight goes to the cards, there is not a chance in hell Bradley is going to win.
But if Bradley does the impossible? If a guy who has knocked out only 41 percent of his foes, and none of his world-class foes (a completely shot Joel Casamayor doesn't count), manages to stop a guy who has, admittedly, been stopped twice (both times early in his career before reaching the world stage), a star will be born. Floyd Mayweather, watching from prison, will salivate at a much more receptive superstar he can goad into a fight. The guard will be changed. And maybe, if Freddie Roach is not just blowing smoke, Pacquiao will go gently into that dark night.
It is at this point that anyone considering betting their life savings on Bradley should heed the favored catchphrase of "Mythbusters" host Adam Savage: Don't try this at home. Just because something is theoretically possible does not mean one should bet on it.
Manny Pacquiao will win this fight — Timothy Bradley's style matches up far too well with the Filipino's strengths.