Pacquiao-Bradley nothing to complain about

The Boxing Tribune Sean Morehouse
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On June 9 in Las Vegas, two of the 10 best pound-for-pound fighters in the world will square off in a welterweight title fight.

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One of them, pride of the Philippines Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), is one of the sport’s true international superstars. The other, American Timothy Bradley (28-0-0, 12 KOs), is an undefeated young champion looking to graduate from the ranks of fighters who, while very good, are not yet massive attractions.

Bradley’s hunger to prove himself on the biggest stage and Pacquiao’s desire to remain on top of the sport set the stage for an intriguing battle.

Yet the announcement of this matchup has been met with some animosity and skepticism. Of course, the elephant in the room when discussing any Pacquiao fight, or one involving a certain fellow welterweight belt-holder, is the obvious question of why the fight to end all fights has not been made. Why hasn't a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather bout been set?

But without going off on a tangent about that oft-discussed super bout, let’s just say that we can’t watch or cover fights that aren’t happening. Until the big one is signed, no reason not to take a glass-half-full approach and enjoy what we get in the meantime.

Some of the negativity, however, is directed squarely at Bradley himself. While he’s proved himself as a top-level fighter, he hasn’t always provided the kind of flash or spark that gets fans’ juices flowing. Bradley’s strong, but not a big knockout puncher. He’s fast, but not in a dazzling “Roy Jones” kind of way. Really, “Desert Storm” is just a good all-around, if not that exciting, fighter.

Another problem with his style is a perception, at least partially deserved, that he is a bit of a dirty fighter. Several Bradley opponents have been cut from headbutts, and whether they were intentional is debatable. In particular, two of his recent bouts have been stopped prematurely because of these injuries. Naturally, the last thing most fight fans want is for Pacquiao to be fouled and injured in a pay-per-view bout.

These concerns are not totally illegitimate, but why not look on the bright side a little bit? Bradley certainly has heard these concerns and would be wise to take them seriously. At 28, he has plenty of career ahead of him, and the best way to ruin it at this point would be taking the blame for a big-time fight that turns into a dud. The referee, hopefully, will notice any attempts by Bradley to come in head first and take action to stop it before anything disastrous happens.

If fouls and accidental injuries are avoided, some good old-fashioned, within-the-rules injuries are likely. Both Bradley and Pacquiao are, for the most part, offensive fighters. Bradley is not the clever counter-puncher that Pacquiao’s last opponent was (Juan Manuel Marquez, who gave Pacquiao so much trouble). Bradley will likely be much easier for Manny to find and hit.

Bradley also does not appear to be the kind of opponent (like Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley were) who will be happy to avoid contact for 12 rounds and collect his paycheck. He has won every fight of his career, despite not being supremely skilled, largely because of his heart. Do not count on Bradley taking his first loss quietly.

Despite Bradley’s desire to win, it is not likely to be enough. Pacquiao hasn’t lost in seven years for a reason — he’s a great, great fighter. He’s a better athlete than Bradley, at least equally skilled, and he has a vast experience advantage in big-time fights. Bradley is just good enough to push Pacquiao and make the fight entertaining without actually winning.

In a way, it’s a perfect situation. On June 10 we can start talking about getting the big one made again.

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