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Manny Pacquiao: Breaking Down Fights with Bradley, Cotto or Marquez

Briggs SeekinsFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 17, 2015

Manny Pacquiao: Breaking Down Fights with Bradley, Cotto or Marquez

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    I am writing this article operating under the same assumption that the rest of the boxing universe seems to be operating under: Manny Pacquiao will fight in November and his opponent will be either Timothy Bradley, Miguel Cotto or Juan Manuel Marquez.

    Boxingnews24.com reported on Aug. 6 that we should know who that opponent will be later this week. Of course, we've now reached next week, and we still don't know. 

    I will also note that Brad Cooney of Examiner.com quoted Bob Arum on July 24 as saying that Manny's next opponent would be announced by Aug. 10.

    Still, I'll stick with what seems to be a universally known fact: Pacman is fighting next November, and he's going to fight one of those three guys.

    Until I see a specific press conference, announcing an official date, venue and purse bid, I'm not going to speculate on which one of the three it will be. I've seen various reports saying it will surely be Bradley, and others saying Bradley is almost certainly out.

    This is a case where I really don't think anybody knows anything certain, including the principals involved.

    But I do think it will be one of the three. They all seem likely enough to be worth at least a few hundred words.  

Timothy Bradley

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    Looked at in the most simple terms, this one seems the most logical. In June, Timothy Bradley beat Manny Pacquiao by a split decision that has already entered boxing lore as among the most controversial of all time.

    Very few fans or writers believe Bradley deserved to win. Whenever anybody states they think Bradley deserved to win, everybody assumes that person either has an irrational hatred for Pacquiao or else simply likes to be contrary. 

    So for purely dramatic reasons, Pacquiao-Bradley II seems like a natural. The wronged former champ would have his opportunity to avenge the injustice visited upon him in Las Vegas last spring.

    The conventional wisdom among casual fans is that Pacquiao would triumph easily in a return bout. Almost everybody thinks he should have won last time, after all, and in a rematch, he will have extra motivation to take things out of the judges' hands.

    Personally, I have my doubts. I do agree with almost everybody else who watched the last fight: Pacquiao won it easily. I gave him nine rounds of 12.

    But he didn't blow Bradley out in any of the rounds; he simply landed the more effective punches in a fight that was never one-sided. And when you consider Bradley hung tough like that on two busted up legs, you have to wonder how he would do against Pacquiao at 100 percent.  

    Bradley is also a very intelligent fighter. He's been in the deep waters with Pacman for 12 rounds now, seeing the legend's speed up close. 

    I would still favor Pacquiao to win (again), but I think the fight will be closer than the last one. 

Miguel Cotto

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    This seems like the least likely of the three potential fights. I don't believe Miguel Cotto will want to drop below 154—where he has been extremely successful in recent years—and Team Pacquiao has never been willing to contract a fight for higher than a 150-pound catch weight.

    But it can't be ruled out. If Pacquiao isn't going to fight Floyd Mayweather, Cotto offers the best available alternative for maximizing pay-per-view sales. Cotto has his own dedicated fanbase, and plenty of them are desperate to see him avenge Pacquiao's November 2009 TKO destruction of him. 

    The pro-Cotto camp makes a big deal of the fact that the last fight took place at 145 pounds, charging that the weight cut left Cotto weakened and at an unfair disadvantage. 

    I don't really buy that. Cotto had already been an elite fighter at 140 pounds, and he only weighed in at 146 against Joshua Clottey just five months before he met Pacquiao. 

    There's no denying Cotto has looked terrific at 154. But his three victories there came against Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito; none of them are close to Pacquiao's level. 

    His performance against Mayweather last May makes a rematch against Pacquiao more intriguing. While I don't think that fight was anywhere near as close as some have portrayed it as, there is no denying that Cotto made just about every round competitive.

    He fought a much more intelligent fight against Mayweather than he did against Pacquiao two-and-a-half years ago. If he stayed patient against the slower, more stationary Pacquiao of today, it's a totally different fight. 

    Changes in Cotto's personal and professional life also make this seem like a whole new situation.

    Miguel Cotto in 2012 looks to be in a much more solid place than he was just a few years ago. His family life appears tranquil, and he appears to have found a trainer he can thrive with in Pedro Diaz. 

Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Juan Manuel Marquez turns 39 later this month. A fourth bout with his great rival Manny Pacquiao would be the ultimate birthday present for Dinamita. 

    While Pacquiao's majority decision over Marquez last November didn't cause quite the level of outrage that Bradley's triumph did last June, I think it's accurate to say that a majority of the boxing media felt Marquez deserved to win. 

    I had Marquez 115-113 and could see 116-112 much easier than I could 114-114. To me, Marquez deserved the victory, just as he did when Pacquiao beat him by split decision in 2008. 

    The first fight, in 2004, was a draw, which I agree with. But that's a draw after Pacquiao lit Marquez up in the first, knocking him down three times and jumping out to a 10-6 lead. So in a sense, Marquez fighting back to a draw in that fight has to rank as among the great boxing performances of this generation. 

    I think you can make a strong argument that in terms of resume, Pacquiao deserves to rate ahead of Marquez. But in my own view, over three fights and eight years, Marquez has had a small but definitive advantage head-to-head, regardless of who the judges picked. 

    I expect that a fourth fight would go much like the last one, again ranking slightly behind the first two all-time classics. Pacquiao-Marquez in 2011 or 2012 just isn't going to be as thrilling as it was in 2004 and 2008. 

    Even though I thought Marquez should have won last time, I also think he made a mistake in letting up on the gas in the late rounds, too confident that he had the fight won. 

    This allowed Pacquiao to get close enough to pull out the decision. You have to think Marquez wouldn't make the same mistake again. 

    But you also have to wonder whether or not, at 38, the slowing down was completely a tactical choice. Maybe the pace was starting to catch up with him. A year later, the question would beg asking. 

    Marquez fights a brilliant technical style. He has perfect timing and footwork and does not need to rely on the physical gifts of youth.

    Just the same, 39 is 39. Anytime a Hall of Fame-caliber fighter enters the ring at such an advanced age, there is always a chance it will be the night that reality catches up with him.

    My own opinion is that Marquez has at least a couple of great fights left in him. The best-case scenario would be for one of them to take place against his old rival, Manny Pacquiao.  

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