Why Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Timothy Bradley Is Guaranteed to Disappoint
In terms of talent and championship pedigree, the October 12 fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley is worthy and intriguing. Furthermore, both men have also won world titles in multiple weight classes and contested genuinely marquee fights.
Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KO) is, unequivocally, one of the greatest fighters of his generation, and Bradley (30-0, 12 KO), at 29, is in his prime and has shown an uncanny penchant for winning in the face of adversity.
Added to this is that Marquez is fresh off of a scintillating, frightening and vindicating knockout of Manny Pacquiao, while Bradley’s last outing amounted to his most exciting performance to date when he rallied from multiple knockdowns to win a tight decision over Russian banger Ruslan Provodnikov.
So, given Marquez and Bradley’s combination of momentum, skill and experience, why is their fight likely to disappoint?
While Marquez-Bradley is certainly a worthy matchup, it is a fight that has seemingly been thrust upon boxing fans and pundits. Surely there was greater demand to see Marquez fight Pacquiao a fifth time, and while Bradley helped his marketability with his performance against Provodnikov, he apparently balked at a rematch with Pacquiao, according to the latter’s camp, per ESPN UK.
The benefits and rewards that will go to the winner of Marquez-Bradley are somewhat unclear. But there’s also the reality of clashing styles and disproportionate expectations that could contribute to an underwhelming fight. Hopefully, Marquez-Bradley will exceed expectation; in the meantime, let’s explore the reasons to be skeptical.
In the current landscape of professional prizefighting, few matchups can equal a bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao when it comes to both immediate and historical significance. And it was these massive stakes that infused Marquez’s thunderous December victory with that extra element of revenge and vindication.
Simply put, fighting Bradley is a significant drawback when it comes to elevating a compelling fight to genuine event status.
Pacquiao-Marquez IV featured thrilling ebb and flow, multiple knockdowns, furious exchanges and, finally, a decisive conclusion. Before the shockingly abrupt ending, Marquez had floored Pacquiao with a booming overhand right in the third round and fought well in the fourth, landing combinations and thudding body shots.
But just as Marquez appeared poised to pull away, Pacquiao seized control in the fifth round and for all but the final two seconds of the sixth. Pacquiao scored a knockdown of his own in Round 5 with his infamous straight left hand, and Marquez was on wobbly legs as blood poured from his nose.
Just as the fight’s momentum was shifting, Marquez landed what can only be described as the perfect punch.
The compact right hand that caught Pacquiao cold as he lunged forward is the best punch Marquez will ever throw. And it is this reality—the reality of having a genuinely perfect in-ring moment—that has set an impossible standard for Marquez to live up to.
Marquez will probably never be better, more exciting or part of an event as significant as his fourth encounter with Pacquiao ever again. Unfortunately, his bout against Bradley will suffer the consequences of this enhanced greatness.
Few expected Timothy Bradley’s fight against Ruslan Provodnikov to morph into a brutal slugfest. Bradley-Provodnikov more than exceeded expectations, especially with Bradley returning from a lengthy hiatus after his controversial split-decision victory over Pacquiao and several false starts in subsequent fight negotiations.
Provodnikov, as expected, took the fight to Bradley with relentless aggression for the first three rounds. What was surprising, however, was how badly he hurt Bradley, who appeared out on his feet on multiple occasions. Ultimately, it was these early struggles that cemented this fight as a defining performance for Bradley.
As he has done in the past, particularly against Kendall Holt, Bradley rallied, throwing varied combinations and slugging in spots.
Bradley uncharacteristically stood in the pocket with his feet planted, loading up on punches that hurt Provodnikov and even put him on his back foot. And yet, when it appeared that Bradley had found an exciting rhythm, he was forced to take a knee in the final round and nearly succumbed to the strong and stubborn Russian’s power and pressure.
It is no coincidence that both Joel Diaz and Freddie Roach—Bradley and Provodnikov’s respective trainers—threatened to stop the fight. What this bout has done, other than raising Bradley’s profile, is set a new standard to which he will be held.
Provodnikov is a quality fighter, but he also has severe limitations. While Bradley’s vulnerability in this fight was exciting, he likely won’t be as reckless or aggressive against Marquez. People will want to see the version of Bradley that beat Provodnikov, but history and sanity dictate that a more cautious and tactical Bradley will show up against Marquez.
Simply put, fans and pundits are likely more interested in seeing Pacquiao and Marquez fight for a fifth time than in Marquez vs. Bradley.
With his legacy secure, Marquez’s bout against Bradley only carries the significance of Marquez possibly winning a legitimate welterweight belt, which would give him a title in a fifth weight class.
While no Mexican fighter has ever been a five-division champion, Marquez’s decision to fight Bradley is a step back from a financial and marketability standpoint.
Marquez has reached a point in his career where he has transcended the need to fight for belts, and he is one of the sport’s few genuine pay-per-view-worthy main event stars. Given that he’s not auditioning for a fight with Floyd Mayweather, a win over Bradley doesn’t do much for Marquez in the short term.
For a talented two-division champion who holds a win (at least officially) over Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley is relatively anonymous. Of course, Bradley is known to a wide cross-section of boxing fans and pundits, but he hasn’t been able to truly cash in given the platform of fighting Pacquiao in June 2012.
Bradley’s recent performance against Provodnikov did add a new level of intrigue to his fight with Marquez. But with this intrigue comes skepticism, and it will be evident early against Marquez whether Bradley’s exciting win over Provodnikov was an anomaly.
The reality is that Marquez is most often the excellent B-side to truly huge pay-per-view events, while Bradley has yet to prove his true worth on that stage.
With no one other than themselves to sell the notion of “Marquez-Bradley,” the reality of their respective earning powers, which obviously doesn’t reflect their great talent, could prove underwhelming.
Bradley is a highly skilled boxer who proved he can slug against Provodnikov. Resilience and heart are two of Bradley’s most admirable features, and he has shown his worth as a champion at 140 and 147 pounds. But when it comes to his fighting style, Bradley’s thrilling display against Provodnikov is the exception, not the rule.
Bradley could very well be in the process of reinventing himself, but one has to wonder if he will revert to the more conventional fighter who challenged Pacquiao.
Given that Marquez is on the same elite level as Pacquiao, it would be safer to assume that Bradley will show appropriate respect, which will result in a cagier and perhaps tentative (in spots) performance.
Marquez, of course, is a sublime counterpuncher, so the pace of Marquez-Bradley will likely depend on Bradley’s level of aggression. This is not to say that Marquez isn’t exciting; in fact, he can thrill and slug when pressed and engaged, but he is patient and will put the onus on Bradley to commit and make a mistake.
Pacquiao, with his pressure and combination punching, was the perfect stylistic foil for Marquez. Bradley, on the other hand, isn’t likely to mesh with Marquez as seamlessly.
Floyd Mayweather and September Sweepstakes
In boxing, much depends on Floyd Mayweather.
After signing a six-fight deal with Showtime, Mayweather, in order to honor his contract, has to be active. After defeating Robert Guerrero on May 4, there were rumblings that Mayweather was eyeing a September 14 return, which would coincide with Mexican Independence Day weekend (a traditionally huge platform for boxing).
September 14, of course, was the original date for Marquez-Bradley, but Top Rank promoter Bob Arum always had a contingency plan in mind in case Mayweather opted to fight on that date. Bad Left Hook’s Scott Christ succinctly explains this reality:
Top Rank's request is for the Thomas & Mack Center, for a Juan Manuel Marquez vs Timothy Bradley fight. That fight would be on HBO pay-per-view, and there probably just isn't enough money to put it on HBO. Arum has also said he will not run against a Mayweather pay-per-view.
Already, Marquez-Bradley has been relegated to second-fiddle status.
Mayweather fighting the likes of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez would blow Marquez-Bradley out the water, though that bout is unlikely to happen for now because of the Mayweather camp’s insistence that the bout happen at welterweight. Even Alvarez against Miguel Cotto, for instance, would take precedence.
With Marquez-Bradley pushed back to October, the aforementioned September possibilities plus the likelihood of a massive fight between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse means that Marquez-Bradley will be following several tough acts.
In fact, Marquez-Bradley could get somewhat lost in the shuffle of this string of compelling fights.
Perhaps this is all setting up Marquez-Bradley to exceed expectations. While this would be good for the sport, there are plenty of reasons for healthy skepticism.