The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of April 14
Where do we begin after this past weekend's huge welterweight rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr.? Exactly where you'd expect.
We'll break down all the fallout from Saturday night's epic rematch.
Does his win prove that Pacquiao is all the way back to the top of the boxing mountain?
How will Bradley respond to his first career defeat?
Will the drums once again begin to beat about a showdown between Pacquiao and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather? Here's a hint, yes.
All that and more in this week's edition of the hottest boxing storylines!
Is Manny All the Way Back?
For Pacquiao, at 35 years old and seemingly removed from his best days, to come into the MGM Grand on Saturday night and score a clear, convincing victory over a surging opponent in his prime is truly impressive.
Unlike the first fight, Pacquiao was considered anything but a sure thing for victory this time around. Bradley had molded himself into a complete fighter in the two years since they first met. He's more experienced now, more seasoned and he has had to overcome a ton of adversity, both inside and outside of the ring.
But Pacquiao beat him, decisively, and he looked impressive in doing it.
This victory proved a whole lot more than his decision over Brandon Rios last November.
Bradley, unlike Rios, isn't just a good fighter, he's an elite fighter, and Pacquiao was able to survive his surprising early onslaught, take the fight to him in the second half and come away with a well-deserved victory.
He attacked Bradley with great ferocity, particularly when he was along the ropes, handled his big looping bombs without fear and displayed some of the old fire his foe had told him he no longer possessed.
Does this mean he's all the way back?
It depends on your definition.
The Pacquiao who absolutely ran roughshod over the boxing world, laying a path of destruction equivalent to an F-5 tornado, is gone. He's not coming back.
But what we have instead is a fighter who is still world-class, elite and able to give any fighter on the planet a run for their money.
And that’s going to have to be good enough.
Did Bradley Fight the Wrong Fight?
Who was that guy wearing the camouflage trunks on Saturday night exchanging punches with Pacquiao?
It sure didn't look like the Bradley we know and have become accustomed to seeing over most of his career.
"Desert Storm" came out of his corner for the opening bell doing exactly what he said he was going to do—look for the knockout. He loaded up on basically every single one of his shots, landed more than a few big right hands and even had Pacquiao, per Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, hurt, by his own admission.
At the post-fight press conference, veteran Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach—who handles Pacquiao—admitted that they were caught a bit off-guard by Bradley's style. Coming in, he had promised to put Pacquiao on the mat, but most dismissed this as bluster aimed at getting inside the Filipino icon's head and making him question himself just one fight removed from a devastating knockout defeat.
But Bradley was good to his word, and it may have cost him.
He's never been known as much of a power puncher—with just 12 knockout victories in his 31 wins—and he seemed to punch himself out going all-in for the knockout early, leaving little in the tank for the second half of the fight.
That's where Pacquiao took over, firing crisp combinations, while Bradley was relegated to swinging wildly for the fences, hoping to land a home-run shot.
It's definitely true that Bradley surprised Pacquiao early in the fight with his aggression, and he buzzed him a couple of times with right hands, including one that lifted both of the Filipino's feet off the canvas, but it seems that his aggression may have cost him a chance at victory.
He just didn’t have enough left to finish the fight strong.
Is It Time to Beat the Mayweather-Pacquiao Drum Again?
It's not possible to assess Pacquiao's performance on Saturday, and it's future impact, without once again speculating about his chances of fighting pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
Pacquiao hadn't even arrived yet at the post-fight press conference on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on where you were)—he was receiving stitches to an eye badly damaged by an accidental headbutt in the closing seconds of the bout—when his promoter Bob Arum began beating the drums.
Arum called on the public to exercise the power afforded to them as consumers to force Mayweather to settle the issue in the ring with Pacquiao, and at the same time, he took a not-so-veiled shot at Mayweather's next fight, encouraging fans not to buy it and boxing writers to call it out for being a bad matchup.
The 82-year-old head of Top Rank said, per Luis Sandoval of Boxing Scene:
The only people that can make Floyd Mayweather fight Manny is the public if they boycott the nonsense on May 3rd. That’s when the fight will happen. Without any preconditions on any side. That’s what the public should do.
See, it's already begun.
The point is a good one too. Boxing fans have mostly tuned out any discussion of the mythical superfight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, largely because nobody believes it's going to happen at this point.
You can dole out the blame in any way you choose—blame Mayweather for his money demands or Pacquiao for his reluctance to agree to certain types of drug tests—but nobody has clean hands—nobody at all.
The bottom line is that for all their reluctance to get caught up in this saga yet again, this is the fight that boxing fans want more than all others. It's not even close.
Will it happen? Probably not, but if fans really want it, they do have ways of making that known.
Whether or not they will remains a whole other question.
How Will Bradley Respond to His 1st Defeat?
Bradley comes out of his second fight with the “Pac-Man” in a bit of an odd situation. He clearly fought better—and more inspired—in the rematch, even in defeat, than he did during his victory over Pacquiao two years ago.
That first fight has been covered from every possible angle over these past few months, but suffice it to say, boxing fans didn't give him any credit for that victory, largely because almost nobody thought he actually won.
He definitely didn't win Saturday night's rematch, but he did give a better account of himself and is likely to see his stock rise somewhat, even though he suffered his first loss.
Bradley came out and tried to do exactly what he promised. He loaded up on his shots and went all-in looking for the knockout early. It didn't come, and he tired himself out trying, but he was in the fight until the final bell.
The question for "Desert Storm" now becomes: Where does he go from here?
Top Rank does have a plethora of potentially attractive options available for a comeback fight.
Rios is a possibility. He was fed to Pacquiao for his comeback, and he's exciting enough to bring intrigue but limited enough to not upset the apple cart.
Ruslan Provodnikov served as an effective, albeit highly dangerous, foil for Bradley the last time he needed a comeback opponent. The victory over the intense, power-punching Russian launched him into the realm of boxing's stars, and it helped erase a lot of the lingering doubts following the Pacquiao controversy.
Bradley could also await the loser of the May 17 clash between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado in Los Angeles. The winner will move on to face Pacquiao—barring something unexpected— for the WBO Welterweight Championship, but the loser would remain a credible opponent.
Regardless of who he faces next, expect Bradley to bounce back just fine. There's no shame in giving it your all and coming up short against a future Hall of Famer.
What Will Come of the Top Rank/MGM Grand Blow Up?
The most entertaining part of fight week didn't have anything to do with Pacquiao and Bradley's fight in the ring.
Arum, known for being candid, and at times ornery, stole the show, launching an epic and explosive tirade during Wednesday afternoon's final press conference before the fight. He honed his anger in—like a nuclear missile—at the MGM Grand, Mayweather and just about anyone who got in his way.
The particular focus of his anger was the MGM's decision to devote much of its promotional space to hyping Mayweather's early May bout with Marcos Maidana, while giving the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, then three days away, the shaft.
Arum, per Case Keefer of the Las Vegas Sun, didn't pull any punches:
I know at the Venetian they wouldn’t make a mistake like this. They know what fight they were scheduled for in three or four days, and they wouldn’t have a 12-to-1 fight all over the building that’s going to take place three weeks from next Saturday. But that’s why one company makes a billion dollars a quarter and the other hustles to pay its debt.
But he wasn't done. Oh no. He was just starting.
Arum kept his anger rolling at Saturday night's post-fight presser, continuing to sling high fastballs at Mayweather and the MGM. He said, per Luis Sandoval:
Boxing survives anything and everything. The Mayweather fight I don’t think is bad for boxing. It’s bad for the public who is going to be talked into spending more money to see nonsense. And it’s bad for a property like MGM [Grand] to continue to peddle non-competitive matchups. That’s who it’s bad for.
Arum went on to call for fans to boycott Mayweather's next fight, and he encouraged boxing writers to call out promoters—himself included—if they feel like a bad fight is made.
He also implored Mayweather, per Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News, to sit down and negotiate in good faith for a long-desired match with Pacquiao.
"The lines are open. If he wants a fight, sit down like a normal human being at a conference table and negotiate a friggen deal," he said.
Strong words. Granted, not every one is going to agree with them, but you can't deny the entertainment value that Arum provided this past week.
Can Bernard Hopkins Defy Father Time Once Again?
Bernard Hopkins might actually be an alien.
How else do you explain a 49-year-old man, twice the oldest fighter to capture a world championship, fighting on Saturday night to make further history by becoming the oldest man to unify titles in his weight division?
It boggles the mind.
People have been saying that age will catch up to Hopkins for years now—seemingly forever—but all he keeps doing is fighting and beating younger men. And he doesn’t just beat them, he takes them to school.
His opponent on Saturday night, WBA light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov, is 19 years younger, but he doesn't have the name recognition that will lead many to believe he's a legitimate threat to topple the ageless wonder.
But Shumenov is as dangerous as they come. He only has 15 professional fights on his ledger, but you'll find more than a few very recognizable names on that list. Granted, you can't say that any of those fighters were near their best when the 30-year-old Kazakh got to them, but the point is, he's aggressive, powerful and no pushover.
And, even for all his physical marvels, there has to be some point in his career that age finally catches up to Hopkins, right?
Maybe not, but who knows. And that makes every single one of "B-Hops" fights a must watch. It's partly because you want to witness him continuing to make history, or you want to be there when his run finally ends.