Here's the usual rant, but I feel particularly passionate about this issue because I feel Pacquiao has REALLY declined in recent years and recent fights and that Bradley had REALLY improved since the last fight - also, honest to God I thought he won that fight last night.
Last night, I watched the fight on a large screen, HD, PPV telecast in a loud sports bar with good seating, right under the speaker, but the sound was drowned out by the time the Pac fight started because of the excitement and rabid following that Pacquiao has gained.
I went into the fight feeling several things:
- I don't want to see a fuckin' rematch: they already fought and Pacquiao kicked his ass and Bradley ran and kept out of danger and broke both ankles. Bradley got a gift, Pacquiao is a better fighter, and Bradley lost; end of story.
- They did a damn good job promoting this fight; especially Bradley and his bits on the death threats and other parts of the story.
- Pacquiao's power and experience made the difference; Bradley didn't look ready for this stage during their first match and was shocked by Pacquiao's power.
During the undercard I was talking a boxing friend who I saw at the bar last time. His name is James and he writes for boxinginsider and another publication. We shot the shit about different fighters in different weight classes, his meetings with Mark "Too Sharp Johnson", and fantasy matches. He obviously follows boxing, and we were both convinced that Pacquiao was going to close the show and end this whole Bradley-Pacquiao chapter.
What struck me the most out of the ring entrance and opening of the fight was two things:
- Pacquiao ring walked FIRST as the challenger, which I don't remember seeing at all. Also, he seemed super relaxed in interviews which I interpreted as a good thing initially. Pac looked happy and relaxed as usual.
- Bradley walked in like a demon: he did not shake hands with anyone, he looked so angry and focused that I felt scared and a little haunted from my bar seat. Those some subtle things that you can pick up on: a fighter's body language can say A LOT (before, during [and in between rounds], and after a match). This guy looked determined to steal the gauntlet from the Devil, and fight God to a Unanimous Decision; not kidding you.
After I saw the ring walk, I turned and told my friend James: "Bradley looks focused and like he's going against the world. I think he's going to do it." Granted, we were BOTH rooting for Pacquiao in this fight.
Also, in retrospect I believe Pacquiao's relaxation could have been both being on the big stage many times, and a bit of a cruise control and complacency that only great champions have experienced once they've reached the pinnacle and have begun a slow, gradual decline - Anderson Silva experienced this in his last two losses and Lennox Lewis almost fell victim to this in his last heavyweight fight.
So I've been told and trained, and have eventually learned on my own that fighting really is 80-90% psychological. This has only really sunk into my psyche during the past 6 months. This might explain how I've always been better at sparring than fighting: I treated sparring like a clinical and skillful exercise and when I fought I did the same except for using more power. Despite the fact that much of the time I had more skill than my opponents they had a "greater will" to win; I didn't want to hurt people, I just wanted to prove that Kung Fu and what I learned works (I did so in my eyes). My commitment to my fights were wavering: I punched opponents hard but did not follow through, I did not fight like my life was on the line (partly because I have good defense so I knew I wasn't going to get hurt), and I wasn't trying to knock my opponent's head off; just prove that I was better (also I never got used to the environment with having hundreds of people look at me on an elevated ring with a person in front of me who wants to take my head off as if it were their greatest pleasure - it's quite nerve racking and kinda fun). In sparring, I'm relaxed and poised, counter freely, and defend and anticipate most of my opponents' attacks - this includes sparring sessions and having beaten a national 143lbs amateur mma champion in kickboxing (he outweighs me by 35 lbs!), out sparred very good teenagers at Gary Russell's gym (one of which was able to keep up with Lil' Gary in sparring).
Pacquiao appeared to be in cruise control and having been on top of the world and maybe feeling confident from the Rios fight (that he "still has it"), he looked ready for what it may seem the "same fight" from their first meeting. Bradley's not a big puncher and they're ready to be more aggressive, take more chances, and fight more minutes in the round. Plus, he was going to make "Bradley pay" for all the talk and end matters with his fists and the canva.
Bradley looked almost Bhop-ish in his determination to prove the world wrong, with a side of a demonic strength to overcome all obstacles. His head was bent down, his eyes looking straight like steel, ignoring the crowd, and walked with such purpose and anger and internal strength and a look of an underdog who felt that the world had overlooked him or done him some wrong and ready to change everything in this next 10 minutes. When I saw that look on his face I felt : "This guy was not just hyping the fight; he meant everything he said and this very fight is autobiographical and meaningful to him; he will not allow himself to lose in this fight. Pacquiao will have to kill him in the ring to win."
Body Composition Analysis
Bradley looked less pumped up and muscled up this fight. Though he was still cut and appeared strong, his muscles looked smaller, leaner, and longer; a look more of a gazelle. I thought that he trained for speed and may not throw as many arm punches as some of his previous fights (Casamayor, Pacquiao, and Prov fights).
Pacquiao looked thinner than before, almost like a lightweight. His shoulders, chest, and lats appeared to have shrunk. This was the opposite effect of what his body looked like when he worked with Alex Ariza: Pacquiao had larger pecs, broader shoulders, and muscular lats. Actually most of the Ariza athletes had this: Khan, Linares as well; their shoulders and lats REALLY looked strong for their weight. I remember watching Ariza having them do two exercises in the gym: hitting a heavybag with a baseball bat to build the forearms and lats (similar to chopping wood back in the day to get punch power and/or how some gyms use a sledgehammer to hit a tire or rolled up mattress), and slamming a medicine ball from over their head onto a cushion (also to work the forearms and lats). Also, I attribute Pacquiao's having less punch resistance to no longer having worked with Ariza: Ariza helped him build the body in his best welterweight fights to be able to give and take a welterweight punch. Roach got rid of him, so that's that.
This part will have bits and pieces of qualitative observations and either particular exchanges that I remembered or patterns that I could point out. I plan on rewatching the fight and making more specific citations with rounds and times to strengthen my points. I may even do my own punch stat count to challenge compubox numbers later on.
Round 1 started with Bradley moving effectively, and surprisingly to his right. My feeling was he wanted to draw out the left hand by dipping from the waist and throwing a counter right hand on top. It's a common tactic when idiot announcers criticize that fighters are "circling the wrong way" - no, you can circle away from the power hand when you're fighting someone of the opposite stance as you or you can circle into their power hand to draw out the counter (dip from waist and throw a counter cross over their shoulder, or take a half step back or back at an angle and throw a cross over their missed shot). Nothing new here, Tarver, Russell and other good southpaws and/or orthodox fighters who know how to fight southpaws use this tactic.
Another important tactic that I saw was that Bradley was controlling the distance and tempo better than Pacquiao. Bradley circled around Pacquiao just enough so that Pacquiao couldn't reach him with a punch or a short lunge. When Pacquiao made lunges or began some explosive combinations then Bradley would take a half step back so that Pacquiao - who was already quite far away - would miss and then he would come in and throw a 3-4 punch combination and move out of the pocket and reload. He did this several times during round 1, and this is why Pacquiao always seemed a half step behind during round 1: this tactical controlling of distance trumps any fast and aggressive/explosive lunging (in other words, Bradley used his increased aggression against him).
Also, Pacquiao's late round rally seemed to miss Bradley. Pacquiao only head hunted in this fight, was this a tactical choice (was he afraid of getting countered to the head?) or did working the body never occur to him?
Pattern 1: 2:45 Worth of Boxing vs. 15 Seconds of Power Punches
Despite the fact that Pacquiao promised to fight 3 minutes of every round, my unofficial estimation was that he fought about 30 seconds of every round instead. I would say 2:45 of almost every round Bradley outboxed, outfoxed, and outhustled him from bell-to-bell except when Pacquiao would perform his occasional explosions of combinations which were few and far apart - sometimes they occurred during the last 10 second of the round to "steal the round." From my memory, Pacquiao tried to steal a round in the mid or latter part of a round about 4 times and was only successful once during that whole "GIF"-worthy 10 punch combination on the rope (which was accentuated with Bradley countering him hard with a right hand over the top so that he could back him off instead of holding or running). The rest of the time Pacquiao would miss his late round rallies - I remember the one from round 1 and one in the mid rounds in which Bradley laid on the ropes and dodged about 15-20 punches, and another where he dropped his hands and dodged about 8-10 punches. When this happened I thought : "Oh my god, Bradley is tempting a lion!"
Their having fought once gave Bradley the ability to "sense" Pacquiao's timing and rhythm. He seemed to use his sixth sense to sometimes even blindly slip and dodge punches coming his way and to me made Pacquiao look dumb and clumsy as he failed to steal some rounds.
Pattern 2: The Counter
I felt much of Bradley's success this fight was his willingness to counter either intelligently with his boxing, or to perform semi-kamakaze maneuvers by doing his unusual and acrobatic-like dodges and finishing them with a counter (usually a loaded up overhand right hand or a loaded left hook) that usually landed cleanly on Pacquiao's jaw while he would slip out of the pocket to the middle of the ring and reload.
This was a big difference from the first fight where he would dodge and slip passively without return firing. In fact, in the first fight he was so passive that he would slip and dodge (and get hit more) and then run out of the pocket without making Pacquiao pay. In this fight, this did not happen.
Also, Bradley seemed empowered by the Provodnikov fight in his ability to take a punch and take pain. He wasn't kidding. He chose not to flinch when he got tagged, nor panic (like the first fight), nor take his eyes off of Pacquiao or the openings that Pacquiao provided when he threw punches. Bradley seemed more than glad a few times to take punches so that he could deliver counters in place and he did so.
Pattern 3: Defense
Bradley's defense in this fight was stellar in my opinion. I've NEVER seen anyone try nor dare to toy with Pacquiao, and yet Bradley did this quite a few times during the fight. He dropped his hands and slipped and dodged and bobbed, and 80% of the time he was successful in "hitting and not getting hit." Besides that one 10 punch combination that landed, Pacquiao's landing cleanly were occasional and far in between (not enough to win him rounds in my opinion, and at times when he did land ONE good left hand, Timmy would come right back, and on top of that comeback, that ONE left hand did not undo the 8 good body shots, the 3 clean hooks that landed around the guard, nor the 2 uppercuts that Bradley landed cleanly earlier in the round that moved Pacquiao and made Pacquiao wane a little bit.
1.) Regular slipping: with the body straight up, Bradley does slip side to side like a pendulum
This is a normal slip. Nothing special.
2.) Dipping from the waist. This is an easier way to slip punches than side to side as the body is already a little crouched, and the knees bent. Floyd, Collazo, Gary Russell, Malignaggi, Hasagawa, and sometimes Donaire does this as an alternative to side to side. Also, according to one of my favorite articles about the Blackburn Crouch of Joe Louis:
"Louis' style is often attributed to natural skill, but in fact he was a clumsy gentleman with a big punch who was turned into one of the finest boxers in history. The Blackburn crouch, whose defense requires none of the split second timing necessary to identify a punch and slip to the appropriate side, is absolutely a viable option for almost anyone."
3.) Horizontal slipping: I've never been formally taught this, but I started to pick this up about a year ago from observing some Henry Armstrong and James Toney videos. The common slip is with with the body upright and tipping side to side like a pendulum. "Horizontal slipping" is trickier because the fighter's torso is parallel to the ground as they swing or bob side to side. Imagine the bird's eye view of the fighter and the swinging arc and circle being the trajectory and placement of the head from up top:
I also noticed when Timmy was doing, he would do figure 8's and bobs and U's in the air, BUT, again as I said earlier, he would use the momentum of this slipping action to carry over into a hard overhand right or left hook counter and they usually landed (I thought Tim was punching with more authority this fight than usual; I even heard the sound effects from time to time from even a JAB during the telecast when all else was muted in the bar - Matthysse made similar sounds when he punched at Danny Garcia [this is the part when an angry, rabid fan will dismiss my entire post because Bradley has 12 KOs and thus I have no idea what I'm talking about] ).
4.) Parries: Bradley was doing all sorts of front and rare hand parries during this fight. Other times he had one or both of his hands high on his temple to protect from looping punches which was effective.
Here's a small part from Lee Wylie's video (Thanks Lee Wylie and also Holydiver for posting!):
5.) Footwork: Actually, I didn't know that Bradley hurt his foot again because I couldn't hear the telecast. I did notice on several occasions during the mid rounds that Bradley abandoned the game plan and just went toe-to-toe against Bradley (I'll talk more about his fighting later). However, from what I remember when Bradley was on his toes he was able to control distance and angles effectively. When he choose to box he was always moving laterally (usually to his right) left or right. He would unleash his punches and move or change angles and continue attacking (sort of similar stuff that Pacquiao used to do, though with different tactics and approaches). Also, this guy can really pivot off the ropes or pivot to change angles from time to time and that was fun to watch.
Pattern 4: Fighting
At first, when Pacquiao nailed Bradley I thought: "Shit! Bradley's been hit! He's going to revert back to passive, and helpless bobbing and running again!" Instead, he fought back. Most fans would give Pac the benefit of the doubt in exchanges, EXCEPT Bradley started countering Pacquiao in between punches, backing him up, hitting him to the body, and moving him with power shots. Surprisingly enough, Pac started wilting and passively moved away, gave up ring space, and sat on the ropes (in the past I would just call it shelling up because Pac wouldn't do this for more than 3-5 seconds at a time before moving off the ropes or returning fire to get the "better of exchanges"). In this case, another analysis of body language Pacquiao seemed like he was getting bullied in the ring and was passive and willing to get punched at without returning fire - Bradley wanted it more. Of course, Pacquiao would take the rounds that he nailed Bradley hard EXCEPT if Bradley did more than 2 minutes of good work that round and was able to return shots he received with his own and then some. Because of the last point, I only gave Pacquiao a couple rounds that he had good rallies because 15 secs of work that did not knock his opponent down and was later countered or returned does not win a round imo.
Pattern 5: Pacquiao's Wilting of Strength and Assertiveness in the Ring, and Lack of Confidence
This is a major point: when Bradley came on strong Pacquiao would passively get pushed around the ring and punched along the ropes. Also, there were times when Pacquiao would open up and miss, and when countered sternly by Bradley he would back way the f' back out of the pocket and out of punching range. This avoidance of confrontation and fear of being hit is in the extreme of post-prime Pac: his old self was MORE than willing to exchange or "outbeast" a fighter in order to win an exchange (well, the old self also had faster and cleaner and springier footwork on his toes [I always felt his superior footwork and speed was his biggest advantage after the third Morales fight more so than anything else] and the fastest and most powerful hands in his weight division), and we just did not see that Pacquiao yesterday.
Next point: At many times Pacquiao looked like he lacked confidence when Bradley was giving him angles,or jabbing and countering him. He looked to wilt some emotionally, especially in some of the mid rounds when he unleashed a few back to back flurries of punches and would miss because Bradley would change range to make him miss and counter, or when Bradley would slip, bob, and dodge all or most of the punches and land 2-3 hard counters. As said above, he also visibly avoided confrontation and intense exchange quite a few times if he thought he was not winning them. Pacquiao also is always used to landing when he explodes into combinations, and Bradley's making him miss seemed to make him question himself.
Also, observing Pacquiao's eyes and facial expressions, he appeared to look really lost, to question himself, and honestly seemed to lack desire in the early to mid rounds. Also, I remember thinking "Bradley is right, he really no longer has that fire!" Pacquiao depended too much on his power punching, and if they didn't land or produce the effect he wanted then he would relent and let Bradley punch him around. Of course, this is while HBO commentators would hype him and compubox would score "phantom" punches for him (119 punches in the fight? That was such bullshit. Pacquiao did not land more than 15-20 clean punches the whole fight imo).
In the late mid rounds to late rounds he seemed to don a very "tiger like" expression which showed some of his determination to win the fight and competitive nature. However, those looks on his face, and that empty, joyless expression in his eyes when he earned the decision was reason enough for me to believe he no longer believes in himself to be the best at the top level nor that he deserved the victory (I know the second is a pretty strong conjecture, so feel free to dismiss that if you want). If a fighter no longer has confidence in himself/herself, then they are just a fight or two away from losing big or retiring.
Pattern 6: Pacquiao Fighting in Spurts
Again, I only had Pacquiao fighting about 30 seconds of every round which is a big step down from 1 minute from each round. It usually involves 3-5 or 6 punches in succession in a straight line to back up Bradley and catch him off guard. This is purely using speed and quickness to catch an opponent before they are ready - no science behind that, just speed/reflexes, and an athlete's faith or dependence on them. Note, these attacks were ALL in straight lines for the most part with no in and out (Pac was SUPER flat footed most of the fight, and even lacks the spring to throw that lead left hand by launching off the back foot which used to be his bread and butter) - no more lateral movement, in and out movement (which he can only use again plodding , slow pressure fighters - kind of like how Pavlik and Margarito and Maidana gave the illusion that Bhop and Mosley and Morales could turn back the clock, they make old fighters look faster because they don't need to catch those opponents, find the right range (they're right there to be hit so that the use of legs to build angles or find the right range is nullified), and have little to no defense, or 8 punch combinations while moving laterally to the right like what he did against Cotto, Margarito, or Clottey. ALSO, it must be noted that Pacquiao not doing this is not ONLY because he's getting older, slower, and is getting aged in ring years. These lateral movement punch combinations, and tricky in and out movements are SKILLS that have to be repeated in the regularly and year round in order to maintain or even improve them - something that his 3 month a year training schedule cannot accommodate.
Anyway, 30 seconds out of every round CANNOT win rounds imo if he misses 80% or more of them, and even more so if and when Bradley counters them effectively and then takes Pacquiao to the ropes and makes him run (so much for Lederman giving rounds to the effective AGGRESSOR [aka - the person moving forward]).
Short Analysis of Prime and Post-Prime Pacquiao:
Pacquiao had a number of noticeable qualities and moves in his prime:
1.) Super fast hands that came by the 6 or 8, and as he developed as fighter then they came from all angles and later while he was in motion laterally.
2.) Side to side head movement: it wasn't Pernell Whitaker but it was enough to dodge and deter some of his opponents offense, while it also was a good way for him to slip right and set up a lead left hand in between his opponent's guard and slide off the line.
3.) Super fast footwork and on his tip toes. He was able use his footwork "hit and not be hit" in his prime, because he could drop bombs and move back and reset and keep distance - while he did this could reset and counter as his opponent was still trying to chase him or get him back (think knockdown 1 from Morales II - Morales chased him and Pacquiao moved back agst the ropes, side stepped, and landed a looping or left hook to the side of his head which left Morales lodged on the middle rung and given an 8 count).
5.) Running forward when punching: he did this the most during the Cotto fight (think of the second knockdown when he came forward with full steps and caught Cotto on the second punch with a weird straight / looping right hook or straight right). Actually, if you look closely, Andre Ward used this tactic again Mikkel Kessler. Ward studies video imo because you can also tell that he imitated Floyd Mayweather when he fought Shelby Pudwill (kept a shoulder roll guard the whole time, worked off the lead right hand and left left hook).
6.) The lead left hand ('nuff said).
These are my reasons that I gave Bradley 8 rounds or even 9 rounds during the fight. I know people will think I'm crazy. I am okay with that, but I stated the conditions in which I scored the rounds with pretty specific context and observations. Also, the result of this fight made me angry because: first Pacquiao gets robbed, now Bradley gets robbed, this is perfect for Bob Harem to keep all the fights of these guys within his own stable. It's a small time monopoly over some great fighters and fights so Harem can make the most money for Top Stank. That's my last theory. We will see endless combinations of Alvarado, Provodnikov, Pacquiao, Marquez, and Bradley and maybe Rios recycled in a round robin tournament we never asked for. We will never see any of them against Peterson, Garcia, Matthysse, Alexander, Porter, Malignaggi, Canelo, Maidana, Lopez, or basically anyone new or interesting any time soon and that pisses me off. That's about it. Have a nice day. :)