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The Tweet Science Vol. 2: Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, and boxing commentary

The Tweet Science is an interactive feature on Bad Left Hook that gives you the chance to have your questions answered on the website. This edition is an open theme, so we opened the (Twitter) floor to questions on just about anything and everything, 140 characters permitting.

- Would you prefer (a) Pacquiao vs. Khan and Bradley vs. Crawford, or (b) Pacquiao vs. Crawford and Bradley vs. Khan? (@benBNTV)

- What do you make of Khan? If he can't get the top fights, why not fight top contenders? Hasn't fought legitimately at 147. #TweetScience (@sampowerstwita)

Let's begin by combining these two questions.

First of all, these are all excellent fights, and indeed the same could be said of any combination of the above four fighters, with the exception of Pacquiao-Bradley III, which I suspect nobody other than the immediate family of Timothy Bradley would care to witness.

I've been a regular critic of Amir Khan on Twitter, but my ridicule is generally aimed at the endless conveyor belt of foot-in-mouth soundbites that he wheels out in interviews on a seemingly daily basis, whether about setting deadlines for the most powerful men in boxing, or revealing how much he does, or inadvertently doesn't actually know about the state of negotiations for the Mayweather or Pacquiao fights he's wasted a considerable spell of his prime hanging around for. His chin has betrayed him in the past, and may well do so again, but I do think Khan is a fine fighter, with excellent hand speed, and a solid jab. Given that his failure to land the Mayweather fight he aspired to was attributed largely to his mouth and demands, he'd be much better served keeping his head down when outside the ring, continuing with his commendable global charity work, and enlisting the services of a quality PR firm.

While Khan hasn't looked fantastic since his move up, and his recent opponent choices of Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander, and Chris Algieri have been uninspiring, we should however assume that he's now settled at welterweight, seeing that he hasn't fought at 140lb for over three years. That - in addition to the obvious Top Rank/Al Haymon chasm - would almost certainly rule out a clash with Terence Crawford, given he's just over six months since a jump from lightweight. I digress.

Back to the actual options presented in the question, though, the same applies for Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. Neither are big for welter, of course, but the Filipino hasn't fought outside the weight class since 2009, with the caveat that he did tip the scales anywhere between 143 and 145 in eight of that 11-fight stretch. Bradley, meanwhile, is more natural at the weight, with the forthcoming Brandon Rios fight marking the seventh he's fought in the same division.

It feels unlikely, however, that weight would play a significant part in putting any of these fights together, particularly if catchweights were to be introduced (likely only in the case of the Crawford permutations, but perhaps not even then). Pacquiao-Khan is the biggest fight of the bunch, the biggest money-spinner, and certainly an interesting fight stylistically. Bradley-Crawford could really go one of two ways, a pure boxing match between two fine technicians, or break out into a brawl, or both, and that's a match-up I'd like to see.

Looking at option (b), if I'm pushed, I think Bradley-Khan is probably the least intriguing of the set, which isn't to say that it wouldn't make for a very good fight indeed. Pacquiao-Crawford feels like it might be the combination we end up with, though, with Crawford really starting to look like a force. That's a natural passing-of-the-torch contest for Top Rank, and it's quite possible that Bob Arum decides to keep things in-house and roll the dice on his chances of creating a new star, should the Omaha man prevail. It's also the toughest fight for Pacquiao to take, and he may just fancy - should his desperate calls for a Mayweather rematch fall on deaf ears - taking on the challenge of the only remaining undefeated man of the four.

Commentators seem to be lacking lately. What merits do you see in having two or three experts and no lead? Such as Barry [Jones], Spencer [Oliver] & [Alex] Arthur? (@mrdaj)

David - who asked this question on Twitter - named three British former fighters now plying their trade as pundits (Barry Jones, Spencer Oliver, and Alex Arthur), but it's a point worth considering for boxing TV audiences wherever in the world they are.

It's worth noting, firstly, that the correlation between an excellent judge of the sport (and therefore likely an excellent pundit or co-commentator) and ability on screen isn't as close as a lazy assumption might make it.

Paul Malignaggi - by my reckoning the best TV colour commentator on either side of the Atlantic, and by some distance - was (or has been, depending on your view of his retirement) never elite, despite mixing with a few of the best. Barry Jones, the excellent studio pundit and colour commentator for the UK's BoxNation deservedly picked up a WBO super-featherweight belt when belts meant a fair bit more than they do now, but will, nonetheless, be an unfamiliar name to many.

Alex Arthur was an all-action boxer who fought his way to British, European, and interim WBO honours, but never fully reached the top. Spencer Oliver may well have done, but was forced to retire after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain, suffered at the age of 23 in what should have been a routine defence of his European 122lb title. Both Arthur and Oliver, now working for Sky Sports, are generally fine pundits, and often proffer opinions worth listening to.

In contrast, those with a place on, or closer to, the pantheon of boxing greats haven't always replicated their in-ring ability with the transition to the broadcast desk. Sugar Ray Leonard, the marquee name on the PBC on NBC team, adds very little indeed in the way of either entertainment or insight (which, one would presume, are the two key prerequisites of the job), but does contribute much in fence-sitting and toeing the company line. Still, let's give him time.

Roy Jones Jr, a staple of the HBO panel, fares much better than Leonard, and does chime in with some valuable analysis and technical points on occasion, but struggles more with pronouncing boxer names of more than one syllable, which does at least give him a free pass to some extent on the entertainment front. Andre Ward, possibly the finest part-time fighter of his generation, also contributes on the technical front, but doesn't appear natural or, indeed, likeable enough for a full-time, post-boxing career in the seat.

Over in the UK, Sky Sports veteran Jim Watt - who battled the great Alexis Arguello, and inherited the WBC lightweight title that Roberto Duran left behind as he made his way through the divisions - remains one of the best Scottish boxers of all time, but is often criticised for his stockpile of catchphrases (to the point of inspiring an entirely-Googleable ‘Jim Watt Bingo' meme) and confusing fighter identities altogether (in recent months we've had Brian Rose referred to as ‘Brian Jones' for the fight's duration, and, at the weekend, Gavin McDonnell referenced as his more established brother, Jamie).

There are plenty more. Antonio Tarver. Johnny Nelson. Richie Woodhall. Glenn McCrory. BJ Flores. Carl Froch. Then there are those who never fought professionally, but have a wealth of experience gained from inside the sport. Teddy Atlas, whose high points outnumbers his lows. Virgil Hunter. Needless to say, it's a mixed bag.

It's a dangerously thin line - albeit one that I don't think this question was treading - which, on the other side, says that only former boxers are qualified to talk about boxers with any kind of authority, and an assertion only usually trotted out by those particularly sensitive to criticism or with a severe dislike of being proven wrong. Other sports coverage has, too, suffered considerably when relying solely on otherwise esteemed ex-pros. Of course, some of the better observers of the sport - and particularly the best boxing writers - have no in-ring experience at all, or least not past their local amateur gym, valuable as that may be.

The merits of having commentary teams comprised solely of retired (or indeed, Andre Ward-style active) fighters are straightforward but not entirely compelling. The old adage ‘they've been there and done it' rings true here, and - in theory, at least - the input of ex-pros should lean more towards a unique fighter viewpoint, notes on strategy and approach. That's not always the case in practice, sadly, and once you add in potential bias in favour of, or against, old training partners, past opponents or bitter rivals, it's not as attractive a proposition. What's more - however unfair or sweeping a generalisation this may be - it's a fairly obvious point that many boxers aren't always the most eloquent of television personalities.

In spite of all its faults, I do still think a mix of the two is the best way to go. Having a lead, experienced sports broadcaster focused on play-by-play commentary does maintain a sense of cohesion which, to an extent, orchestrates the additional colour commentary from either side - although, as we know, the risk of (not-so-)subtle propaganda or predetermined narrative may never be far behind. Besides, can you really dare imagine the chaos of a telecast lead by only former pros, with, say, a team of Jones Jr, Ward, and Leonard all jostling at once for the mic?

The Tweet Science is a new regular feature on Bad Left Hook. If you've got a question you'd like to have featured on the site, tweet it to @Box_Bet, with the hashtag #TweetScience, and we'll pick the best and answer them in the next column.

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