On Saturday night, two of boxing’s most gutsy warriors step into the ring in hopes to position themselves for another big payday. Both men have a lot in common. They both beat Manny Pacquiao and both have fought desperately for the respect of the boxing fans. Juan Manuel Marquez, 55-6-1, 40 KO’s, made a statement in his last fight as he flattened Manny Pacquiao in six rounds. This was an exclamation point to the fight series that the two had. It could be argued that Marquez won every fight with Pacquiao and had it not been for the “name” fighter getting the benefit of the doubt, he would be in a much better place. Whatever the case, he is in a great position right now, at age 40, to make one final run in the big leagues.
Timothy Bradley, 30-0, 12 KO’s, cannot get respect in this game and it has bothered him immensely and rightfully so. His crowning achievement happened in June of 2012, when he out-pointed Manny Pacquiao, but the reaction from the public and boxing writers was one of anger toward Bradley and the judges that saw it his way. Bradley was put on the shelf by his promotion, denied a rematch with Pacquiao and slipped into a depression. His return to the ring against power-puncher Ruslan Provodnikov after an unwanted layoff from the game became a test of courage. Bradley fought the wrong fight, trading punches with the knockout artist and paid the price. He found himself barely crawling off the floor to take a unanimous decision win. It was a tough lesson for Bradley. He can’t allow anger to dictate his fighting strategy and that is especially true in his upcoming battle with Marquez.
Marquez has six defeats. One was in his very first fight, a DQ loss. He has lost to Freddie Norwood (UD-12) early in his career, Chris John (UD-12), Floyd Mayweather JR (UD-12) and twice to Manny Pacquiao (SD-12, MD-12). It takes a special fighter to beat him soundly and only Floyd has really done that. Norwood caught Marquez early in his career and John’s victory may have been tainted by a home court advantage. In his last ten fights, the record of Marquez is 7-3, 5 KO’s. Two of the losses were to Pacquiao and very questionable and one loss was very legitimate to the bigger Floyd Mayweather JR. Marquez should probably be 9-1, 5 KO’s.
Is Timothy Bradley an elite fighter? That’s what we will find out on Saturday night. He has youth on his side. At 30, expect him to be more energetic and mobile. At 40, Marquez has used his boxing IQ to stay alive in the game, much like Bernard Hopkins has, but the 10 year age advantage is not one to look beyond. Bradley’s plan will be to outwork the older fighter, using movement and aggression along the way. If Marquez can’t pull the trigger, he won’t win the fight.
The problem that Bradley has is that he is not a puncher. His punches won’t hurt Marquez and if he can’t get his attention, he may find himself on the move and eventually beaten down. Another big question looming over this fight is what did the Provodnikov fight take out of Bradley? He stated that it took months to recover and now he’s facing a guy with pulverizing power and great skill. If Bradley isn’t right for this fight, he will be knocked out.
For Marquez, he will have some issues with the aggression and speed of Bradley. The closest example would be Juan Diaz. Diaz, the “Baby Bull” was able to get some things done, pushing Marquez back and roughing him up. Diaz didn’t have a punch but he was able to maul with effectiveness. That has to be a blueprint for Bradley. He must push Marquez back without wearing himself down in the process. This fight favors Marquez going in, but there are so many variables.
On Saturday night, the two most notable opponents and successors of Manny Pacquiao will duke it out in the ring in Las Vegas. The fight will be shown on HBO PPV with an unremarkable undercard, unfortunately. Top Rank is up to their old tricks, using a good headliner and stacking the card with mediocre fights. Floyd Mayweather JR’s bout with Canelo Alvarez and that undercard should have been a base for all other promotions, but this is Top Rank we’re talking about here…one good fight and some showcases for their other talent.
Expect a war that could go either way. I suspect that we will see an elite fighter in Marquez outbox and stop a very good fighter in Bradley in 8 rounds, unless father time has finally caught up with the Mexican great.