A return to the division south of welterweight could await Manny Pacquiao if trainer Freddie Roach has much sway in the Filipino legend’s next move as the Wildcard Boxing Club owner believes the 35-year-old will only recapture his knockout power if he campaigns within the confines of light welterweight (140-pounds) or lightweight (135-pounds). Promoter Bob Arum may not be so keen as the ‘money’ fights are at 147-pounds, but here’s five candidates who could bring bucks at light welter and below…
If there is one fight that makes most sense for Manny Pacquiao, 35, after his convincing Saturday night triumph over erstwhile WBO welterweight ruler Timothy Bradley, it is not a long overdue super fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr – who could be aligned with the winner of a July 12 punch-up between Erislandy Lara and Saul Alvarez, or a fighter recently signed to Al Hayman; Amir Khan – but a previous opponent, one who makes sense with the organisation (WBO) and cents for the promoter (Bob Arum).
Photo Credit: Stacey Verbeek – Maple Avenue Boxing Gym, Dallas
Filipino belt-collector Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38ko) and Mexican ring legend Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39ko) trade blows for a fourth time on Saturday, December 8 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The two have fought for 36 rounds already and, despite only a modicum of interest when the match-up was first announced, Top Rank Boxing promoter Bob Arum today confirmed that the Arena’s 16,000 seats have all sold which fetches $10.5m. Pacmania is officially upon us…
Words: Alan Dawson – London
Photos: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
Perpetual Manny Pacquiao nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez and pay-per-view attraction Floyd Mayweather Jr will have no doubt been top of consensus shortlists for the Filipino welterweight’s summer opponent but, as June 9 closes in, the determination and confidence shown by Pacquiao’s erstwhile unlikely challenger Timothy Bradley has left fight scribes wondering… can the unbeaten American defeat Pac? The man himself makes an extraordinary case…
He’s a chest-thumping, prove-to-me-your-better-than-me junior welterweight champion with natural athleticism, sterling boxing skills and, above all, a drive that is now so well documented that it has almost become one of the focal points of the promotion for his match-up with pound-for-pound mainstay Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38ko) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Bradley (28-0-0, 12ko) is well prepared… has been living the weight having embarked on a near 15-week training camp and is expected to scale in at either 144lbs or 145lbs at the weigh-in on Friday, one day prior to the WBO welterweight world title showdown.
“I am ready to take the throne,” said the 28-year-old California, an accomplished pugilist who will be thrust into his greatest test this weekend. Ever fearless, he added: “I am in the best shape of my life [and] am ready to deliver.”
Bradley’s self-belief is not unfounded. He has, in the past, triumphed in a 140lb world title unification (Devon Alexander), rose from the canvas to grind out a victory (Kendall Holt) and outclassed a man whose infighting troubled popular British prizefighter Amir Khan in a win that now has added prestige (Lamont Peterson). Aye, Bradley has come a long way since bursting onto the elite level by doing what Lucian Bute failed to do – that is, head into Nottingham, and leave his opponent’s homeland with a world title (Junior Witter), however, all those triumphs have one thing in common; they were achieved on account of possessing a higher point total over the distance, rather than inside it, and so a common criticism of Desert Storm Tim is that he lacks concussive power.
“I systematically break guys down,” Bradley explained. “I get in the ring… they say I don’t have power but then they feel me and feel my strength. As soon as they get hit, they want to hold, [especially in] the last couple of fights. It makes it hard for me to really get my work in. I break them down and take every punch away from them,” he stated. A clear student of the sport, he continued: “[It] starts with the jab, I take that away then I take the straight left away. Hit them in the body, break them down and apply the pressure. If you’re not hitting hard in there and I don’t feel threatened then I’m going to take it to you.”
Manny is lauded for his ambidexterity when it comes to trading shots, but the world-title magnet largely lines up on the portside, something Bradley is accustomed to having recently squared off against both Alexander and Joel Casamayor, retiring the latter inside eight rounds. Pacquiao is also famed for his speed – both of fist and of foot – together with his power.
“My last opponents have been southpaw,” he said. “Casamayor is a little over the hill but still crafty… people said he had tremendous power but I didn’t feel any. My pace was high and most people can’t fight at that pace which is my strength and how I win fights the majority of the time. For this fight I will have to be a lot smarter.
“Pacquiao hits hard with the right and the left hand so I’ll be able to feel him out in the first round and see what he really has. If he does have some power then I will definitely have to be smarter in there and outbox [him]. But if I don’t feel like he can hurt me then I’m going to make a fight out of it.”
One of the toughest assignments a trainer can have is to be tasked with finding a Pacquiao replica in order to get his charge comfortable with a style deemed so great it, along with the man’s achievements, landed Manny the fighter of the decade award from 2000-2009. Joel Diaz, Bradley’s head cornerman, though, enlisted three or four sparring partners with alternative best assets/physical traits and ordered them to go to war with Tim who, in total, sparred between 160 and 200 rounds, going a few rounds with each partner before swapping, in order to keep himself fresh.
Did any of those spars help Bradley learn how to successfully block or evade a fighter mimicking Pacquiao’s monstrous left hand? “In the beginning of training camp I was getting hit with it but now I am stepping underneath it – great defense and great footwork and counter-punching,” he explained. “I’ve been looking really good and not getting hit a lot in training camp. I am dialed in on the left hand.”
How does he anticipate being able to cope with Pacquiao’s power? This is, after all, a man who stopped Miguel Cotto, separated Ricky Hatton from his senses in six minutes, forced Oscar de la Hoya to quit on his stool and pulverised Antonio Margarito’s eye socket. Bradley provided an answer that will draw allusions to the Juan Manuel Marquez method of deterring Pacquiao – counter-punching.
“I had some big guys, some big punchers come in to keep me on my toes. I had a kid coming out of LA, an undefeated kid, a big puncher, lefty and strong. He threw 150 punches in one round and he’s a heavy puncher so my eyes were wide open. I was ducking and weaving and trying to counter punch to get this big guy off me before he took my head off.”
Aside from his winner’s mentality, undefeated record and productive training camp, where does all the confidence come from? “For the last four years I have been studying this guy, looking at and admiring him [but] this is my time. I’m putting it all on the line so you are going to see a great fight.
“I’m not in there to survive [or] for a paycheck. I am in there to win. I am going [to do] whatever it takes to win. If it takes infighting, that’s what I’ll do because Pacquiao doesn’t fight well inside – look at all his fights – he doesn’t fight well inside. He throws combinations then steps out and comes in on an angle. He doesn’t like to stay there and bang [but] if he comes in to bang – I’ll go to boxing. I am a schooled fighter – I know when to box.
“I am going to take it to Pacquiao,” he concluded.
On The Beak – Admin
Paul McCloskey’s May 5 clash with DeMarcus Corley at the Kings Hall, Belfast in Northern Ireland has taken a new twist after he was named as a possible opponent for Juan Manuel Marquez’s July 14 fight in Texas. The WBO interim light welterweight champion takes over Cowboys Stadium that night and the four-weight king has been linked with a fight with Dudey after his promoter suggested his preference for a southpaw opponent.
McCloskey faces the former WBO champ ‘Chop Chop’ Corley in May in a huge night for boxing for the city, with the all-Irish middleweight Betfair Prizefighter, Martin Lindsay and Jamie Conlan all in action, and now McCloskey’s promoter Eddie Hearn says the show has taken on even greater significance with the former unbeaten European champion in the running for a shot at the pound-for-pound Mexican great (pictured left).
“Paul’s name has been mentioned by Marquez’s team in the last week and I reached out to Top Rank yesterday to let them know that we’d love the fight,” said Hearn. “I think we are in with a decent chance but a convincing win against Corley in front of a packed King’s Hall crowd would strengthen our case for a July clash with Marquez.”
McCloskey added: “It’s an honour to be linked with a showdown with Juan Manuel and it’s a dream fight for me. May 5 has always been a pivotal night for me as I aim to get back into world title contention, and this news has made a huge occasion even bigger.”
On The Beak – Admin
Masterful Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1, 39ko), a Mexican boxing legend with full world championships in three separate weight classes, gave ‘The Professor’ Serhiy Fedchenko (30-2-0, 13ko) a fistic lesson in jabbing and combination-work on Saturday, April 14 as the Ukrainian suffered a dominating defeat in Marquez’s home town – Mexico City. It was Dinamita’s first fight on his own patch in almost 18 years.
(Embedded video above credit – YouTube, JuanManuelMarquezHD)
On The Beak – Admin
Three weight world champion Juan Manuel Marquez, 38, takes on unheralded Ukrainian 140lber Serhiy Fedchenko (30-1-0, 13ko) for the interim WBO junior welterweight world championship title on Saturday, April 14 at the New Mexico City Arena, Mexico City and, at the weigh-in yesterday, both fighters registered identical weights – 140lbs. JuanMa (53-6-1, 39ko) looked cut and powerful at the weight, while The Professor appeared athletic.
Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
Undefeated Oxnard power-hitter Brandon Rios failed to make weight on Friday, April 13 as he scaled in at 137lbs – two pounds heavier than the mandatory 135lb lightweight limit – and will consequently be denied a shot at the WBA‘s interim belt and the $50,000 bonus that promotional giants Top Rank had earmarked for the victor in the Rios versus Richard Abril bout on Saturday evening at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas.
It is not the first time Rios (29-0-0, 22ko) has struggled to make weight as, in his most recent fight, he lost his world title on the scales when he recorded a 135.5lb weight for his voluntary defence against England’s slugger; John Murray. Despite claiming a late knockout victory, Rios lacked the crushing vigour that had typified his championship performances against Miguel Acosta and Urbano Antillon.
Remaining unbeaten but losing his belt inspired Rios to enlist the services of a nutritionist/conditioner, Cecilio Flores, who altered Bam Bam’s dietary plan and exercising: “It was the best decision I ever made,” Rios explained at a press conference this week, adding: “I feel so much more energetic and powerful and I’m not missing meals.” However, the moves were not enough to keep Rios at lightweight and a move north, to super lightweight (140lbs) must now be imminent.
The show, though, will still go on with only Abril (17-2-1, 8ko) eligible for the belt and the Benjamins yet the prickly rivalry between the pair has provided Brandon with ample motivation: “I’m not letting this unknown come in and ruin eight years of hard work I put into building my professional boxing career,” the 25-year-old said recently.
The Abril – Rios showdown is to be broadcast on HBO who are offering a split-site pay-per-view with Mexican ring legend Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39ko) and Serhiy Fedchenko competing for the interim WBO junior welterweight world championship in the main event.
Marquez, 38, will – in an act that belies his veteran years – be an active boxer in 2012 as he also has July 14 date ready for a dust-up with a yet to be determined opponent at the impressive Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Rios is regarded to be a prime candidate to challenge Marquez should he, as expected, oversee Abril.
“Juan Manuel Márquez and I have a lot of options in 2012 and a lot of opportunities,” he commented. “I think this could be a career year for either of us. One of us could end up as the Fighter of the Year.”
Promising a fan-friendly fight, Rios made the proclamation that his fisticuffs with Abril will be “an action fight.”
He concluded: “I will make absolutely sure Abril sees some real action. April stepped up when he put his hands on me at the Miami press conference. Now after our fight he will return to the dark shadows where he really belongs.”
Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
Should the WBA maintain their stringent – and harsh – policy of stripping titlists of their championship status in the event they fail to defend against a mandatory challenger within 18 months, like the situation former ‘Super’ WBA lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez currently finds himself the victim of, then the main beneficiaries could be 135lb rivals Richard Abril, of Cuba, and Venezuelan ace Jorge Linares, who are speculated to compete for the vacant strap.
A pound-for-pound mainstay, Marquez’s technical finesse and boxing ability throughout the featherweight and super featherweight divisions translated instantly when he made the trip north to box at lightweight in 2008, trumping Joel Casamayor by way of 11th round technical knockout to pick up The Ring magazine’s title.
In early 2009, he was awarded two alphabet belts – WBA and the WBO – for his ninth round stoppage of Juan Diaz. The reason the WBA stripped Marquez (53-6-1, 39ko) of their championship was because they claim the Mexican, 38, has not obliged his mandatory challenger since that date, despite a successful defence against game slugger Michael Katsidis in a fight of the year nominee in 2010.
During JuanMa’s reign atop the 135lb weight class, he also beat Diaz in a rematch, as well as testing himself against two of the greatest boxers of the last decade in their own natural weight class, welterweight: Floyd Mayweather in 2009 and Manny Pacquiao in 2011.
The latest rankings by the WBA even have Marquez unlisted. The effective counter-puncher has been linked with a permanent occupation within the confines of either super lightweight or welterweight, yet he still holds the WBO and The Ring belts.
Abril heads the WBA’s top ten list of contenders, with Linares (31-2-0, 20ko) slotted in at second despite his defeat to Antonio DeMarco, Brandon Rios holds down third place, Yuriorkis Gamboa is fourth even though he has never boxed in the division and Paulus Moses is fifth.
What is Marquez’s loss, though, could turn in to Abril (17-2-1, 8ko) and Linares’ gain as the pair are believed to be the leading candidates in the WBA’s next sanctioned world title fight.
Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
One unified world champion, an undefeated titlist and two first ballot future hall of famers are the statuses of the four opponents adviser Michael Koncz and Top Rank Boxing founder Bob Arum will be discussing when the two meet this week to begin the selection process for WBO welterweight world champion incumbent Manny Pacquiao‘s next defence. Lamont Peterson, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto are all in the mix…
Filipino belt-collector Pacman was last in the ring in November, when he went fist-to-fist with Mexican nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39ko) for a third – and what was billed a final – time, however, the end result (a Pacquiao win by way of majority decision) has split observers. One section regarded Marquez’s counter-punching tactic to have thwarted a sluggish Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38ko) sufficiently enough for the three-weight world champ to collect a major honour in a fourth division – a viewpoint shared by On The Beak at the time.
However, others pointed out that the expectation prior to fight night – that Pacquiao would claim a conclusive knockout, perhaps as early as the sixth round – had an influence on people’s scoring of the fight as, when the competitive contest transpired, a more favourable stance to Marquez developed when - like it had in the first and second duel – it was really more even.
As such, a fourth fight has been mooted yet a potential stumbling block to any negotiations for the bout could be due to Marquez’s reported unwillingness to box in Las Vegas; the scene of all three fights and one in which he is yet to gain what he believes is a deserving win.
Pacquiao has already trounced Cotto (37-2-0, 30ko). It was the bout in which he earned the WBO title he still defends and one in which he looked superior in every minute of every round until Cotto was teekayoed 55 seconds into the 12th and final round in 2009. The Puerto Rican’s successes since that fight – a hat-trick of stoppages over Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito (all at super welterweight) – have seen him fight his way back into a shot at a second highly-lucrative payday with Manny.
Bradley (28-0-0, 12ko) and Peterson (30-1-1, 15ko) both campaign in the weight class directly south of Pacquiao, super lightweight. Bradley, the holder of the WBO championship, is yet to be beat, has already fought at welterweight and is in his prime years. Peterson holds the WBA/IBF titles and is coming off the back of his most significant victory to date – a points victory over Pacquiao’s Wildcard Boxing Club stablemate Amir Khan in Washington DC, December, 2011.
All four fighters will be the focus of Arum and Koncz’s conversations this week as Koncz has specifically jetted into Las Vegas to meet Arum, according to Manila Standard Today. Pacquiao was due to attend yet has decided to spend further time with his family.
Instead, Koncz will report back to Pacquiao in Manila next week, January 10 where a final decision could be reached.
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