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Left-Hook Lounge Mailbag: Bradley vs Pacquiao “Face-Off”, Why Golovkin Chose Chavez, Not Andre Ward, and Maidana Fight Strategy!!!

Steve N. (Reseda, CA): Bradley vs Pacquiao’s “Face-Off” on HBO seemed very intense. Who did you give the mental edge too (based on what we saw)? And who do you think has more to prove given the way things turned out before?

Vivek W. (ESB): I found this particular episode of “Face-Off” to be easily the most compelling of all. I think the episode gave us a strong indication of the pure mindset hidden deep within the dome of both competitors. I thought it was very raw, very intense, and for lack of better words, very unscripted. One thing for sure, there will be no questions remaining in the end this time around, as neither man seems to be willing to give an inch, yet both appear ready to step forward and forcibly take a yard, so to speak! With a few notes in hand and a mind full of contrasting thoughts, my best analysis on what we witnessed would go a little something like this:

Timothy Bradley presented what I view to be a very determined air about himself. There was a point in the past where I felt his bravado was all bark and no bite! This time, I think, unequivocally, he displayed nothing less than sheer confidence. At its best, in an odd way, I feel as though his confidence has finally caught up with his heart, which is a scary thing! In the past, I felt that he spoke tough because it was the natural thing to do. But there’s a sense now that this is a guy who has evolved to a level where he truly feels there is nothing and no one who can stop him. Again…..very dangerous for anyone on his level, and it totally confirms Andre Ward’s comments in the past, that Timothy Bradley was the “toughest opponent” he has ever faced, which was a reference to their amateur days.

Looking beyond the fundamental skills list and stopping solely at resume and sheer accomplishments, outside of Ward, there’s no one in the sport that looms larger on the “mythical” Pound for Pound ledger but Floyd Mayweather, himself. Bradley has earned it, and his results thus far have placed him there. On the flipside of Bradley in the telecast was Manny Pacquaio, yet not the one I’m quite accustomed to. A Pacquiao interview isn’t a Pacquiao interview without his patented smile and style; but beneath the surface, I’m beginning to feel what was once air-tight and Teflon tough is less savage and more fluff. There was definitely something out of sorts, in my observation.

I loved the candid moment where he reminded Bradley that “he who humbles himself will be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be humbled”. Unfortunately, beyond that, I just really felt as though he appeared very unsure of himself, unable to really even look Bradley directly in his eyes throughout the episode. There was almost an air of nervousness I detected in him, and I’m not sure I understand why, as I truly think the odds are in his favor to win when the two square off in a few weeks. As I look back at the excerpts I jotted down, there were a few that tell the tale better than any passage I could put together. When asked about the pending showdown, Pacquiao gave a brutally honest response in saying: “I have to focus and train hard, unlike before, I underestimated him. Now I have to GET BACK the aggressiveness”.

What’s intriguing about that statement is that you don’t have to “get back” anything you haven’t loss. That was a brutally honest assessment which boldly answers even his greatest fans who seem to act as if there’s no truth to the notion. When Bradley pushed the envelope, stating “the hunger he’s looking for, it’s no longer there and he can’t get it back. I truly believe that and I don’t know how he lost it, but I do know he’s at a different place now (mentally)….and he’s not the same”. Pacquaio’s response was again brutally honest, in saying “I have to pray for that…..for God to give me another fire”; as if to say he needs help regaining that passion, or that spark, rekindling his old ‘flame’. He concluded his sentence in saying “that’s why I’ll pray for that”. Keep in mind, this was his answer in direct response to Bradley, who told him he “no longer has it”.

The odds currently favor Pacquiao, and common knowledge says if it’s remotely close, Bradley won’t get another decision in light of the way the last fight ended; but even on the strength of that reality, Pacquiao seems to have very little confidence in his ability to carry that out. When I think Pacquiao, I think of the savage beating he laid on much larger men like Antonio Margarito and Oscar De la Hoya. Then I ask myself how have smaller men like Morales, Bradley, and Marquez able to trouble him so thoroughly? The old adage has it that “skills pay the bills”. Could it be that even with that “fire”, Pacquiao still struggles with men who embody skills? On “Face-Off”, he said those men are guilty of “running”. My response: if he wants to win, he’d better learn how to, as well. This version of Bradley appears ready to do just that. Earn a safe, comfortable victory….all while in a lions den! Stay tuned.

Latrell S. (Ocho Rios, JA): It appears that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will be facing Gennady G. Golovkin on July 12th at Super Middleweight (168lbs). Why face a fighter who has done nothing in the division when he could have faced the Champion and most accomplished fighter there in Andre Ward?

Vivek W. (ESB): This is one of those topics that come down, primarily, to who answers it! There’s a huge contingent out there that feels GGG has somehow earned the right to sidestep such meaningful dialog, never needing to answer or validate such concerns. On the other hand, you have individuals like myself that like to view things down the middle and see things for what they are. While I can openly admit that the current legal battle between Andre Ward and his promoter hasn’t helped him secure this fight, it should be duly noted that his openness to take such a fight was well documented prior to now. Unfortunately, when the interest was their and the road was clear, it was never pursued by team Golovkin, despite their “call out” promotion of “everyone between 160 and 175lbs”.

Like always, there’s an angle to point fingers both ways, but clearly, Ward was open for this fight prior to the legal battle. Why it wasn’t taken by Golovkin and his team at that point? That’s a question he’d have to answer, yet thus far has opted not to. When we look at things a little deeper, it goes right back to what I’ve said for the longest. And that’s the fact that these are all businessmen who make business-first decisions. I understand the plight of the older generation who feels “this isn’t the fight game I remember”; but my response to them: it’s called evolution. The sponsorship, the fan-isms, the politics; all in their current state are both proof and reflective of the evolution in Boxing, which now has fighters equally as conscious of the small window of opportunity surrounding their earning power, as much as their legacy.

Months ago, Ward mentioned his interest in a showdown with Chavez for this same purpose. That said, we have to aptly point out that his request came on the heels of an effort that placed him in the ring with the very best competition found on his level. There’s no one in the division who boast a close or comparable resume. If anyone deserves a money fight, it’s him. Team Golovkin stated prior to his last fight that there was “no rush” to go up in weight, and that the Ward fight would need to “build”. Suddenly, only a few months later this has all changed. That type of movement leaves room for criticism. The appropriate thing to do would have been to face the smaller and more comparable size challenger, (between Chavez and Ward), whom also brings a bit of glory, being that he holds a strap and is more accomplished.

That angle was never pursued, and the rest is history. The only thing I can say at this stage is that I hope the winner gives Ward the shot he deserves, and more importantly, I hope that the legal battle between he and his promoter clears in time for him to get some of these opportunities. Until then, I think we all have to respect the fact that Chavez and Golovkin have made the business-first decision to square off, and as fight fans and media, simply enjoy that moment, as well as those that will come from it. One other thing I think fans and media need to do is respect the fact that these are “prize fighters, not pride fighters”. There seems to be a negative angle attached to a certain fighters for making business decisions, and not others. It’s either business decisions across the board, or cherry picking across the board. Select an option and stick to it, ladies and gents! Keep it fair!

Xavier O. (El Paso, TX): Robert Garcia and Marcos Maidana seem to have a lot of confidence going into the showdown with Floyd Mayweather. Garcia said he will have Maidana throw 100 punches per round to smother Mayweather. Do you think this is a smarter strategy than Canelo’s decision to try to outbox him?

Vivek W. (ESB): In recent weeks I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing fight footage of both Mayweather and Maidana, and in doing so, there are two things that became very clear: (1). Maidana is a relentless fighter who has definitely gotten better, and without question will come to win. (2). Mayweather is by far the most deft fighter I’ve personally ever witnessed, as it relates to the tactical, cerebral element of the craft that allows a fighter to diffuse almost anything presented. Those two things, I feel, underline the key angle and figuring out how this fight will play out. Maidana will bring a ton of heart, and I have no doubt that he’ll throw those 100 punches per round with every one containing wicked intentions. What will determine how successful that effort is will all come down to how well he handles rejection and confusion. It always does.

At this level, there aren’t many trainers who aren’t capable of drafting up an adequate gameplan. What makes those game plans fall to the wayside against Mayweather is his ability to nullify them longer than the executor is willing to keep trying them. Very simple answer to a very complex discussion. Ricky Hatton is about the only Mayweather opponent that I can think of in recent years who gave the very same effort, with the very same intensity until it was all over. The irony about that is that Mayweather always said “when they come to fight, they always end up knocked out”. True to form, Hatton did, and he’s the last man I can remember who used the same level of intensity from the beginning to the end, not named Jose Luis Castillo. Maidana is a harder puncher, he’s a longer fighter (arm length), he has a more diverse attack, and he’s equally as relentless.

Can Mayweather confuse him long enough to get him to eventually take his foot off the gas? In theory, probably not. In actuality, I can totally see it happening! What turns this plan on its head every time is the fact that a fighter is not only missing, but getting hit with shots they don’t see coming as they miss. It’s a frustrating process, and over the course of 12 rounds, few have the staying power to prevent from going. Be it “going” with a less active strategy…..or “going” to sleep (via stoppage). There lies the biggest challenge for Maidana. Can he stay the course with intensity? If he can, I think we see something very close to Mayweather/Castillo I. If he can’t, we may see something very close to Mayweather/Gatti….as Mayweather is coming to dig in! It’ll all depend on Maidana’s continuous execution of Garcia’s plan. Lets see how it all turns out! Stay tuned.

(Vivek “Vito” Wallace can be reached at 954.300.5692, on Facebook, Twitter (@vivekwallace747), and Instagram (viveksview)

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