A Win Without Fighting

bradley13Timothy Bradley was not the only fighter to receive a boost from his victory of the great Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night. In an indirect, but very real way, Manny Pacquiao also benefited from the outcome of the fight.

Marquez is Pacquiao’s biggest rival, and the man against whom he shall be most often judged. Fighters are measured against their greatest opponents. But the analysis does not end with a simple stat listing what the two men have done against each other. Evander Holyfield lost his trilogy to Riddick Bowe. When their careers are seen in the bigger picture, however, Holyfield is a clear Hall-of-Famer, while Bowe is thought of as a very good fighter who had held the title.

In the mythical measure of two men there must also be a question of the quality that fills out their respective resumes: who else did they fight? And in cases when they share an opponent, who did what against their common foe?

Gabriel Flores Jr. faces Ryan Kielczweski on October 3 on ESPN+ in Las Vegas, Nevada

Unlike the Bowe/Holyfield analogy where only one is viewed as an all-time-great, both Pacquiao and Marquez are going to the Hall of Fame. Both their records would remain remarkable even if their names were removed the other’s ledger. But one man must win the rivalry.>

As for how they fared against a common foe in Timothy Bradley: most fans believe that Manny Pacquiao defeated Bradley when they fought in June of 2012. There were perhaps two people who thought Bradley deserved the match. Luckily for him, those two people were paid to offer their opinions on the fight.

Perhaps this puts Pac Man ahead of Marquez on the rivalry chart. But only for now. Much depends on how Manny handles Brandon Rios next month in Macao China. If the tough Rios should prove to be too much at this stage of the great Filipino’s career then the boost from Saturday’s match will have been short lived. If, however, he gets past Rios he’ll prove that he is still a player in this game. More importantly, a victory for Pacquiao could set up a rematch with Bradley. This would establish another multi-fight rivalry, and potentially create some distance between him and his Mexican foe.

The evaluation of a fighter’s resume is unending. And comparisons between two rivals never ceases. Numerically, Manny has the edge over their four-fight battle: two wins, one loss, and one draw. But there are many people who question at least one of his victories. There are even a few people who believe that Manny has not won a single fight over those four matches.

Even if such claims are exaggerated, it’s at least clear that Manny’s edge may only be numerical. For most fans the most indelible image from the four fight series has been that of Manny Pacquiao lying face-down, unmoving, the victim of a massive Marquez punch.

In a sport where the elite fighters average two matches a year, the outcome of a single fight can mean the castle or the dog house. A victory keeps a man at the top of his division. While a loss can make people wonder about his usefulness. Right now there are questions about the usefulness of both Pacquiao and Marquez. It’s harsh and it’s bitter, but that is how people respond when they see a man lose.

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Juan Manuel has to wait for his chance to bounce back from Saturday night. The next opponent is unknown. The date, the arena, the significance of the match is all a mystery. Until that time people will think about his most recent fight: a loss. Pac Man, however, has his chance lined up for November. And while his most recent outing was also a defeat, his greatest rival just lost. And in a strange sort of way, that’s a win for Manny.