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BILL DWYRE

Freud might be a good analyst for Pacquiao-Bradley II

Their first fight two years ago, a controversial Bradley win, hangs like a cloud over the rematch. The outcome may go deeper than age and internal angst.

April 11, 2014|Bill Dwyre
  • World Boxing Organization welterweight champion Timothy Bradley's defeated Manny Pacquiao in June 2012 by way of a controversial split-decision.
World Boxing Organization welterweight champion Timothy Bradley's… (Isaac Brekken / Associated…)

LAS VEGAS — They are asking all the wrong people here to predict the outcome of Saturday night's fight between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley.

Sportswriters? Are you kidding? This analysis demands a bit more depth than arguing the merits of the designated hitter.

Too bad Sigmund Freud has departed us. His insights into these two fighters could be both learned and insightful.

In the blue corner, from the Philippines, is the congressman from the Sarangani district, Manny Pacquiao, with a record of 55-5-2 and 38 knockouts. He is among the more popular and successful boxers in history, beloved in the sport. He is also 35 and being called too old and worn out to win.

In the red corner, from the hard edges of Palm Springs, is the WBO welterweight champion, Tim Bradley, with a record of 31-0 and 12 knockouts. He is well-spoken, competitive and is being called a possible winner because he is only 30 and not yet worn out.

For a closer view, we need to go to the psychoanalyst's couch.

They fought once before, June 9, 2012. Sportswriters at ringside scored it a solid Pacquiao victory. Two of the three judges, both of whom have been characterized in ensuing stories by many of the same sportswriters by use of the words "blind" and "mice," scored it a victory for Bradley.

And the fun had begun.

Pacquiao, always classy, shrugged, said what happened was part of sports and never whined. His win-some, lose-some stance was both mature and infuriating for those who wanted ranting, raving and controversy.

For Bradley it was much worse. His may have been the biggest losing victory in the history of sports.

"I became the laughingstock of the media," he says now, quickly adding that he still loves us and understands our lack of understanding.

He says the months after his victory/loss were "pure hell." He says he actually considered suicide.

He tells stories of people laughing at him in public, of a couple of young men eyeing him as they pumped gas near him, then yelling the word "loser" out the window as they drove away. He says a woman approached him as he was shopping for his kids at Toys-R-Us, asked him when he was fighting again, and departed by saying, "Well, I hope you win this time."

Day after day, there were similar encounters. Bradley needed to put this victory/loss behind him, but there were always reminders. Who knew that boxing fans had so little sensitivity? Who knew that a boxer had so much?

"It was the darkest period of my life," Bradley says.

His manager, Joel Diaz, is less introspective about that first Pacquiao fight.

"I thought Manny fought about 30 seconds in each round," he says. "When the fight ended, I told one of my guys to go in the ring and pick Tim up, because we won."

Now, he says, "It has taken us two years to learn to ignore things."

In the ensuing two years, Pacquiao has fought twice. He got knocked out with a shocking right hand from Juan Manuel Marquez before coming back late last year to beat Brandon Rios impressively in Macau.

Bradley has also fought twice. He won an impressive brawl over Ruslan Provodnikov in which he was knocked down in the final round, then outboxed the same Marquez who had left Pacquiao face-down 10 months earlier.

So there is not much to choose from here, and the outcome may go much deeper than age and internal angst.

Between the fighters, there is no personal dislike, no boxing trash talk. Pacquiao says, "Bradley proved his toughness in his last two fights." Bradley says, "Manny has not lost a step. If anything, he may have lost his fire. That makes sense for a guy who has been at the top so long."

The trainers have tried to stir the pot.

Bradley revealed recently that he was severely hampered in the first fight by not wearing socks, and that resulted in both his feet being injured. Last week, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach sent a box full of socks to Bradley's training center. Diaz dissed Pacquiao by saying it had become obvious that he had lost his edge and had become "compassionate," adding, "If you become compassionate, you ought to take up tennis or golf."

Mostly, this one remains a puzzle. Is Pacquiao too old? Is it, as Bradley says, "his time now?"

The first fight is history. It is also a cloud that doesn't seem to go away.

Promoter Bob Arum asked for the Nevada attorney general to look into the first fight, and nothing untoward was found. Not that Arum was expecting anything; he made the request mostly so people wouldn't point the finger at him for arranging (encouraging?) a result. That was a stupid premise anyway, because had Arum desired a winner, it would have been Pacquiao, his main meal ticket.

Then, pouring lighting fluid on the coals, one of the judges in Pacquiao-Bradley I turned in a strange scorecard in the recent Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez bout. A few weeks later, amid more buzz, C.J. Ross retired as a Nevada ringside judge.

So here we are. Fight day and little certainty.

Arum probably has the best idea: "Just go to the sports book and look at the odds. All this other chirping doesn't matter. That will tell you."

The line has held steady the last few days. Pacquiao is a slight 2-1 favorite.

If Freud were alive, we might have a better reading. Or he might just go to the sports book, like the rest of us.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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