By Thomas Hauser: A wave of outrage has swept over the boxing community with regard to the scoring of the June 9th fight between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley. The overwhelming majority of fans, writers, and commentators who watched the fight thought that Pacquiao was a clear winner. Jerry Roth agreed that Pacquiao had won, although his 115-113 scorecard was closer than many observers thought appropriate. Duane Ford and C. J. Ross ignited a firestorm of protest, scoring the bout 115-113 in favor of Bradley.
I’m poor candidate to audition for the Greek chorus. On fight night, sitting in row E of the press section, I thought the decision could have gone either way. And I scored the fight 115-114 for Bradley.
Was I wrong? Later in this article, I’ll recount the thoughts I had after watching a replay of the fight. For now, let’s put Pacquiao-Bradley in perspective.
In recent years, Pacquiao has taken boxing on a glorious ride. Fans in the United States became aware of him when he knocked out Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in 2001 to claim the IBF super-bantamweight crown. A string of triumphs followed, highlighted by a 2008 demolition of Oscar De La Hoya and devastating knockouts of Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.
Floyd Mayweather (Pacquiao’s rival for boxing supremacy) has been packaged as a superstar. Pacquiao is viewed by millions of fans around the world as a superhero. There’s a difference.
In his native Philippines, Pacquiao is thought of as the heart of his people. Two years ago, he was elected to Congress. It’s likely that, next year, he’ll run for governor of Sarangani province. The Philippine constitution requires that the country’s president be at least forty years old. Pacquiao will turn forty on December 17, 2018. The first presidential election after that will be contested in 2022.
Nor is Pacquiao’s influence limited to his native land. Earlier this year, Forbes placed him fourth on its list of the “most influential” athletes in the United States.
Tim Bradley doesn’t have to make his way through a mob of adoring fans each time he steps out onto the street or goes to the gym. But the more time that people spend with him, the more they like him.
Bradley grew up in the not-so-good part of Palm Springs, California, as a middle child with two sisters. His father was a hard taskmaster. Tim grew up with a lot of anger in him.
“I got into fights all the time,” he recalls. “I’m talking about from the time I was seven or eight years old. Anytime anyone looked at me wrong, I’d get into it with them. It’s different now. I like to be respected, but I’ve learned to treat other people with respect. Beyond that, what can I say? I’m a family guy. I love friends and family. I like to make people happy. I’m outgoing, stubborn, ambitious. I work hard and do whatever it takes to get what I want. I don’t want anything given to me. I want to earn it. For me, happiness comes from the pursuit, from the journey. I live in the moment. Whatever life brings me, I deal with it.”
Other tidbits of information include, “I used to wait tables. I liked doing that because I like talking to people. But I don’t think I’d want to wait tables now. And I used to sing in the church choir. I can carry a tune.”
Bradley excelled in multiple sports when he was young. “I was always the smallest but the strongest kid in my class,” he recalls. “I was fast and ran a pretty good mile. In junior high school, I scored thirty touchdowns in flag football in ten games.”
But his primary love was boxing.
“When I was in sixth grade,” Bradley remembers, “I had a friend named Julio. He used to train at a gym. In school, we’d slap-box, just fooling around. Julio told me I should go to the gym with him. I begged my dad to let me do it. Finally, my dad got tired of me talking about it and brought me in. I met my first trainer that day. His name was O.J. Kutcher. O.J. looked me over and said, ‘Someday, you’ll be a champion.’ I told him, ‘You say that to everyone.’ And he told me, ‘No, I don’t. I see something special in you.’”
That same day, Kutcher put Bradley in the ring with Julio to see what he could do.
“I was a street-fighter,” Tim recalls. “I lived in a tough neighborhood and wouldn’t let anyone bully me. Most of the fights I had, I won. When Julio and I fooled around slap-boxing in school, I always got the better of him. So now I’m in the ring with Julio. I say to myself, ‘I’m going to dominate, doing what I always do.’ I got tamed pretty quickly. Julio kept popping me in the face, snapping my head back with his jab. The madder I got, the more I got hit. My head hurt. My neck was sore. I had a bloody nose and my lip was split. I was mad, sad, angry, crying. Julio shut me down. He kicked my butt. He humiliated me. He killed my pride. I came out of the ring with tears running down my face, and my dad asked me, ‘Is this what you want to do?’ I said yes. And Julio was nice about it. He patted me on the back and told me, ‘Don’t worry; it’s just the first day. You’ll get better.’ He was right. Three weeks later, we got in the ring again and I busted him up.”
“I loved going to the gym,” Bradley continues. “The people there were like family to me. I didn’t want to miss a day. I always wanted to run more, spar more, work harder. It got to where my parents used it as leverage with me. If I did something wrong or if there was something right I didn’t do, I couldn’t go to the gym. And O.J. changed my life. He didn’t sugarcoat anything. He told it the way it was, but he believed in me. He was like my dad away from home, the way he cared about me. He even went to school sometimes to check up on my grades. Then, when I was fourteen, he had a stroke and never recovered. I watched him pass. I was there when they turned off the machine that he was hooked up to. That was very hard for me. I still miss him. If he was here, if I could see him again now; first thing, I’d tell him I was happy to see him. I’d ask if he wanted to grab a bite to eat and catch up on things. Then I’d tell him how grateful I am that he was in my life; that I did what he told me I could do and I hope he’s proud of me.”
Bradley turned pro in 2004 with Joel Diaz as his trainer and his father, Ray Bradley, as Joel’s assistant. Diaz had his own checkered past to contend with. A professional fighter with a 17-and-3 record, he was forced out of the ring by a detached retina and found himself drinking heavily.
“I’d take my gun in the middle of the night and go up in the mountains and cry and shoot into the mountains,” Diaz told writer Peter Nelson. He also found employment as a bodyguard for a childhood friend who was a drug dealer. Then the dealer was forced by circumstances to flee the country and Diaz had an epiphany that his life was going nowhere good, so he returned to boxing as a trainer.
Meanwhile, Bradley had few illusions about the trade he was about to enter.
“Al Mitchell [a trainer who worked with several U.S. Olympic teams] sat me down when I was an amateur,” Tim recalls. “He told me straight out, the professional game is a ruthless game. It can eat you whole, swallow you up, and leave you with nothing. Only two percent of the guys who turn pro make enough money to change their life. That’s one out of fifty. And even if you make the money, a lot of guys live beyond their means, blow all their money, and wind up where they started.”
Bradley’s career in the professional ranks has been fueled by a Spartan work ethic.
“I’ve been around a lot of fighters,” says Cameron Dunkin, who has managed Bradley for the past three years. “And I have never – I mean never – been around a fighter who works harder and is more focused on doing what he has to do than Tim is. He takes his career more seriously than any fighter I’ve ever known.”
That focus helped Bradley craft a 28-and-0 record and brought him the WBC and WBO junior-welterweight crowns. He won his belts the hard way. First, he traveled to England to face Junior Witter (a titlest that few fighters wanted to meet) in his own backyard. Then he decisioned Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander.Those three opponents had a composite record of 84-1-2 at the time Tim fought them.
“Fighting makes me happy,” Bradley says. “Boxing is a beautiful sport. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way he fights. It lets you see what he’s like inside. You can always find excuses, but either you perform in the ring or you don’t. To be a great fighter, you need skills and basic talent. You need to be smart; you have to think in there. You need courage, heart, and determination. If you can dish it out but can’t take it, you won’t go anywhere in boxing. And it helps if you have a mean streak. For me, that comes from my childhood.”
How competitive is Bradley?
“I would love to go back in time and fight Marvin Hagler,” Tim says. “Ray Leonard would move on me; slap me around while I chased him. Hagler would stand there and fight. Probably, I’d get my butt kicked, but it would be a great fight.”
There were kick-off press conferences for Pacquiao-Bradley in California and New York. Both fighters were gracious with Tim cast in the role of a credible challenger.
“I’m grateful to Manny Pacquiao for giving me this opportunity,” Bradley told the media. “There’s no one in the world I’d rather fight. I hope he regrets it. I’m not just coming to look good. I’m not just coming to survive. I’m not just coming for a paycheck. I want the throne.”
Bob Arum, who’d guaranteed minimum purses of $26,000,000 to Pacquiao and $5,000,000 to Bradley, declared, “People tell me I’m underestimating Bradley. No, I’m not. Bradley is a very good fighter. That’s what the public wants.”
Pacquiao, for his part, warned his challenger, “When someone hits me, I hit back.”
There was a brief spat when Alex Ariza (Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach) opined, “The guys we’re sparring with in the gym are better than Bradley. If he’s afraid of Amir [Bradley had turned down a fight against Amir Khan in 2011], I don’t know what he’s thinking, fighting Manny. He’s obviously just there to get paid. He’s not there to win, for sure.”
That earned a sharp rejoinder from Joel Diaz, who noted, “Alex Ariza can say whatever he wants. He’s never been in camp with Tim Bradley. He hasn’t even stepped in the gym to see Tim Bradley train. I can open my mouth to the world and say, ‘In my gym I have better fighters than Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I have better fighters than Manny Pacquiao.’ If he has better fighters in his gym than Tim Bradley, how come nobody knows them? How come they’re not world champions?”
When the media tour was over, Bradley observed, “I’d never met Manny before. Each time we came face to face, we were sizing each other up. He has big legs, but he’s no bigger than me. My abs are as good as his. He was very friendly, but it was a kind of scary nice.”
Then Tim added, “Before I fought Devon Alexander, people were saying how good he was. Then the fight started, and I was like, ‘This is it? This is what everyone is raving about?’ I’ve been studying Pacquiao for years. People say, ‘He’s blazing fast. He hits so hard.’ I want to see for myself if he’s as good as people say he is and if I can compete with that. Manny can fight. He’s great at what he does. I want to prove that I’m better than he is.”
Bradley trained for the fight at home, living with his wife and three children.
“I don’t have a big entourage,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people riding on my coattails. I don’t need a bunch of guys who are there for no reason except they’re being paid. This is a chance for me to put some serious money away and secure my family’s future. My team will be Joel Diaz, my father and mother, my wife, and Sam Jackson [a close friend]. What we’re doing has worked so far, so why change?”
As he’d done prior to his eight most recent fights, Bradley went vegan for the full three months of training. His diet included kale, spinach, broccoli, brown rice, brown pasta, fruit, almonds, walnuts, grain, and supplements for extra protein. Everything was gluten-free.
“I never ate vegetables when I was a kid,” Tim explained. “I used to hate vegetables. But if you prepare vegetables properly and put the right spices in, they taste good. There’s no Big Macs or fried chicken on this diet. If it has eyes or a momma, I’m not eating it.”
As for the fight itself, the assumption was that, once the bell rang, neither guy would have to look hard to find the other. The prevailing view was that two issues would define the outcome: “How much, if at all, had Pacquiao’s skills diminished?” and “How good is Bradley?”
Bradley is in his prime and had beaten some very good fighters.
“He’s tough,” Freddie Roach acknowledged. “He comes forward and is very aggressive. He’s very strong and muscular up top. He’s a physical fighter. He uses his head and elbows a lot, and Manny sometimes has trouble with that. But Ricky Hatton fought that way too, and look what Manny did to him. Manny will win this fight,” Roach concluded. “He’s faster; he’s more experienced; and he has a lot more power.”
Punching power was Pacquiao’s biggest edge. He has it. And Bradley doesn’t. Tim had only twelve knockouts in twenty-eight pro fights. He stopped an aging Joel Casamayor in his last outing. But one had to go back to a fifth-round stoppage of Nasser Athumani in 2007 to find a knockout on his resume before that.
Also, three years ago, Bradley was knocked down and hurt badly in the first round by Kendall Holt. He survived and won a twelve-round decision. Pacquiao is faster than Holt and hits a lot harder. Tim likes to trade punches with opponents. There was doubt as to whether he could survive a firefight with Manny.
“All fights are different,” Pacquiao said. “I don’t take this fight lightly. Bradley is undefeated and he is a champion. I know what he’s feeling. But I am confident that I will win.”
As an added precaution, Roach brought a new crop of sparring partners into the gym to force a harder, less friendly pace than Manny had grown accustomed to in recent training camps.
On the other side of the ledger, the case for a Bradley victory began with the premise that Pacquiao is no longer the fighter he once was. Exhibit 1 in support of that theory was Manny’s last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez. Most people had predicted a dominating win for Pacquiao. The judges gave him a majority-decision triumph. Most observers at ringside thought that Marquez deserved the nod.
Pacquiao called his outing against Marquez “a not so happy fight” and added, “I was in one-hundred-percent physical condition, but I had some family issues that I had to deal with. I also underestimated him.”
Roach noted, “It was the first bad night we had in ten years. We all predicted knockouts and so forth. It was a little embarrassing. But Marquez is always going to give Manny trouble. He’s a very good boxer and very smart.”
Freddie also echoed his fighter, saying, “We had a great training camp for Marquez. But on the week of the fight, everything fell apart. Manny had some personal problems and they affected the fight. All of the distractions around him caused him to fight poorly. I don’t think Manny will let that happen again.”
But the fact remained that Marquez had entered the ring to face Pacquiao with a significant power deficit. And Juan Manuel had found a way to neutralize Manny’s power, not just once but each of the three times they’d fought over an eight-year span.
“I was surprised that Pacquiao couldn’t get Marquez out of there,” Bradley said. “Marquez is a great fighter, but he’s thirty-eight years old and past his prime.”
There was also a belief that Bradley’s head-first style of fighting posed a particular danger for Pacquiao. More than most elite fighters, Manny seems to be bothered by the sight of his own blood. Head-clashes are more likely when an orthodox fighter faces a southpaw. Pacquiao is lefthanded. And head clashes occur with remarkable frequency whenever Bradley fights.
“Bradley comes in head first,” Roach said. “We’ve been working on how to nullify that. We have a lefty fighting against a righty. Their heads may clash. It’s something I’m concerned about.”
There was also an issue regarding what kind of shape Pacquiao was in. On April 21st, Alex Ariza (Manny’s strength and conditioning coach) left Pacquiao’s training camp in the Philippines without Roach’s foreknowledge to work with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“I had Amir Khan and Manny Pacquiao, my two top fighters there,” Roach complained. “Alex wanted to go work with Chavez Jr, and I told him, ’I think it’s a bad move.’ Alex is very good at what he does, but he overdid it. His head has gotten too big, and we need to calm him down a little bit.”
Ariza’s defended his decision, asserting that he’d spoken with Pacquiao, who “gave me the green light and said, ’Yeah, go help him. I’ll see you in LA. It’s okay.’”
Manny confirmed Ariza’s version of events, saying, “They are making a big issue of that. But Alex asked permission of me, if I’m okay that he goes back to LA. If I don’t agree, he’s not going to leave.”
Ariza leaving training camp for two weeks meant less torturous strength and conditioning sessions for Pacquiao in the gym. There were those who thought that this was part of Manny’s thinking.
As expected, Bob Arum spoke glowingly of Bradley’s chances, telling the media, “When you look at Manny’s opponents, the freshest guy he has fought will be Bradley. The others he has fought have been great names like Cotto, Margarito, De La Hoya and Hatton. Bradley is not a great name, but he’s a great fighter and young and fresh. The most important element with Bradley is his mind. He’s a very very determined young man. He’s confident in his abilities and determined, and that is a tremendous plus for any athlete.”
Arum, of course, was hyping the fight to sell on-site tickets and pay-per-view buys. But he was correct in his appraisal of Bradley’s self-belief. Again and again in the months leading up to the fight, Tim made the case for his impending success:
* “People say, ’Bradley doesn’t have power.’ But dudes sure do like to hold when they get close to me. I’m not the biggest puncher in the world. I don’t have one-punch knockout power. But I can back you off me and keep guys honest with my power. I have stinging power. Anyone who thinks I don’t, come down and spar with me.”
* “Pacquiao is a great fighter. He’s fast; he’s explosive; he’s well-schooled. I know all that. But I think I can make him pay for the things he does wrong. You’ve never seen anybody just walk through me with power, and it won’t happen on June 9th. I’ve been on the canvas before, so it’s nothing new to me. The most hurt I ever was in the ring was in my twelfth pro fight against Eli Addison. In the second round, we both threw right hands and missed and our heads collided. I got whacked on the right side of my temple and didn’t know where I was at. I lost control of my body. I thought I was walking fine, but I was staggering around like Zab Judah did against Kostya Tszyu. People were laughing. They thought I was kidding around. Then the referee said ’box’ and Addison came at me. I was on autopilot. The next thing I remember, it was the seventh round. But I won the decision. That’s the kind of fighter I am. I know that, sometime in the fight, Manny will hit me with a big shot. The question is, what happens when that happens. He doesn’t scare me. His punches have sting. His punches hurt. But except for Ricky Hatton, he hasn’t shown one-punch knockout power.”
* “I don’t just rush in. I’m hard to hit. I have really good eyes and a good boxing sense. Pacquiao doesn’t fight well inside. I do. Pacquiao sets up his punches with his feet. My footwork is as good as his. I’m as fast as he is. I know what he can do, what he likes to do, and what he doesn’t like. I think he’ll be surprised by how strong I am, how fast I am, and how good I am. Manny has more power than I do, but skill wins fights. I don’t just have muscles. I know how to use them.”
* “Pacquiao has been fighting slower opposition lately. Ever since De La Hoya, the only guy he fought who had any speed was Marquez. Marquez was quick, and you saw what happened in that fight. My opponents have been young lions; Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, Junior Witter. Pacquiao has been fighting guys who are past their prime, guys that are slipping and sliding down the mountain. I’m on my way up.”
* “I can’t come out too fast. I’ve got to be smart; go out for a few rounds, read him, and then start picking him apart. I have to find out what his best punches are and feel him out and get the timing down. I can’t throw wide punches to get to him because, if I do, he’ll come straight down the middle and BOOM. He likes to mix it up. You know how you slow down a fighter like that? You fight him. I’ll be going at a fast pace for every minute of every round. Thirty-six minutes, twelve full rounds. And I won’t fade the way the other guys he’s fought lately faded. The longer it goes, the more dominant I’ll be.”
* “Freddie thinks his fighter is more skillful than me. Maybe he is; maybe he isn’t. I don’t care what Freddie Roach thinks. He can say whatever he wants. He isn’t in my training camp and he won’t be in the ring fighting for Pacquiao. Junior Witter watched film. Lamont Peterson watched film. Devon Alexander watched film. Freddie Roach can watch all the film he wants and say anything he wants. Freddie Roach has never been in the ring with me.”
* “Nothing is guaranteed in boxing. You don’t win fights with your record. You win fights with what you do on the night of the fight. In boxing, it’s always about right now. I know when to box and I know when to brawl. I’m physically and mentally prepared. I can hang with anybody. I went through a lot of things in and out of the ring to get to this point in my life. Pacquiao’s people don’t know what they got themselves into. It’s my time now.”
Bradley believed in himself. There was no doubt about that. And there was another factor to be considered.
There are very few choirboys at the elite fighter level. Pacquiao’s persona and all that he has accomplished outside the ring have been an important part of his rise to global superstar status. But in recent years, there have been rumblings that, behind the scenes, there was trouble in paradise. Now some not-so-wonderful details were surfacing and becoming part of the Pacquiao story.
Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee have four children. He professes to be a devout Catholic. But over the years, there has been a pattern of infidelity in his life.
In May 2009, GMA News in the Philippines reported, “In 2006, Pacquiao admitted engaging in a one-night stand with Joanna Rose Bacosa, who would later claim that the world’s greatest southpaw fathered her son, Emmanuel John Pacquiao. Bacosa brought the matter to court, accusing Pacquiao of violating Republic Act No. 9262 and sought support for the boy. Making one of the biggest splashes was the boxer’s rumored affair with sexy actress Ara Mina. The actress was rumored to be the reason why Pacquiao abandoned his training in the U.S. in 2007 and resumed it in the Philippines. The two starred in the 2007 Metro Manila Film Festival entry Anak ni Kumander, where they had to lock lips nine times to perfect a kissing scene. In early 2008, photos of Pacquiao dancing with an unknown young lady in green at the Embassy in Taguig City proliferated on the Internet.”
Jinkee defended her husband at the time, saying, “I trust Manny. He loves us and our kids. Our relationship is strong.”
That would change.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao had developed a serious gambling habit, suffering losses well in excess of a million dollars annually. Arum would later acknowledge, “He was addicted to it. Manny had one of the worst gambling habits of any athlete I’ve ever known.”
And Philippine tax officials filed a criminal complaint against Pacquiao for failing to produce documents to investigators who were examining “discrepancies” in his tax returns.
“If Mr. Pacquiao is not hiding something, then he should submit all the documents required by the BIR,” Bureau of Internal Revenue officer Rozel Lozares said. “He is a lawmaker and we expect him to respect the law.”
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated would later reference what he called the fighter’s “Charlie Sheen-like behavior”.
Finally, Jinkee decided that she’d had enough. In the days leading up to Pacquiao’s November 11, 2011, fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, she resolved that she would no longer tolerate her husband’s promiscuity. Whether or not Manny was actually served with papers demanding a divorce on the night before the fight is open to debate. What is clear is that, not long after the fight, Pacquiao declared that he’d experienced a religious awakening and would change his lifestyle in numerous ways.
The new Manny Pacquiao pledged fidelity to his wife, sold his ownership in a Manila casino, divested himself of his one-thousand-rooster cockfighting operation, shuttered his sports bar, pledged that he would give up all other vices, and re-dedicated himself to his faith.
“The old has passed,” Pacquiao proclaimed. “The new has come. When I committed my life to the Lord, I gave up many things that were not in keeping with what the Bible teaches. The sins I committed over and over, I stopped doing. It’s better for me now. I found a new way of life. It is the right way. I read the Bible before, but now I have learned to obey the word of God. The manuel to my life is the Bible. I have peace of mind now. I am always happy every day because I am following the word of God. I know, if I die today, where I’m going. I’m not worried about what fits in this world. I’m worried about what happens to me in my eternal life.”
“Manny had money and fame before,” longtime adviser Michael Koncz explains. “But he always needed action. Gambling, cockfighting, women. All those things kept him from being bored. Even with politics; he loved the challenge of getting elected. But getting elected is one thing; achieving after you’ve been elected is another. I think Manny expected that he’d be faced with tough decisions every day in the political arena and have accomplishment after accomplishment. But politics doesn’t work that way. It’s not as immediately gratifying as a knockout. And what has happened is, now when Manny has time to fill, he reads the Bible and shares the Bible. When he wants to feel that he’s making a difference in people’s lives, he shares the Bible with them. He’s more relaxed and more content than I’ve ever seen him.”
Jinkee was pleased by the change in her husband. “Our lives were like a roller coaster ride,” she said. “Now it’s very different than before. It’s full of trust. Now we have a happy life together.”
Arum also hailed Pacquiao’s transformation. “Manny’s life was careening off the rails,” the promoter declared. “It’s different now for him. He goes to sleep on time, in bed with his wife, not guilt-ridden. He’s at peace with himself. From somebody who has visited the training camp a few times, the difference in Manny’s face is so apparent. He’s not as tired as he was and he’s not as worn as he was. There’s a glow in his face. I think this religious awakening has been all good on his part. I’m a little prejudiced because I’m religious myself. But I believe when young athletes find religion it will greatly enhance their careers. When an athlete has a religious experience, it’s a great thing.”
Freddie Roach also took a positive view.