By Bill Dwyre –
They held the Right Coast promotional scrum here Thursday for the upcoming Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao-Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley Jr. boxing match. Among the revelations that could stop the presses was that there are no villains in this fight.
Leo Durocher said that nice guys finish last. He never considered that they would fight each other.
This kind of warm and fuzzy stuff could ruin the sport. But, in this one, the skeletons in the closet have either been permanently locked up, or they never existed. It got so bad (good) Thursday that, after Pacquiao and Bradley did the usual contrived face-to-face pose for photographers — does anybody actually use this stuff? — they parted by shaking hands and smiling.
Mike Tyson, who once bit off a piece of an opponent’s ear, would be spinning in his grave, were he not still alive. Floyd Mayweather Jr., if he saw this, would go outside and take a baseball bat to a tree.
Where were the insults? Where was the name calling, the out-of-control testosterone, the phony tension contrived to sell tickets? Was this a boxing promotion or the groundbreaking for a convent? In the old days, before George Foreman found God and niceness, this sort of promotion would have driven him either to the heavy bag or the barf bag.
In truth, the best and fairest way to describe what will take place April 9 in Las Vegas is to trot out that terrible cliché of the day: It is what it is. These are two decent people who also happen to be great boxers.
Pacquiao is a congressman from the Philippines, who is universally known for his generosity. Said Top Rank Promotion’s chief executive, Bob Arum, “Most politicians take, take, take. Manny gives, gives, gives.”
Bradley is a once-beaten world champion described Thursday by Arum as, “a great person, who will keep fighting for his family and the people of this country.”
Of course, that is a promoter’s hyperbole. In this case, it also happens to be accurate. The only hope might be to hire Mayweather Jr. to come to a special press day and snarl some insults. Word is he isn’t busy.
Thursday’s event was at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. MSG as a venue symbolizes boxing, and Arum did not miss the chance to point that out. Tuesday’s opener in this two-stop tour event was held in Beverly Hills. The events were mostly the same. Same message. Same warm and fuzzy. Better food in Beverly Hills.
It is 11 weeks and one day until the fight. Including the ever-present good-guy versus good-guy theme, the storylines have been established and are unlikely to change much. That starts with the boxers.
Bradley: “I only have one date on my calendar, April 9.”
Pacquiao, steadfast in his retirement vow: “After this fight, if you want to see me, come to the Philippines. It is a nice place for a vacation.”
Among the discussion points to be dealt with in the next months are:
- Was this fight a match-made-for-comfort exit for Pacquiao, or is Bradley different and improved now, and if so, will that bring the kind of competition that Pacquiao seeks so he can go out in the right way?
- Is Pacquiao’s right shoulder, the surgically repaired rotator cuff injury that apparently cost him any chance to win against Mayweather last spring, completely healed?
- Would a Bradley victory make him Top Rank’s new star, with Pacquiao exiting? Or would Pacquiao not exit if he loses?
- If Bradley is the new Top Rank breadwinner, how will Arum get him to fight his buddy and fast-rising star, Terence “Bud” Crawford, whom Bradley says he will not fight? (Preliminary Arum answer: “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”).
- Will an impressive victory by Pacquiao coax Mayweather out of retirement for a shot at a cherished final 50-0 record?
- Is that what Mayweather has been hoping for all along, so he can be the opening sports star at Las Vegas’ soon-to-be-ready T-Mobile Arena?
- Is Bradley trainer Teddy Atlas deserving of the credit he is getting for Bradley’s impressive victory over Brandon Rios, or was Rios simply an out-of-shape, under-motivated cup cake for Bradley?
- Can Arum use, to any degree of success, his boxing platform to influence some presidential votes? At every chance, the liberal-leaning Arum refers, tongue in cheek, to the preliminary matches for this fight as the ‘Donald Trump undercard,’ and says, since that undercard includes several Hispanics, his hope is that none will be deported by The Donald.
- Has Arum cleverly taken the edge off other fights in the first quarter of the year by getting this promotion rolling so early and with such high visibility that the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, if they get matches made, will be playing from behind?
This fight will be no morality play. You need a bad guy for that. But will the sporting public, which seems to gravitate toward NASCAR wrecks and people fighting barefoot in cages, embrace Little Orphan Annie versus Mother Teresa?
Here Thursday, Atlas gave that public the best reason to do so, relating nicely to our current hypnotic state over politics.
“These fighters,” he said, “have always lived up to their campaign promises.”