Pacquiao-Bradley III: Fasten Your Seat Belts!

March 11, 2016

By Bill Dwyre

With less than a month to go to the Manny Pacquiao -Tim Bradley boxing saga, you can almost hear Paul Revere, riding down Santa Monica Boulevard toward the Wild Card Boxing Club.

“Manny is coming! Manny is coming!”

This ride will be a bit more complicated for old Paul, not just because he is several hundred years old now, but because he will have to carry more than a lantern.

He will need a couple of large sacks.

In one, there will be fliers with the usual fight promotion stuff:

“April 9, Las Vegas! The Rubber Match! Don’t Miss It! Will Tim Pack the Big Punch??? Or Will Manny Brand Bradley???”

Then, there will be the other sack full of printed material:

“Boycott Manny! Make Pacquiao Pack His Bags! Nike Was Right! Gays and Lesbians Have Power Punches, Too!”

While Bradley trains in the Palm Springs desert, mostly away from the madding crowd, Pacquiao is about to stroll right into the middle of one. He arrives from the Philippines and starts training in Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym Monday. For past fights, those arrivals always brought some buzz and a crowd. That’s because Pacquiao was among the most popular and generous-with-his-time athletes in the world.

But my, how things have changed.

Pacquiao might expect a media rush like few athletes have seen before. That may be identified more by tone than numbers. He has yet to face, in person, the music in the United States for his statement a month or so ago, the now infamous three-word utterance that gays and lesbians having sex with like-gender people made them “worse than animals.”

There may be more TV trucks outside the Wild Card than circled the blocks of downtown Los Angeles for the O.J. trial. Sound bites will be like gold. Pacquiao’s existence around the gym could make it feel less like a boxing center and more like a daily perp walk. His promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, may need to spend more money on security than on rent for the April 9 fight’s MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Editors will want their reporters to get the story. Same with broadcast news directors. TMZ’s Harvey Levin may acquire permanent goosebumps. Pacquiao may need something like a Pope Mobile just to get lunch.

It doesn’t sound like one, big, attempt-to-tell-all news conference will suffice, although clearing the air in one shot does usually clear out the parking lots of TV trucks and nerdy looking people with notepads. It could even backfire, if Pacquiao’s attempts to explain himself continue to be end up more like pouring gasoline on a fire.

He has said he is sorry for offending people—the classic non-denial denial—and has even attempted to back his statement by reading from scripture that calls for gay and lesbians to die for their misdeed. That didn’t douse the flames. It fanned them.

The Pacquiao camp might decide to play the no-distraction game and severely limit access. But that’s not normally how boxing, nor Arum, work. Arum, who was appalled by Pacquiao’s statement and said so publicly, has never seen negative things as anti-promotional. He has created some of them himself over the years. Just because.

So which way will this go? How much pressure can the media stir up, and how much will Arum even consider that, especially from so many of those broadcast outlets that seldom even mention major fight results on their all-inclusive and deeply analytic 1-minute 43-second sports shows on the evening news? Arum may blow them off, just as they have him and his fights for all these years. Or, he may see them as gullible suckers who will take any sort of bland 15-second blurb and run to the studio with it.

In many ways, the fight itself now seems like a distraction to the story of Congressman Pacquiao’s politics and how his statement will affect his chances in the May 9 Philippine Senatorial election. Let’s check election polls, and run stories about how, just maybe, Pacquiao’s statement in the heavily Catholic and devout religious country of the Philippines may have struck just the right cord, rather than a negative one, and it will get him elected.

Oh, yes. And there will be a fight April 9. Have we even thought about his left hook?

It’s an amazing puzzle. What will happen when Manny arrives? How tough, or wimpy, will the general media be on this story? Will there be more of his sponsors turning their back on him, ala Nike? And will Levin’s checkbook be fat enough to buy yet another story for TMZ? Will there even be a story about the story-gatherers for the Columbia Journalism Review?

In boxing, things that are often whacky and weird and stupid and distasteful and unthinkable and mind-boggling are just business as usual. But an eight-division world champion, fighting his last fight and immediately heading off for an election campaign that could not only make him a senator but grease the skids for him as the country’s president, calling out a section of the world’s population as “worse than animals?”

That’s virgin territory, even for boxing.

In the meantime, under the watchful eye of a master tactician, Teddy Atlas, Bradley trains in the quiet of the desert and smiles a lot.

Bill Dwyre will be writing a series of weekly columns on the Pacquiao vs. Bradley world championship event. Bill was sports editor of The Los Angeles Times for 25 years, ending in 2006. He was a sports columnist for 9 1/2 years at The Times, ending Nov. 25 with his retirement. Boxing was among his most frequent column topics. Bill can be contacted at or via Twitter at @BillDwyre.

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