By Bill Dwyre
It may seem like the promotion for Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley boxing match has lasted longer than several of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s marriages, which is not a major achievement.
One old hack has even written more than 20 columns about it. He soon will be looking to get a life or a spot in a rest home.
Still, it can be argued that, while the jury is out on how good the actual fight will be, there is little question that the promotion has had its moments. And there is more to come. Think of it as six more days on a bucking bronco.
Here are some samples of what has happened and what was said about what has happened:
Pacquiao stunned the boxing world, as well as the real world, when he made his now infamous anti-gay and lesbian comments (“worse than animals”) in the Philippines. The other day, in a conference call, he agreed, when prompted, that the comments had been “taken out of context,” because the interview went on “for five or ten minutes.” So, apparently, the next bank robber who confesses and then keeps talking for five or ten minutes will be able to invoke the “taken out of context” defense. Defense lawyers worldwide have been looking for something exactly like this.
When Bradley heard about Pacquiao’s comments, he rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, oh. There goes the promotion.” Later, he told reporters, “I love everybody,” and elaborated to Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times about his gay favorite uncle.
Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum has celebrated his 50th year in the sport by upping his game to new levels, which is saying something.
He gathered the best Hispanic fighters he could find to dominant the preliminary bouts and waited a few weeks, either for affect or for his writers to hit the right phrase, and then labeled it the “NoTrump Undercard.” Arum has been almost giddy at this chance to kill three birds with one stone -- promote the fight, dump on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and help get Hillary Clinton elected.
“My Hispanic army is marching,” Arum said the other day, suggesting that the halls of the MGM Grand will be full of sombreros.
Asked if Trump or any of his people had called to chat with Arum about his “NoTrump Undercard” and its accompanying negativity, Arum responded, “I only hear from sane people.”
Pacquiao is a congressman in the Philippines and is running in the May 6 election to boost that status one notch to senator. He has said all along that this is his last fight.
“My mind has decided to retire,” he said.
Arum responded by saying that reporters following this fight better be sure not to blame him if Pacquiao comes back and fights again, because “I have never promoted this as his last fight…I’ve been around for 50 years, and I’ve seen that fighters have a hard time walking away...so don’t be pinning it on me.”
Pacquio’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said recently that his fighter is in fine form, showing no signs of weakness after right shoulder surgery, and even hitting harder with his right hand than his classic powerful left. Roach said he thinks Pacquiao, at 37, still has fights left in him, and said it would be tough to see their personal and professional relationship end.
“We’ve been together for 15 years,” Roach said. “That’s longer than most marriages.”
Nobody disputed Pacquiao’s celebrity.
Arum said that we all know so much more about the Philippines than we did before Pacquiao came on the scene. Bradley, calling himself a Class-C celebrity, said, “I can go to Disneyland and walk around just fine. Manny shows up there and it’s all over.”
Arum boiled Pacquiao’s political campaign down to a simple observation, one that Pacquiao’s campaign staff ought to put on all the billboards.
“Manny Pacquiao’s politics are on the side of right,” Arum said.
Bradley’s public praise for his new trainer, Teddy Atlas, has been a major story. They have a theme for their fight strategy, or maybe just for the fight. They are calling it “The log in the ocean,” and nobody outside of a few Bradley/Atlas confidants, has any idea what that means.
Roach, no friend of Atlas’, said that the Bradley log would be caught in Pacquiao’s buzz saw. He also reacted to all the credit Atlas was getting for orchestrating Bradley’s recent impressive victory over Brandon Rios by saying Rios was just out of shape and Atlas had little to do with the victory, but that Atlas, an ESPN commentator, was “a good announcer and a storyteller.”
There seemed to be sarcasm there (you think?) and Atlas responded by saying, “I did not fire the first shot across the bow.”
The banter of the trainers wandered into football comparisons at one point. When Roach made it clear that he did not put Atlas’ skills in a Tom Brady category, Atlas responded, “I may not be Tom Brady, but he is no Bill Belicheck.”
Along the way, a new star emerged.
Bradley’s wife, Monica, who has taken over as her husband’s manager and most trusted adviser, told of how her husband felt abandoned by former manager Cameron Dunkin after Bradley got a controversial decision in the first Pacquiao fight.
“Tim was like somebody under a rock,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
Then, in her candid and logical way, as she fights the battles she feels others did not fight for her husband, she uttered the quote of the promotion, the kind that only a wife could offer who has watched her husband and father of her children get punched repeatedly in the face, and the kind that cuts through all the hype and BS and macho pretense that the sport thrives on.
“I’m never going to tell him (Tim) when it is time (to quit),” she said, “because, for me, it was time long ago.”
A boxing promotion is a work of art that not even Picasso could match. It is months of words, millions of them, most of them colorful. There is nonstop noise, all eventually concluding the same thing: Nobody knows.
And then they finally get into the ring and, soon, we all do.
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 BillPatDwyre@gmail.com or via Twitter at @BillDwyre.