Pacman’s finale: calculated, brilliant — but boring

The last time Manny Pacquiao climbed the 20’ x 20’ boxing ring, he lost. That was last May against Mayweather. The last thing Manny Pacquiao wants to happen when he enters the boxing ring for the last time in his career — this April — is another loss.

Against a Junior named Floyd, he lost. That’s why he picked another Junior to win. Thus explains the safeguarded, humdrum, please-not-a-third-time decision to fight Timothy Ray Bradley, Jr.

The choices were plenty. There was Adrien Broner, an American like Bradley who’s fought 34 times, won 31 times, with 23 of those Ws by knockout. He’s the WBA super lightweight champ. There was Amir Khan, the 29-year-old Briton who won the 2004 Olympic silver medal in Athens. And exactly like Broner, he’s climbed the stage on 34 tries and won 31. Finally, Terence Crawford. Nicknamed “Bud” and only 28, he’s the WBO light welterweight champion.

Didn’t Bob Arum himself proclaim last November that the choice had narrowed down to either Amir Khan or Terence Crawford? In the end, familiarity wins. Caution is the parent of safety, a proverb goes. In this case, caution won.

Why risk Manny’s last act to an undefeated 27-0 Crawford? Why risk the last time we’ll remember him shirtless, sweaty and bloodied on the MGM Grand stage to Adrien Broner, who’s Ring Magazine’s No. 6 in the pound for pound rankings?

And so here we are again and again, our Pambansang Kamao facing Desert Storm — their third meeting in Manny’s last seven fights. Why? Maybe Arum has this penchant with even numbers: MP-TB met in 2012… in 2014… in 2016. It’s an every-other-year date.

What do the cynics say about April 9? Ha-ha. Brutal. It ranges from “Morales: Manny Pacquiao Choosing Timothy Bradley Not Thrilling” to “PB3 Would Continue The Wrong Tradition” to “Pacquiao vs. Bradley III: A Fight For The Delusional.”

Arum himself admits that this will be a difficult sell for his Pay-Per-View (PPV) numbers. Coming from Pacquiao’s last outing which generated over 4.4 million buys (majority of whom were very disappointed), the expectations this time are lowly.

“Will we do the same numbers for the first two Bradley fights?” Arum asked. “Probably not. We’re going to try to come as close as we can, and hopefully exceed it, but I understand what we’re up against. I’ve run my numbers and I have done my math. I’m not out here with my head up my ass.”

As charming and smiling as Bob Arum is in person (my dad Bunny and I met him in Macau two years ago), he’s the most astute and cunning of sports promoters.

The 84-year-old Arum knows his figures. The 2012 Manny-Tim bout raked in 890,000 PPV buys. Two years later, it went down to 800,000. This time, 700k? Maybe less? Arum can trumpet the contest this way: Bradley is the new Bradley; he has a new trainer in Teddy Atlas and he KO’d Brandon Rios in the 9th round last November. Plus, this is Manny’s last fight.

As to the rumors circulating that Pac-Man will fight one last time after Bradley — a rematch against Mayweather? I doubt it. It’s possible but very, very, very unlikely.

The month after Pacquiao defeats Bradley to cap an outlandish career that saw him earn billions and win the hearts of millions, he’ll win as senator of the Philippines. By then, Pacquiao’s total focus and time will be centered on another type of slugfest: the political circus.

My take on all this? Like I mentioned before in previous articles, I wished Manny would have ended his career fronting his fellow Pinoys inside the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena. But money talks. And the voice of money is, to Arum, louder than Manny’s. And it points to Las Vegas, not Bulacan.

This Bradley move, years from now, will end up to be an excellent choice for Sen. Pacquiao. He pockets $20 million. He ends his career with a bang — from his Cleto Reyes gloves. And he gains free advertising as all ears and eyes will be fixated on his victory a month before May 9.

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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