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Bradley/Marquez – a tale of redemption and bitterness

October 13, 2013

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As the dust settles on a huge night of boxing in Las Vegas, it’s become clear that last nights clash between Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez and WBO Welterweight Champion Tim Bradley was a crossroads fight in so many ways.

Lets start, as we should,  with the Champion. The “Desert Storm” has spent his career under fire, grinding out wins in an often ugly but effective manner, using good ring intelligence, outstanding conditioning and an unrelenting will to win, whatever it takes. Fighting his way up on the fringes, mostly in Californian casinos, he characteristically gatecrashed onto the scene by travelling to the UK to rip the WBC 140lb belt from pre-fight favourite Junior Witter with a trademark dogged display, bullying and frustrating the tricky Englishman who went into the fight a heavy favourite.

Despite surviving two knockdowns to decision Kendall Holt to unify the WBC/WBO straps in 2009, Bradley was for a couple of years,  a relatively below the radar champion, grinding away in small halls waiting for people to take notice. A victory over the unbeaten Lamont Peterson set him on a collision course for a much anticipated fight with fellow unbeaten 140lb’er, Devon Alexander.  The fight was a stylistic disaster which spectacularly failed to live up to expectations, and for many, underlined the repeated criticisms of Bradley – that he was a hard fighter to watch, that he had a tendency to use his head as a battering ram and that he lacked serious power. The fight also ended up (much to do with it’s Detroit location) taking place in front of little more than a couple of thousand people and Bradley jumped promotional ship to Top Rank, spurning a full unification fight with Amir Khan and headed off in search of respect and bigger fights, most specifically a payday shot at Manny Pacquiao.

Bob Arum set up the Pac/Bradley fight by matching the Californian with the faded Joel Casamayor in the main co-feature of the Pacquiao/Marquez 3 fight in Vegas. The fight did little to help Bradley’s reputation, it stunk out the MGM Grand and the stoppage win for Bradley couldn’t come soon enough for everyone watching. He was, however, still unbeaten and  remained so, controversially after the fight with Pacquiao.  Even his own promoter, Arum, who had presided over many a shocking decision in his time, declared that he was ‘never more ashamed of boxing’ than that night, as Bradley was vilified far and wide despite fighting with a fractured left foot from the fourth and a brutally twisted right foot from the fifth round. Hampered by injury, he still pushed the Filipino superstar close and showed speed and resilience, but took the full force of backlash from the media and public as if the scoring was somehow his fault.

What’s become clear, is that the response to his victory affected Bradley tremendously. He’s talked of anger and depression, and, coupled with the frustration of recovery and inactivity for this self-confessed gym rat, mentally, after his biggest victory, Bradley was in a very bad place.

But what a turnaround this year has been for the Palm Springs native. In his comeback fight against Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley abandoned his reliable boxing skills, and set out to prove a point by going toe to toe in a reckless war that seems destined to win 2013’s fight of the year. In the first two rounds he looked close to being stopped as the “Siberian Rocky” landed flush hard shots that left Bradley with slurred speech for 3 months following. Bradley, as usual, refused to lose, and tore back to outpoint Ruslan in an absolute thriller despite looking out on his feet more than once in the fight. Bradley had entertained, spectacularly.

Which brings us to last night. The Heavy Bag was at the Thomas and Mack Center, where, as usual, Bradley entered the lions den with little support. This was a 99% Marquez crowd, proud and expectant, riding on the euphoria of that Pacquiao KO, they roared every Marquez shot and booed Bradley from start to finish.

A legendary counterpuncher, Marquez is a master technician with skill, intelligence and power with the ability to overcome adversity, survive knockdowns and fight fire with fire. “Dinamita” though has prospered against pressure fighters who play into his hands, the likes of Julio Diaz, Barrera, Katsidis and to a large extent Pacquiao were tailor made for JMM’s style, and the Bradley that fought Provodnikov would have surely taken a wide beating if he went looking for war.

Instead though, Bradley and trainer Joel Diaz (who deserves a huge amount of credit for outthinking his legendary counterpart Nacho Beristain) had the perfect gameplan for Marquez. Using his superior speed and movement, Bradley simply refused to fight Marquez’ fight. Peppering him with the jab and moving away quickly, giving the Mexican legend very few opportunities to counter, and when he did, he countered him right back. He engaged when he had to, but spent the evening frustrating Marquez and made him look flatfooted and one dimensional, as Marquez was unable to adjust when it was obvious he was behind in rounds and needed to force the action. Marquez barely used the jab and was unable to get his right hand off, and when he finally tried to open up, way too late in the contest, at the close of the final round, Bradley nearly scored an icing on the cake knockdown with a flush left hand. It was a masterful performance and after outboxing a hall of famer and winning the probable Fight of the Year (vs Provodnikov), surely Bradley is now also the leading candidate for Fighter of the Year, an absolutely remarkable turnaround for the man who has spent his whole career fighting for some sort of credit and recognition.

For Marquez and his team, the events of last night are in danger of having the opposite effect. Putting Manny Pacquiao to sleep was the fullstop on one of boxings greatest rivalries, and the crowning glory of a magnificent career for the Mexico City resident. At 39 when he landed that legendary counter right, he could have retired on the highest of highs and legendary status was absolutely guaranteed.

Like too many great fighters though, despite having both health and wealth, Marquez is in danger of going on a few fights too long. In the 24/7 series leading up to last nights’ fight, Beristain revealed that he had to have a word with the fighter about his attitude following the Pacquiao win, and it felt to this writer, a long term fan of Marquez’, that the humbleness and decency that the fighter had displayed throughout his career was if not missing, definitely eroded. The interviews seemed conceited, there was an undignified on camera tirade at his strength/conditioning coach and a sudden taste for flash designer clothing were all worrying signs of a changed man.

In the ring, he was competitive and strong against a lion of a champion in Bradley, but at 40 years old, that slight slowing of reflexes, crucial to a counterpuncher was evident last night, and father time simply cannot be defeated. At elite level, Marquez will struggle to be effective and surely it’s the right moment to call time on a glittering campaign and retire with his wits and bank balance intact. Already a broadcaster, and in possession of an accounting degree and a huge bank balance, JMM could quit now without ever having been stopped or humiliated, but if he’s tempted to keep chasing these huge nights, then surely Roy Jones Jr territory is within touching distance, I hope it doesn’t happen.

The glorious Pacquiao fight cemented JMM as a pond for pound great amongst most boxing fans and onlookers, and his popularity was at an all time high. That wouldn’t have been affected either by a defeat from a young, hungry and outstanding Champion such as Bradley, but Marquez’ reaction to defeat last night, coupled with his disappointing recent attitude are in danger of tainting his great legacy. Dinamita stormed out of the ring and refused an interview, and in the post fight conference both he and Beristain puzzlingly claimed robbery, Marquez going as far as saying that every defeat in his career was undeserved, and Beristain refusing to give Bradley or Diaz any credit for their victory.

In the adrenaline and emotion fuelled aftermath of a big fight, such behaviour can possibly be understandable, if put right on reflection. One would hope that Marquez and Nacho will watch the tapes and apologise to Team Bradley, and give him the credit that (as The Heavy Bag pointed out in a previous article) he thoroughly deserves. Credibility and popularity are a tightrope, and Marquez is in danger of falling off. The overwhelming feeling amongst the boxing community was that Bradley was a clear winner and that Marquez/Beristains post fight antics were disappointing and ungracious. They need to retract their comments, and soon, and ,short of a routine farewell fight in Mexico , hopefully Marquez will not put his body and legacy at any more risk and retire with dignity ready for the Hall of Fame.

For Tim Bradley though, this was the night that he finally truly arrived as one of the best fighters in the sport. It wasn’t quite a changing of the guard, but it was certainly a case of trading places. Bradley won the respect of boxingheads worldwide and becomes the most credible challenger for Floyd Mayweather, Marquez is in danger of eroding his reputation with further fights and sour grapes, both of which can be easily remedied. Do the right thing Juan Manuel, and thanks for an incredible ride.

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About goldenears71

Tim Vigon. I was born and raised in the UK but moved to Los Angeles in November last year. For years I’ve been addicted to attending live sports, mainly soccer (i followed Manchester United far and wide since 1985) , basketball and boxing. Boxing is in my family, my grandfather worked corners for fighters in London in the 40′s and 50′s and I remember Barry McGuigan’s victory over Eusebio Pedroza when I was 14 years old hooking me into the sport. I was lucky to live through a golden era of British boxing with fighters like Benn, Eubank, Watson, Collins and Hamed, but it was the performance of Marco Antonio Barrera beating Prince Naz that really opened me up to the worldwide game. Ever since i’ve attended hundreds of fights throughout the UK and the USA. I lean towards technical fighters with a warriors’ heart and Juan Manuel Marquez is my favourite active fighter. Twitter - @goldenears

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  1. Bradley vs. Marquez: The Full Post-Fight Press Conference | Boxing Strategist - October 14, 2013

    […] Bradley/Marquez – a tale of redemption and bitterness (heavy-bag.com) […]

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