Friday, June 8, 2012

Pacquiao-Bradley Preview

I used to be a regular churchgoer. There were the years of my childhood, where Mama BockerKnocker would dress me in Sunday best, dragging me to Mass against my will. But there was also a period of time where I went on my own. I was never a superfreak about it, but for one hour every week, life slowed down to a stress-free pace. I couldn't say no to that.

Fast forward to the real world today, and I just can't bring myself to lose that precious hour of sleep, which is necessary due to the robbery that weekdays pull on me. 4 Sundays per month became 3, then 2, then 1, and now I'm one of those phonies that attend on Easter and Christmas only.

Manny Pacquiao has taken the opposite route. Before, he carried himself with God, but only as part of his exterior. These days, Manny leads church groups, quotes Bible verses, and declares that the "old Manny" is gone.

Pacquiao says that he hates who he was. The drinking, the smoking, and the gambling fueled a lifestyle that was all too common for an international superstar athlete. And of course, the trim that came with it made its mark as well. While Ms. Pacman tended to the home life like a typical Filipina, Manny ran roughshod through tons and tons of women.

The only problem, if you'll allow me to call it that, was that the "old Manny" was the first boxer to win world championships in EIGHT divisions. Pac combined lightning-quick speed with the punching power of men twice his size. Diaz, De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Clottey, Margarito, Mosley: all lost to The Fighting Pride of the Philippines in blowout fashion.

But then came Juan Manuel Marquez. It has come out recently that Jinkee Pacquiao discovered her husband's talents outside of the ring during Pacquiao's training camp for Marquez. Jinkee makes a cautious, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at hiding it during HBO's 24/7 series, speaking many times about marriage troubles leading up to the Marquez fight. Like any human being would be, the champion was a battered man heading into Pacquiao-Marquez III, and Marquez made him pay for it. Pacquiao won, but not in the court of public opinion.

The seven fighters I mentioned two paragraphs ago fought against a different Manny Pacquiao. That Pacquiao was a force of nature. That Pacquiao would run through Blinky, Pinky, and Inky themselves, without the use of power pellets. That Pacquiao put fear into those 7.

The "new Manny" now lives with the fear of God in his heart, as an upstanding, devout Roman Catholic. I wouldn't dare criticize such a life choice, but I am nonetheless scared. Does Manny really want this as much? He's got his politician life begging him to come home for good, a family life that is being born right in front of his eyes, and a boxing life that is undoubtedly nearing its end.

Standing upright in the opposite corner, Timothy "Desert Storm"[1] Bradley will convince you in two seconds that he wants to win this fight more than Manny does. Bradley has faced 29 opponents to date, 29 men who have tried and failed to put a blemish on Bradley's professional record. When HBO filmed Bradley jogging in the dead of night, Bradley put both eyes squarely on the camera, and had a message. The whole episode is tremendous, but fast-forward to 19:54 for what I'm talking about:

Bradley cares. He goes to the gym and calls it his place of work. He doesn't do any extracurricular activities besides tending to his wife and children. Every free second away from his family is spent in workout gear, without the aid of a microphone or a crowd to hear him speak. If he played basketball, he'd be Kobe, researching the effects of German medical procedures to rejuvenate his knee. If he played baseball, he'd be Pedroia, taking ground balls on his knees (HAHA) to stay sharp during injury.

HBO does a fantastic job of making me fear Manny Pacquiao's opponent in the weeks leading up to a prizefight. And everytime, I say, "uh oh, maybe this one's the one." I guess nothing has changed. Maybe I'm being delusional, but...

Uh oh, maybe this one's the one.

[1]What a DOPE nickname.


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