How Does Pacquiao Pick His Opponents?

By Cheekay Brandon on June 6, 2012
How Does Pacquiao Pick His Opponents?
Pacquiao will end his career among the best southpaws in history (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Time will tell if Pacquiao’s past success has fostered hubris, the type that Timothy Bradley can exploit on the brightest stage of his career…

Regardless of what happens over the next few years, Manny Pacquiao will end his career among the very best southpaws, if not fighters, to ever step into a ring. His reputation has been built across six weight classes, having cleaned out most of the top competition at the flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and welterweight divisions since 1998.

I bring this up to highlight that, like Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao has earned the right to choose his opponents. And like “The Money Team,” Pacquiao’s camp has capitalized on this privilege and been strategic, especially since his December 2008 TKO victory over Oscar De La Hoya.

Here we’ll speculate on some of the reasons, boxing and other, behind Pacquiao’s decision to face selected opponents in recent years, including the man he’ll face on June 9, 2012: undefeated Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs).

Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton (May 2009)

Pacquiao was flying high after his destruction of Oscar De La Hoya. Hatton, having won two in a row, appeared recovered from his knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather (Dec. 2007). Hatton looked to return to the light welterweight division the way he left it—in dominant fashion. Hatton was still considered an elite fighter and carried a substantive following of British fans. Also, a Pacquiao fight with Floyd Mayweather appeared imminent and a decisive victory over Hatton would fertilize public demand. Pacquiao ended up winning by spectacular second round knockout.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey (March 2010)

Clottey, coming off a decision loss to Miguel Cotto (June 2009), seemed like an odd choice. He was only well known in boxing circles. Though he was certainly talented, Clottey was mostly branded an enigma and not considered among the elite pound-for-pound fighters in the world. 

Upon further examination, fighting Clottey made sense for several reasons: 

Stylistically, Clottey was a stiff but sluggish puncher prone to long periods of (often maddening) inactivity. He wouldn’t let his hands go enough to outpoint Pacquiao and didn’t put enough arc on his punches to knock Pacquiao out. 

From a business perspective, Clottey was signed to Top Rank, making the fight easy to negotiate. Most importantly, however, was that Pacquiao-Clottey was the first major fight to take place at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. This mega venue, featuring 45,000 seats, sought to establish itself as a regular house for championship fights. The fight served as an experiment of sorts and only required a single headliner; who Pacquiao fought didn’t really matter. Pacquiao won a lopsided decision. More importantly, Dallas Cowboys Stadium was nearly sold out. The plan worked and everyone (except Clottey) was satisfied.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III (Nov. 2011)

The signing of Pacquiao-Marquez III was welcomed with groans from most boxing purists. What was the point? Pacquiao would probably make short work of the 38-year-old Marquez, who was almost completely shutout the last time he fought on a major stage (Floyd Mayweather, Sept. 2009).

Marquez was, however, a very strategic choice of foe. Even though he looked to be towards the end of his career, Marquez stood with (and probably behind) Erik Morales on the shortlist of all-time great Mexican fighters who were still active. For that reason alone, a fight with Pacquiao would guarantee a respectable gate and one million pay-per-view buys. And though Marquez had given Pacquiao all he could handle in their first two fights (May 2004 and March 2008), Marquez was past his prime; the haunting ring general of years past had supposedly regressed into a smart but plodding potshotter.

Of course, what happened that evening surprised just about everyone, as Marquez put on a masterful display of timing and counterpunching, giving Pacquiao a spirited fight. Pacquiao ended up winning via highly controversial majority decision.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley (June 2012)

This brings us to Saturday’s fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. 

Why did Pacquiao choose Bradley?

In recent years Pacquiao has kept busy, fighting on a steady schedule in an attempt to subvert potential distractions (his life presents many of them).

In some ways, Timothy Bradley appears to be a stopover fighter, a platinum tune-up before a fourth Marquez fight or the Mayweather showdown that we are all still dreaming about. Bradley doesn’t demand a great amount of money, ensuring that Pacquiao controls negotiations and walks home with a substantial part of the pie.

Stylistically, Bradley doesn’t appear to present much of a threat. His strengths are in his conditioning, solid technical skills and effective pressure. He outworks opponents, utilizes excellent head movement, sound footwork and fights every second of every round. His Nov. 2011 knockout of Joel Casamayor (who was long past his prime) aside, Bradley has not displayed notable punching power in recent years. While displaying a solid chin, he has been put on the canvas by guys less dangerous than Manny Pacquiao.

But Bradley demonstrates excellent intangibles, is a student of boxing, and has a Hopkinsonian work ethic.

Pacquiao’s camp is well aware of this. They simply believe, as many do, that Bradley is at least a half class below Pacquiao in terms of overall talent. That Bradley’s resume full of solid but unspectacular victories over lower-tiered competition has not prepared him for the type of onslaught that Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao can concoct. 

Overall, Pacquiao’s camp has done a masterful job of career engineering. Time will tell if Pacquiao’s past success has fostered hubris, the type that Timothy Bradley can exploit on the brightest stage of his career.

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2010-03-13 Manny Pacquiao vs Joshua Clottey (full fight)

manny pacquiao vs ricky hatton good quality

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  1. don from Prov 07:33am, 06/08/2012

    Sorry, should say—-

    (ANY more than Floyd)

  2. Don from Prov 07:32am, 06/08/2012

    I would disagree, Mr. Brandon, that Manny will be considered one of the best fighters ever (and more than Floyd will) and I really don’t think that he or anyone else ever earns the right to “pick” his opponents—

    The best should fight the best IMO. Period.

  3. Darrell 02:34am, 06/07/2012

    I fear for Bradley.

    He walks straight in and will be a punching bag for Manny.  That’s what I believe will happen.

    Bradley certainly does have some compelling assets though & confidence in himself is definitely one of them, I don’t think he will fear Pacquiao either.  For his health & his confidence I hope he can make something of this opportunity…or that Manny makes it quick & relatively painless.

  4. The Thresher 05:39pm, 06/06/2012

    Well written and points well made

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