Teddy Atlas on Pacquiao vs. Bradley

By Robert Ecksel on June 8, 2012
Teddy Atlas on Pacquiao vs. Bradley
Either/or propositions, in my estimation, are simply no match for a nuanced evaluation

Who might win and who might lose and the reason why they might win or lose is the bread and butter of boxing prognosticators…

Like his alter ego Floyd Mayweather, whenever Manny Pacquiao fights it’s an occasion. His triumphs in and out of the ring are as well documented as they are exalted. Pacquiao continues to grow, as a person, as a personality, as a singular man pursuing his muse with abandon. And while it may be true that “Religion is the opium of the masses,” as Karl Marx famously wrote, I figure to each his own poison. 

As a 33-year-old fighter with a 54-3-2 record, Pacquiao may be slowing down insofar as the fight game is concerned. We won’t know for certain until Saturday night rolls around, when the WBO welterweight champion defends his title against the young, hungry, confident, undefeated Timothy Bradley (28-0).

When the two men meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, everything will be, as it always is in boxing, on the line. Pacman, unlike Desert Storm, doesn’t have an undefeated record to protect. Pacman, again like Desert Storm, has a future that is mapped out, perhaps even destined, and a loss won’t put a dent in those ambitions. But no man likes to lose, least of all a proven winner, and pride is at stake in this bout, in addition to future paydays, and we can expect both fighters to give it their all—and then some.

I have my own thoughts on the fight. Who might win and who might lose and the reason why they might win or lose is the bread and butter of boxing prognosticators. But when I want an expert opinion, I shift my gaze from my own reflection, no matter how alluringly it smiles back, and defer to my betters. Absolutes are all well and good, especially in a tyranny. But either/or propositions, in my estimation, are simply no match for a nuanced, comprehensive evaluation.

ESPN’s Teddy Atlas has a boxing mind more developed than my own. His analyses are always compelling, no matter if he is right or wrong. Atlas isn’t perfect, as he’ll be the first to admit, but he is deep (so much for the proverb “Still waters run deep”), and it’s that depth, and soulfulness, that attracts me.

We had an appointment to speak earlier this week and Atlas was running late. When he got back to me, he apologized effusively. He explained where he was and what he was doing—a heartbreaking story about a young boy on Staten Island whose life he was trying to save—and if I didn’t know better I might have thought it was a ruse or publicity stunt. But I do know better. Teddy’s social conscience is as evolved as his boxing conscience, and he has nothing left to prove to anyone except to himself, for reasons only he knows and can explain if and when he chooses.

After taking a moment to catch his breath, I asked Atlas what he thought about tomorrow’s pay-per-view extravaganza.

“I’m going to be out there doing my show the night before and we’re going to have Kelly Pavlik as our main event against a guy that doesn’t belong in the ring with him,” said Atlas as he cleared his throat. “But my feelings are if you wanted to make an argument for Bradley to win this fight or at least have a competitive chance in this fight, part of the argument would be the old saying about timing: timing is everything…or at least it’s very important. It would seem like the timing to catch Pacquiao would be good if you have a guy with good skill sets. And you have to start with something. You can’t just start with timing, unless you’ve got a lottery ticket in your hand; then you can do that. But if it’s a business that demands more than purely luck, and demands skills and abilities, and Bradley does have some of these skills and abilities.”

I asked Teddy if he could elaborate on some of the “skills and abilities” Bradley will bring to the table.

“He’s got good physical skill sets. He’s not really far behind in the speed department. Most guys are when they fight Pacquiao. He’s fairly comparable. He’s pretty good technically. He’s always in great shape—which you are supposed to be, it’s a given, but he always is. And he seems to have a great mental ability. The mental side of it is very strong. He’s been on the floor. He’s gotten up off the floor. He behaves like a champion. He knows how to act when you have to act the right way. He has shown that ability. He’s confident. He hasn’t learned how to lose yet, and that’s a big thing going into a fight like this. So yes, he does have those qualities, those dimensions you have to bring if you’re going to say the timing is right. And then, having brought those things, maybe the timing is right.”

If the timing is right, or may be right, for Bradley, conversely the timing may not be so right for Pacquiao.

“It looks like Pacquiao may have slipped a little bit in the Marquez bout,” Atlas said. “Look, I take nothing away from Marquez. Marquez had everything to do with the night. I thought Marquez won that fight to be quite honest with you. It won’t be the first or last time I disagreed with some of those judges. It was very close, but I thought that Pacquiao was a little off. Some of it was because of what Marquez was doing: timing him, fighting a very disciplined fight, a very smart fight, and a very skilled fight. But I think there was some dissipation, possibly, for some other reasons.”

Dissipation, however slight, is a strong word to use when describing a fighter the caliber of Manny Pacquiao. But Teddy knows that as well as anyone.

“When a guy’s been successful as long as he’s been successful, making as much money and all the things that are part of success—making more money, becoming more comfortable, accomplishing personal goals and getting to levels in your life that you obviously aspired to get to—a lot of those things have happened for Pacquiao—it’s a natural regression sometimes. When you become satisfied you become possibly content with those successes and there can be a regression in the area of urgency, just doing the extra little things. There can be a drop off because your mental/emotional approach is definitely attached to how you perform on a physical level. It is the car that drives all the other abilities to where they have to go. It is the vehicle that gets the physical to the destination. I think that’s a possibility in the world or the life of Pacquiao. It wouldn’t be the first or last time that’s happened and it’s not an extraordinary event. It’s a natural human event. When people succeed there is satisfaction, there is comfort, and sometimes, without even wanting there to be, there’s a regression of certain attitudes and of certain performances attached to those attitudes.

“Also I think that he’s got a lot on his plate. He’s a singer, even though he’s not a good one. He’s an actor, even though he may not be a good one. He’s an icon in his country and there’s a lot that goes with that, a lot of options, a lot of opportunities, but also a lot of distractions. When the top rung of the ladder is your profession, that profession can drop off a little bit, it can be taken away from a little bit with all those other options, all those other things going on, all those other responsibilities, all those other happenings. It can take away from your professional priorities, your professional living, in this case being a professional fighter at a world champion level. And I think I saw some of that. Again, it’s not an extraordinary thing to witness, but I’m here to witness it, and you have to be aware you’re witnessing it. I think I was aware that I saw the possibility that you did see a little sliding in those areas, a little shift so to speak, in the axis of the world of Pacquiao. If that’s true and there is a little shift there with all the things going on in his life, well, that presents an opportunity, an opportunity of proper timing for a guy who’s undefeated, has good skills sets, that has a good mindset to walk through the door.”

Although Teddy covers more bases than a dozen ball clubs during spring training, he clearly sees an opportunity for Bradley to, as he put it, “walk through the door.” But he won’t be wagering money on Desert Storm any more than he’ll be betting on that door remaining open for long, in part because Bradley will be in there with Pacquiao.

“Now on the other side of it,” Atlas continued. “I see Bradley as a guy that has all those things I just mentioned and I applaud him for. But he likes to be aggressive. He can be a little one-dimensional. And even though he’s not a walk in, I’ll hit you/you hit me guy, he takes chances and sometimes he can get caught on the way in. I saw him get caught with Holt and dropped. I’ve seen him on the floor. And again, he does what a champion does when he’s on the floor. He got his ass off the floor and went and won the fight. But that tells me that Pacquiao has a chance to do what he does well—catch him, catch him with shots and affect him. If this other guy was able to drop him, and Pacquiao’s able to drop him, Pacquiao can take it to the next place, because he’s a decent finisher and he puts his punches together pretty good. So I see a danger zone, especially early when Bradley’s trying to establish himself, when he’s trying to establish control of the fight, the flow of the fight, the tempo of the fight in an aggressive fashion. I can see certain things, that he has flaws where Pacquiao has strengths, and that tells me that Pacquiao could knock him out in the first half of the fight. I see an opportunity for Pacquiao to catch him with a straight left hand. And I see an opportunity for the right hook of Pacquiao.

“Most orthodox guys when they fight southpaws get very tentative with their jab. I understand why. It’s coming from a different angle. It’s harder to find a comfort zone with it, where you can feel comfortable striking with it, because of the different positions of the two fighters. And what happens is you tend instead of snapping it you tend to paw and push and start to measure with it. And sure enough, Bradley did that against Casamayor, who is at best in the twilight of his career. I noticed his left elbow when it would wing out a little bit. You already throw the jab slower than you should and normally would. When you also wing out your elbow a little bit before you throw it, it gives a guy with good timing, good confidence, with good speed and a southpaw style who has that hand in front an opportunity to time you and throw the right hook—a little like Pacquiao timed Ricky Hatton.”

Pacquiao KO’d Hatton in the second round when they met in 2009 in Las Vegas. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a thing of beauty.

“Now Ricky Hatton’s a little different,” said Atlas. “Ricky Hatton was fat with everything. But still it was the same premise, the same idea that he would warn you that he was throwing something, and Pacquiao had a chance to beat him to the mark. I think he’s going to have a chance to time Bradley and beat him to the mark over the jab. I think that’s one of his opportunities. It’s one of the things Pacquiao does well from a southpaw position. I also notice that Casamayor, a diminished Casamayor from what he had been a few years earlier, was able to catch Bradley with some of those southpaw straight left hands on the way in. I just think that opportunity will be there again, but with a fresher fighter, a faster fighter, a more explosive fighter, a fighter named Pacquiao.”

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  1. Donald Wolberg 04:45am, 06/10/2012

    Well, the fates conspire and except for the Pope, everyone can and will sometimes be wrong. This does not take away from the logic of the analysis, just the conclusion! I guess that fact makes boxing the unique sport that it is.

  2. ato 10:26pm, 06/09/2012

    why bradley wins it so very impossible for me manny wins that’s impossible

  3. Donald Wolberg 05:04am, 06/09/2012

    Beyond a doubt, Teddy Atlas has it just about right. Certainly the best boxing analyst around, although Al Bernstein is a close second, Atlas is always candid and has really thought things through. He has called this fight the way it will likely play out. It always has struck me as absurd that Atlas was not grabbed up by HBO—Showtime is well covered by Bernstein. More importantly, Mr. Atlas has always shown a real interest in the welfare of boxers, and continues to do wonderful humanitarian work.

  4. Darrell 10:59pm, 06/08/2012

    I see it exactly how Teddy sees it…but without such a nuanced evaluation.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 11:48am, 06/08/2012

    Robert Ecksel-Sterling effort….Teddy is the Charles Krauthammer of boxing….in other words the experts’ expert!

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