• Steve Bunce

Hard-bitten Pacquiao ready for last hurrah

Steve Bunce April 8, 2014
Enzo Maccarinelli talks to Steve Bunce and Barry Jones

Long before Manny Pacquiao was the centre of attraction for the world's biggest gamblers he had a little dog.

Manny was about 13, weighed less than 80 pounds and had not yet put a pair of boxing gloves on. The little man's life changed forever when his Dad allegedly killed, cooked and ate the dog.

Manny, in disgust, left home and went to the bright lights of the city, found a boxing gym and slept on the floor. The rest is pure boxing history but without a dead dog there would be no Manny Pacquiao, the man that has won world titles at seven different weights since turning professional 19 years ago. The puppy tale, it has to be said, is possibly pure boxing fantasy, but it is a lovely story.

This Saturday at the MGM in Las Vegas, the boxing capital of the world, little Manny will fight for redemption against Tim Bradley. The pair met in June 2012 and Bradley sneaked a tight and controversial split decision.

"There will not be a problem with judges this time," said Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao. "Manny has a plan for this fight and it doesn't involve judges. There will not be any controversy this time."

The scoring debate is just part of the controversy from the first fight and Pacquiao insists that he showed "compassion" and allowed Bradley to survive; Bradley, not surprisingly, rejects the strange notion but the evidence is compelling. It was a mesmerising fight in many ways and I thought that Pacquiao spared Bradley.

Buncey's Vaults

Mike Tyson knocked Frank Bruno out in three rounds during their second fight on March 16, 1996 © Getty Images
  • On the Saturday night Mike Tyson had beaten Frank Bruno for a second time and was the world champion again. It had been a nasty week in Las Vegas.
  • The insults had been flying between the rival camps and when it was over it turned ugly. "Hey baby, your man was so brave, he can be proud he went down like a true champion," said Crocodile, Tyson's main cheerleader, to Laura, Bruno's wife. She was in no mood for compliments after a week of insults: "You can **** right off," she replied.
  • "Tyson was too quick, too strong and Frank never got started. That's the entire story of the fight," said Frank Warren. Tyson was at his savage best on both sides of the ropes during a week and fight that is still uncomfortable to recall even now. "I'm not yet at my best. I will improve," promised Tyson. He never did, but that night in Las Vegas he was unstoppable.
  • As reported in The Daily Telegraph, March 18, 1996.

"This time it is about getting the job done as quickly as possible and not creating any more controversies," added Roach. "It's funny that Bradley won but he is the one making excuses! I have never known that." Bradley claimed that his feet were swollen and bloody because he forgot to wear socks, which is why he seemed to be teetering on the edge of being knocked out in many rounds.

Bradley, who has fought twice since then and is still unbeaten, is also looking for revenge, his turn at redemption because the win was so close that many consider him lucky. "It's the business, I don't take it personally but it means I have something to prove," said Bradley.

Pacquiao has now fought in a Las Vegas ring fourteen times and is known for delivering the world's finest gamblers to the casino operators. There was genuine fear in the air in the American gambling city last year when Pacquiao decided to return to action and picked Macau, the tiny Chinese island that is now officially the world's greatest gambling location. The Macau experiment worked but Pacquiao and his promoter, Bob Arum, both know that the American market delivers riches in different ways.

On Saturday night, the WBO welterweight championship is the fight's official title on offer but a spot in the ring against Floyd Mayweather remains boxing's best prize; Bradley is never mentioned and Pacquiao has not stopped being mentioned during the last seven years; that includes after the Bradley loss and the shocking defeat a few months later to Juan Manuel Marquez.

It seems that Pacquiao has lost something during the last few years and he has not had a stoppage win in his last seven fights. However, it looks like all that he has lost is his ability to be vicious and not his timing or power; Roach insists that Pacquiao is back and angrier than ever.

Bradley, meanwhile, has been forced by popular scepticism to alter the way he fights since the Pacquiao win. He came close last March to losing when he fought like Rocky Balboa against Siberia's Ruslan Provodnikov. "It was a hard fight, a great fight and I did get too involved because of the criticism," Bradley admitted. He beat Provodnikov and then beat Pacquiao's nemesis Marquez.

Bradley is one of boxing's nicest men but I think that there is still one great fight left in the man-boy that once lost a puppy.

Manny Pacquiao trains with his pet Pacman © Getty Images
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.