Initial attention directed to the third Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight bordered on the indifferent until Pacquiao’s inflammatory comments toward gays several weeks ago in his native Philippines.
Suddenly, the bout gained traction but not totally centered on pre-fight angles such as Pacquiao, an eight-division champion, preserving his legacy or Bradley attempting to become an entrenched pay-per-view attraction. Instead, Pacquiao’s anti-gay marriage views during in a Philippine TV interview dominated headlines and sound bites in the early weeks leading to Saturday’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
And as much as the supposed feud between Pacquiao’s trainer Freddy Roach and Bradley’s cornerman Teddy Atlas provided another subplot to the pre-fight hype, Pacquiao, massively adored in his native country, needed to play damage control and return the attention toward boxing angles.
“I explained it properly, but the problem is they cut my interview,” Pacquiao said of his views, which drew widespread condemnation, including from his promoter, Bob Arum, and HBO, which will televise the pay-per-view bout. “But I explained it properly — who am I to condemn and discriminate other people? I’m also a human. I’m also a sinner.”
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Bradley also tried to keep the focus on the fight when asked about Pacquiao’s comments before a recent workout.
I don’t really want to get into any of that stuff,” Bradley said. “It’s pretty much irrelevant to boxing and what we are here to talk about. You can ask Pacquiao about that. But if you ask me a question about gay people — I love all people for what they are. I respect people for what they are. I judge people by their heart.”
With Pacquiao, 37, mulling retirement, Bradley realizes what a victory in their third bout would do for the two-division champion’s stature. Although Bradley scored a split-decision victory against Pacquiao in 2012, the result was widely criticized. Many observers believed Pacquiao won the bout. Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) won a solid decision over Bradley in the rematch two years later.
“I am not tired of fighting this guy,” Bradley said. “I just want to have the opportunity to definitely seal the deal and that same opportunity for my family as well.
Given Pacquiao’s extensive fight mileage that now spans 21 years, Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs) nonetheless would prefer an opponent similar to the Pacquiao, who exchanged spots with Floyd Mayweather Jr. as boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter until his losses against Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Mayweather.
“If I beat Manny Pacquiao I already know what is going to be said — ‘Oh, he was old,’ ” Bradley said. “But I know Pacquiao is still great, and he still can fight. I’m not depending on Manny Pacquiao to be weak. I think he is going to be stronger than ever. He’s going to be motivated, and he’s going to be looking to take my head off.”
AROUND THE RING
▪ Pete Balcunas, whose passion and dedication to amateur boxing for more than 30 years resulted in his promotion to president of the local chapter of USA Boxing, died March 28. Balcunas, a long-time Davie resident, was 69.
▪ Francisco Santana won a lopsided unanimous decision over Pembroke Pines resident Ed Paredes in their junior-middleweight bout late Saturday in Port Hueneme, California. All three judges scored the bout for Santana 100-90. Paredes (36-6-1) has now lost three of his past four fights.
Saturday (5 p.m., Showtime): Charles Martin vs. Anthony Joshua, 12, for Martin’s IBF heavyweight title.
Saturday (9 p.m., pay-per-view): Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley, 12, welterweights.