Pacquiaou versus Bradley: On the Rocky road to redemption.

  • Picture this: Bradley with a Mohican strip on his bald head and the power to cause a knockout. Remind you of anyone... Clubber Lang perhaps? Then we have Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino congressman with a run up to this fight that would make Stallone himself blush with incredulity. Are such people possible in any walk of life outside of boxing: or rather do we have boxing to thank for bringing such characters to our attention?

    The mildly spoken, charming, modest and almost reticent politician - who managed to combine public office with running a large cockfighting operation. This is a sport where birds have bladed spurs attacked to their feet and are bred to assault each other in a blood soaked fight to the death. In Britain the upper classes have fox hunting, which offers a (however tenuous) justification in terms of rural pest control. Perhaps in the Philippines it is a common sport for congressmen, could it be that it addresses a problem for citizens in rural areas being woken up too early in the morning?

    This was the past however, Manny the politician has cleaned up his act - he’s sold his cockfighting interests, sold his stake in casinos, stopped womanising: now there’s only the karaoke and the quiz show ‘Many Manny Prizes’ to go and he becomes quite a respectable chap. All that was missing from the political resume was the allegation of Bunga Bunga parties. For those of who like their boxers colourful, Pacquiao certainly brought a lot to the table.

    For debauchery, blood sports, and his services to the world of easy listening music, now substitute bible meetings and resurgent Christianity. Manny 2.0 is an interesting fellow; known to smile in stare downs, pray for his opponent’s wellbeing, and so genial and affable that the HBO head to head series had all the menacing bravado of The Waltons. However there is a marked polarity to his personality, flick a switch and the man turns into fighting mode and becomes a ‘beast’, in Bradley’s own words.

    Stallone's Rocky was quite an amiable self effacing bloke who turned into a raging monosyllabic monster only after he’d been sufficiently punched. Manny appears to be able to go from a basketball watching laid back Christian to a venomous savagely punching pressure fighter in the time it takes for a bell to ring. He can convert from preacher to psycho in under 60 seconds. Such a brisk capacity for fury has previously been the preserve of one other Christian (listen to the infamous sound clip made when a lighting technician on T4 walked across Mr Bale’s eyeline).

    And Bradley? The musclebound moustached chap with a penchant for intensity, and a liking for the suffix, ‘baby’? A man who looks like he should be thinner and leading a scout troop. He has the kind of fresh faced head on a ripped body that is reminiscent of the ‘after’ from a Charles Atlas campaign. He would be Clubber Lang, he is the hungry young lion to Pacquiao’s Rocky III. The ferocious trainer to Manny’s missed workouts. Just as Rocky went on to discover the eye of the tiger following his defeat, Manny has spoken of becoming a warrior... or rather becoming the warrior he once was.

    The Pacquiao of last weekend described himself of relaxing for some rounds, of being on cruise control: fighting ferociously in bursts in a way that a hungrier earlier version wouldn’t have countenanced. That he allowed his fitness conditioner to leave for a fortnight during camp shows a camaraderie with the Rocky who posed for photos during training sessions. That Bradley trained obsessively could be seen at the weigh in; by contrast Pacquiao came in at the heaviest he’s ever fought and with four cans short of a six pack.

    Meanwhile, spare a thought for Mayweather watching TV in the communal room of a correctional facility. He may have felt the zero’s evaporate from a showdown as Pacquiao was delivered his loss. In reality, it may be the case that the Rocky’s redemption may be just the perfect setup for the next instalment. And with a Pacquiao who’s reclaimed his inner warrior, what a sequel that would be.