“But then, the worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter.
You got civilized.”
"Mickey" Goldmill Rocky Balboa’s trainer
Manny Pacquiao has captured eight world titles in eight weight classes during his extraordinary boxing career. But, according to WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley, Pacquiao's opponent for the second time on April 12 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, NV, the Filipino icon will enter the ring without the most important quality every successful boxer must have.
"He (Pacquiao) doesn’t have that killer instinct,” Bradley told fighthype.com several weeks ago.
Bradley was referring to Pacquiao’s 12 round bludgeoning of Brandon Rios last November in Macau, China. Pacquiao stung Rios in every round. His punches drew blood and swelling, but still he didn’t come close to flooring Rios.
Is Bradley right? Has Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs) lost his desire to hurt people?
The answer to that question is a mixed bag of intangibles.
Pacquiao, 35, hasn’t scored a knockout win since he stopped Miguel Cotto. Since then, he’s gone the distance (excluding his knock out loss to Juan Manuel Marquez) six consecutive times.
Why hasn’t Pacquaio, with 38 career knockouts, been able to put an opponent to sleep in almost five years?
It would be wrong to suggest that Pacquiao has lost his power. His last six opponents have been durable fighters with sturdy chins. Three are certain Hall of Famers.
Bradley, 30, has also said that Pacquiao played it safe in his most recent bout, instead of slugging it out.
Pacquiao didn’t disagree, even though it was reported a few days later that he was perturbed by Bradley’s words.
''The aggressiveness and killer extinct, I have that, but sometimes I'm too nice with my opponent,'' Pacquiao said in an AP report.
Pacquaio, now serving his second term as a congressman in the Philippines, lost a highly controversial decision to Bradley in 2012.
Six months later, he was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez. After a layoff of close to a year, he returned to the ring to dominate Rios.
“I don't lose my passion or my desire to fight,'' Pacquiao said. ''It's part of boxing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.''
Some subscribe to the theory that Pacquiao, after becoming a born-again Christian, has become too compassionate.
"Religion is a personal thing in my life. In the ring, it's boxing, and that's been my career," He said. "My God has always helped me and given me strength."
Bradley’s boxing life was on a roller coaster of emotions after his decision victory over Pacquiao. He figured his win would catapult him to superstardom, but a dubious decision made Bradley the villain. He was bombarded with hate mail and death threats. His return to the ring nine months later was greeted with boos, until he engaged in a life or death struggle with Siberian strong-man Ruslan Provododnikov.
Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) won the fight, and the fans, with his gritty performance. Next up was Pacquiao conqueror Marquez, in a match many predicted he would lose. Instead, Bradley outboxed the Mexican legend, winning by a close decision.
“I continue to beat the odds every single time,” said Bradley on HBO’s “Face Off with Max Kellerman.” “I’m capable of doing whatever I want to do as long as I put my mind into it, if I work hard for it.”
There’s no disputing that Bradley is one of the hardest workers in the game. In 2009, he was knocked down twice by Kendall Holt, but still got up to win the fight by unanimous decision. His determination is his strongest asset. But was it intelligent to tell Pacquiao that he’s lost his killer instinct?
“Let sleeping dogs lie," goes the English proverb.
Reports have been circulating for weeks that Pacquiao has resembled his old ferocious self in training camp.
Sometimes an aging fighter needs an extra kick of emotion to charge his batteries.
Have Bradley’s words reawakened the Pacquiao that destroyed Oscar De La Hoya, Rickey Hatton and Miguel Cotto?
Bradley and the boxing world will find out on April 12.