For athletes of any sport, the reasons for defeat are myriad -- a lack of physical, mental or strategic preparation, faulty execution, unforeseen circumstances or encountering a superior opponent having a superior day. For Timothy Bradley and Diego Chaves, who lost to Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios respectively in their most recent bouts, their defeats may have been caused by their wanting to win too much.
This past April Bradley swore he'd give his last drop of sweat and blood to beat Pacquiao a second time and he backed up his words with an emotionally-charged effort that threw to the side the brilliantly executed boxing he used to beat Juan Manuel Marquez. Similarly, Chaves entered the ninth round one point ahead of Rios on two scorecards despite suffering a pair of point penalties but referee Vic Drakulich saw one too many infractions from the Argentine in round nine and as a result he was disqualified.
The desire to win won't be a problem for either man Saturday. Rather, the ability to properly channel that desire may be the factor that will separate victor from vanquished. The question is which man will better be able to do that.
Statistical factors that may answer that question include:
Bradley vs. Volume: Chaves is someone who likes to take the fight to his opponent by throwing tons of bombs. He averaged 78.3 punches per round against Omar Weis (W 12), an incredible 120.4 per round versus Jose Miranda (KO 2) and 74 per round against Eduardo Flores (KO 9). That dynamic, however, hasn't held up when he's stepped up his opposition, for he averaged 49.5 against Thurman and 52.8 versus Rios. If Bradley chooses to box as he did against Marquez, Chaves' volume may well be held in check but if "Desert Storm" chooses to go to war the heavier-handed Chaves will happily follow General Bradley's lead.
Only two opponents have averaged 60 or more punches per round against Bradley -- Lamont Peterson (63.8) and Pacquiao in their first meeting (62.6). In both fights Bradley fought fire with fire as he averaged 88.6 vs. Peterson and 69.9 against "The Pac Man." Happily for him, he won both fights by decision.
Bradley out-landed Peterson 360-237 overall, 85-35 jabs and 275-202 power against someone renowned for his volume punching. His jab worked well (40.2 thrown/7.1 connects per round) and he managed to suppress Peterson's (21 thrown/2.9 connects per round). Also, Bradley was more accurate across the board (34%-31% overall, 18%-14% jabs, 47%-39% power).
The first Pacquiao fight didn't turn out nearly as well as Pacquiao led 253-159 overall, 61-53 jabs and 190-108 power as well as in the percentage race (34%-19% overall, 24%-11% jabs, 39%-28% power). Bradley's jab was decent (37.4 thrown/4.2 connects per round) but Pacquiao's oft-maligned right jab was better (21.5 thrown/5.2 connects per round).
Given his history, Bradley would be best served fighting from the outside and using his superior jab, hand speed and mobility to limit Chaves' bombing opportunities. He might dish out less punishment in terms of raw numbers but he'll likely take less as well.
Stepping Up: Against domestic competition Chaves has thrived as he has gone 22-0 (19 KO) in his native Argentina, but once he ventured to American shores he has struggled (1-2, 0 KO). That's because the level of opponent was markedly increased and the added resistance took its toll.
The good news for Chaves is that in his longer fights he showed the capability of maintaining an energetic pace. Against Eduardo Flores (TKO 9) he ranged between 72 and 92 punches per round and his body attack accounted for 109 of his 186 power connects. In beating the sly 38-year-old Omar Weis he fell behind early due to Weis' wiles and a stunning knockdown. But from the eighth round forward Chaves shifted into overdrive and from rounds eight through 11 he out-landed Weis 143-84 (total) and 124-60 (power) en route to a narrow but deserved victory. In all Chaves out-landed Weis 271-226 overall and landed 29% overall and 35% of his power shots while tasting 31% of Weis' total punches and 38% of his power punches.
When he stepped up in class against Thurman, however, the volume game decayed. He averaged only 49.5 punches per round, well below the 76.5 he averaged in his five previous CompuBox-tracked fights, but he managed to give "One Time" everything he wanted -- and some that he didn't want -- for eight rounds before suffering knockdowns in the ninth and 10th rounds. After taking the best Chaves could dish out, Thurman was able to stage a surge in the ninth and 10th that enabled him to take the lead in terms of raw connects (118-107 overall and 85-68 power) and percentages (29%-24% overall, 16%-15% jabs, 41%-34% power). That ability to accelerate was something Chaves' South American opponents didn't have, and the bad news is that Bradley is someone with a deep wellspring of determination. If he needs to bear down late, he has the goods to pull it off. We still don't know that about Chaves against better foes.
Against Rios, Chaves started quickly by throwing 91 and 93 punches but from then on he couldn't get above 59 (rounds three and seven). Chaves out-landed Rios only twice after that (14-9 in the fourth, 16-11 in the eighth) but they tied on three other occasions (at 15 in the third, 13 in the fifth and 18 in the sixth). At the time of the DQ Chaves out-landed Rios 145-140 overall and 40-31 jabs, but Rios prevailed 109-105 in landed power shots and was the more accurate fighter (35%-29% overall, 27%-23% jabs, 38%-32% power). Like the Thurman fight, Chaves couldn't seize control of the pace. If he wants to beat Bradley, he'll need to be more proactive in terms of volume and power punching. Thurman and Rios landed 40% of their power shots vs. Chaves.
Prediction: Chaves' aggression will dovetail nicely into Bradley's "leg boxing" should be choose to apply it. His hands and feet are faster and he has proven himself successful against a higher grade of fighter than Chaves. But there's no guarantee that Bradley will utilize the wisest blueprint because as good as he is as a boxer his mindset is that of a warrior who must go toe-to-toe to prove his manhood and his worth as a fighter. If he chooses to fight with Chaves, disaster may ensue.
The guess here is that Bradley, who knows he must get back on the winning track to maintain his high profile status following his loss to Pacquiao, will put his head over his heart and box his way to a decision victory.