Bradley Baits Boo Birds as Pac-man Smiles

Photo Credit: Will Hart

by Kieran Mulvaney

The last time Manny Pacquiao weighed in at the MGM Grand, it was for a fight in which he was knocked out. The time before that, it was for a fight that he seemingly won but actually lost. The time before that, it was for a fight that many thought he lost but which he officially won.

But if that sequence of events has in any way diminished his popularity, there was no evidence of it in the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday afternoon. Of eight thousand or so fans in attendance to watch the weigh-in, an entirely unofficial guesstimate put the size of the Filipino or otherwise pro-Pacquiao contingent somewhere north of 7,990.

When Pacquiao emerged on to the stage, his collective support screamed in adoration, at an octave that brought to mind the days when Oscar De La Hoya was in his pomp and attracted female fans like no other boxer. The depth and breadth of Pacquiao's appeal almost certainly remains unmatched globally, even if on any given day, the likes of a Juan Manuel Marquez can draw on a fanbase that is capable of shouting down the Pac-man's. It is a tough ask for any Pacquiao opponent to hope to compete with such adulation, but it is an ongoing mystery why Tim Bradley – an amiable and open family man who is never out of shape and always fights to the best of his ability – struggles to attract a solid base of support of his own.

Of course, this particular crowd is unlikely to ever forgive him for the crime of fighting his heart out against their hero two years ago and being rewarded with a highly dubious decision for his efforts; and when Bradley walked onto the stage to a crescendo of boos, he made no effort to bring the jeering masses around to his point of view.

He raised his arms, encouraging them to boo louder, cupped his hand to his ears and acted disappointed at the volume of catcalls, encouraged them again and finally, satisfied he had worked them into sufficient froth, smiled and nodded.

Pacquiao, smiling and calm, weighed in at 145 pounds. Bradley, animated and bedecked in shades, scaled 145.5.

They stood face to face. The crowd roared. Bradley talked to Pacquiao. Pacquiao smiled at Bradley.

Tomorrow, they fight.