Manny Pacquiao looked rejuvenated after a controversial split decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez in November, but in what will surely go down as one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history — one of the worst, really — Timothy Bradley Jr. was awarded a split-decision win to claim a welterweight title on Saturday night before 14,206 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
This time, the judges got him. And they got him good. Maybe it was a makeup call for the Marquez fight?
Whatever it was, it was a shocking result after Pacquiao had spent virtually all of the fight beating Bradley to the punch, strafing him with power shots from both hands and visibly rocking him on multiple occasions.
Frankly, Pacquiao looked dominant, and those who thought he had lost a step after the performance against Marquez were wrong.
Those who thought his new devotion to his Catholic faith since that controversial win might lead him to be more focused on the Bible than the Bradley fight were also mistaken.
And those who thought Pacquiao’s coming in at a career-heavy 147 pounds was a sign that he wasn’t in top shape were also mistaken.
But Bradley still got the decision.
Pacquiao, of course, thought he won.
“No doubt,” he said.
Judge Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Pacquiao, but C.J. Ross and Duane Ford both scored it 115-113 for Bradley, a junior welterweight titlist who moved up to challenge Pacquiao in his fourth title defense.
ESPN.com had it 119-109 for Pacquiao. HBO’s unofficial judge, Harold Lederman, also had it 119-109 for Pacquiao, meaning he gave Bradley only one round. Most ringside media also scored it clearly for Pacquiao.
“I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough,” Pacquiao said. “I’ve been watching his fight tapes. There were no surprises. He never hurt me with his punches. Most of them hit my arms. I don’t know what happened.”
What happened was that two judges had a horrible night. Even the judge who had it for Pacquiao wasn’t so hot.
The night started weird and got even stranger with the decision. Bradley was gloved up and ready to go, but Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t in his dressing room. As it turned out, he was working out on a treadmill to make sure he didn’t suffer the calf cramps that have bothered him in past fights.
He finally arrived back in his dressing room about 15 minutes later, but still needed to receive referee instructions and get his gloves put on, forcing a lengthy delay before the ring walks.
Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and Bradley, was stunned. He said he had it 118-110 for Pacquiao.
“When I came into the ring [after the fight], I said to Tim, ‘You did very well,’ and he said ‘I tried hard and I couldn’t beat the guy. You talk about killing boxing. Even [Bradley's manager, Cameron Dunkin] had it 8-4 for Pacquiao.
“Something like this is so outlandish, it’s a death knell for the sport. This is f—— nuts. I have both guys, and I’ll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it’s ridiculous. You have these old f—- who don’t know what the hell they’re looking at. It’s incompetence. Nobody who knows anything about boxing could have Bradley ahead in the fight.”
Pacquiao has a rematch clause in his contract, and the date was already determined to be Nov. 10 in the event of a rematch. Bradley even had a mock oversized ticket and mock poster printed to show off during the promotion to show people his confidence.
Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) didn’t sound like a man who thought he won the fight.
“It was a good fight. Every round was pretty close,” Bradley said. “Pacquiao won the early rounds, I won the later rounds with my jab. I have to go home and see the tape to see who won.”
The CompuBox statistics favored Pacquiao, who landed more punches than Bradley in 10 of the 12 rounds. Pacquiao landed 253 of 751 punches (34 percent), while Bradley landed 159 of 839 (19 percent). Pacquiao also landed 82 more power shots (190-108).
Although Bradley was game, he didn’t seem to land many effective or clean shots. Pacquiao, meanwhile, landed a lot of shots. He shook Bradley several times in the fight, including with a combination late in the third round.
“Manny hurt me a few times in the fight with his left,” Bradley said. “He’s a beast, but my corner told me if I won the last round, I would win the fight. I gotta give Manny a rematch.
“Manny was aggressive, but he only landed four or five clean shots. He’s a strong puncher, he rocked me a couple times. I withstood it and fought hard to the end.”
In the fourth round, Pacquiao clobbered Bradley with two left hands that clearly rocked him and turned his legs to jelly.
On and on it went. Pacquiao, 33, whose 15-fight winning streak ended, hurt Bradley with a left hand again in the toe-to-toe fifth round. Bradley crashed into the ropes and Pacquiao followed with combinations. Bradley showed a good chin and was swinging for the fences, but he was mostly missing.
Then there was the sixth round, when Pacquiao trapped Bradley, 28, in the corner and unloaded several shots. Yet, two judges didn’t acknowledge it.
Bradley, who earned a minimum of $5 million while Pacquiao made at least $26 million, fought most of the fight with an injured left ankle, which he rolled in the fourth round.
But he shook it off.
“I stepped on his ankle,” Bradley said. “I’m really not sure what happened. I was just trying to get out of the way of Manny’s punches. I got my second wind in the sixth round. I was sticking and moving.”
There will be an uproar over the decision. The sides will say their peace and then they will likely settle matters — which really don’t need to be settled given Pacquiao’s dominance — in that Nov. 10 rematch.
“This feels great, but I’m not satisfied,” Bradley said. “I hear the boos. People think I lost. Let’s do it again. This is boxing. Nov. 10, we can do the rematch.”
Pacquiao said he wants the rematch, too.
“No problem,” he said. “I’ll be ready for the rematch.”
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