LAS VEGAS – More than a few fans and boxing insiders thought Tim Bradley had the right stuff to finally end the amazing run Manny Pacquiao has been on for the last seven years.
They were right – but they shouldn’t have been.
Bradley put up an admirable fight against Pacquiao. He boxed well. He made Pacquiao miss a lot and he took the best shots the Filipino icon could deliver during a brisk 12-round bout that entertained the fans inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena. But he didn’t do enough to win the fight in the eyes of most observers.
Two of the official judges, however, scored the fight for Bradley, giving the undefeated boxer from Palm Springs, Calif., an unpopular split decision.
Bradley boldly predicted that he would shock the world, but it was the official decision that blew everybody’s mind.
Judges Duane Ford and CJ Ross scored the bout 115-113 for Bradley, who added Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title to his WBO 140-pound belt with the victory. Judge Jerry Roth scored the bout 115-113 for Pacquiao, the more aggressive fighter who connected with 94 more total punches than Bradley and 82 more power shots, according to CompuBox stats.
Most of the ringside press scored the bout for Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 knockouts) by either a comfortable or wide decision.
“What we saw tonight was ridiculous,” Bob Arum, promoter of both fighters, said during the post-fight press conference. “I mean, we’re not morons. This wasn’t a close a fight.
“The judges don’t know how to score a fight. Two of those guys (Ford and Roth) were here when I first got to Vegas, and quite Frankly, they’re both too old to be judging. I don’t think the woman (Ross) has ever judged a major title fight.”
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach thought his fighter clearly won.
“I thought Manny fought his best fight since the (Miguel) Cotto bout,” Roach said. “Bradley was tough, he took some really good shots, but I didn’t see that many close rounds (that could have gone to Bradley).
“I think (the judges) had their eyes closed. Something’s not right. What they saw and what everyone else saw were two different things.”
Pacquiao agreed with his trainer but was gracious during the post-fight press conference.
“I did my best but my best wasn’t good enough, I guess,” he said. “The fans know, in their hearts, who won. There were a few rounds when I relaxed that maybe I gave him, maybe three rounds, but I thought I won most. I hurt him in most of the rounds.
“But (bad decisions) are part of the game, we accept that.”
Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs), who injured his ankle early in the bout and attended the post-fight presser in a wheel chair, thought he legitimately won the bout.
“I worked my angles and sticking and movement,” he said. “Manny hurt me a few times in the bout with his straight left. He can punch. He’s a beast.
“I twisted my left ankle in the second round, both (ankles) are swollen, and I got hit with some big shots early in the fight, but I persevered and came on to win the last five rounds to get the victory,” Bradley said.
That’s how the judges saw it.
Roth and Ross scored the last three rounds for Bradley. Ford scored five of the last six rounds for the unbeaten 28-year-old boxer.
Bradley was caught by Pacquiao’s power shots in the early rounds but he made mid-fight adjustments that included more lateral movement and counter punching as the crowd favorite confidently stalked him behind a high guard.
When the two exchanged punches, Bradley did a good job of blocking while returning fire. He slipped a lot of Pacquiao’s punches with savvy head-and-upper body movement down the stretch, sometimes making the odds favorite look sloppy, but he didn’t land enough effective punches to win these rounds in the eyes of most observers.
Bradley acknowledged that he could have done more, and says he will if Pacquiao decides to enact the rematch clause they had in their contract.
“I thought I was controlling the action and my corner is happy with my performance, but we got to do it again,” said Bradley. “I need to go back to the drawing broad and work on some things. I know what I did wrong in this fight.
“We definitely need to do it again in November and win decisively.”
Pacquiao was open to a return bout.
“I want the rematch, but it’s up to Bob Arum,” he said.
Arum said he will do what his star fighter wants to do, but how he’ll sell a rematch to the public is anyone’s guess.
Arum says those who didn’t witness the live fight will be turned off by what they read, hear and see of it in the days to come.
“This is not good for the sport of boxing,” he said. “Everyone who watches the replay is going to be befuddled by the decision.”
Arum said he was “ashamed” of the sport, but he didn’t go into one of his trademark tirades. He was happy for Bradley.
“At least the young man who benefitted from this bad decision is a lovely young man,” he said.
“For all the people who say good things don’t happen to good people – yeah it do, baby,” Bradley added.
Good for Bradley. Bad for boxing.