Pacquiao versus Bradley: What the hell just happened?

boxingby Geoffrey Ciani - Where to even begin?! There were so many questions going into last night’s mega bout showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, and many of these questions were actually answered. For starters Manny Pacquiao showed that he is still at an elite level. His speed, power, and timing simply proved too much for Bradley’s abilities. To his credit Bradley came to fight, but time and time again he was rocked by left hands that just could not miss the mark. That was essentially the story of the fight.

I myself scored it 118-110 for Pacquiao, and I did not think the rounds were particularly hard to score. I gave Bradley rounds 10 and 11. I can see an argument for maybe giving him the final round, and if you really wanted to stretch it, maybe the first and the second both of which I believed were close, yet clear rounds for Pacquiao. That the judges somehow awarded this decision to Bradley is maddeningly inexplicable!

Before we even get into the decision, which was more shocking to me than when the first bout between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holfyield was ruled a draw, let us examine the fight itself. Right from the onset it was apparent that Bradley was the fastest opponent Pacquiao has faced in quite some time. Bradley started well and seemed to have the edge tactically, as Pacquiao began cautiously and had not quite timed Tim’s rhythm. This pattern continued through most of the opening stanza until a booming left from Pacquiao caught Timmy on the forehead. This in itself might not have been enough to steal the round for Pacquiao, but a few follow up lefts in the waning seconds ensured that he did.

The fight remained competitive over the next two rounds and had some good action and nice exchanges. Bradley was here to fight, but Pacquiao was visibly stronger and was landing some good left hands, and even sneaking in a few tricky right hooks for good measure. Bradley was doing well for long stretches where he would briefly maintain a slight advantage, but then Pacquiao would explode with a series of power combinations that would shift momentum his way. Bradley was coasting through a large portion of the fourth in one such stretch, but once again Pacquiao would literally steal the round with a furious frenzy, and he managed to hurt Bradley towards the end when he outmaneuvered Tim on a pivot. Pacquiao then landed another series of damaging shots that left Bradley looking like he might be ready to go. At this point in the fight there were some fairly competitive portions of each round, but I saw things 40-36 in Pacquiao’s favor.

Pacquiao was in cruise control during the middle rounds. His left hand was finding the mark with great regularlity and Bradley had no real answers. Pacquiao was landing the telling shots, and Bradley at times appeared discouraged and almost disinterested in fighting. He was retreating more and mixing it up far less, and in the rare instances he did let his hands go Pac-Man almost always got the better of it. The question at this point seemed to be whether or not Pacquiao would score a stoppage. The rhythm of the fight was turning into a forgone conclusion because Pacquiao had accumulated such a wide lead and Bradley did not have the power to slow Manny down.

Bradley began making a fight of it again in round nine. It was clear he needed to do something, and to his credit he fought bravely. He was willfully engaging and mixing it up with Pacquiao and he even managed to tag Manny with some nice crisp blows that rocked his head back. Despite getting bolder, standing toe-to-toe, and landing some of his best punches of the match, Pacquiao was still getting the better of Bradley and landing crushing blows that put the difference in power on display. In round ten, however, Bradley would finally win a round clearly. This was largely due to the fact that Pac-Man seemed fatigue and was not throwing the volume of punches we are accustomed to seeing. This enabled Bradley to outwork Pac-Man. The same thing happened in round eleven. While these were rounds that were clearly Bradley rounds in my eyes, Pacquiao had slowed down considerably. The final round was close and probably could have gone either way, but Bradley just started winning rounds too little too late. Bradley made a fine account of himself, fought bravely, and helped make portions of the fight entertaining. But the real story here should have been about Pacquiao winning impressively, but having newfound stamina issues down the stretch just before the start of the championship rounds.

Officially Bradley was awarded a split decision. Judges Duane Ford and C.J Ross both scored it 115-113 in favor of Bradley, while Jerry Roth had the same tally for Pacquiao. Earlier in the broadcast HBO’s unofficial scorer, Harold Lederman, did a breakdown of the judges for the main event. In a nutshell Lederman was displeased with the overall quality of judicial selection for this particular contest, citing inexperience and questionable past calls. He stressed that he wishes the Nevada State Athletic Commission was more selective when choosing judges, and he was quite critical of the Ross selection. In fact Lederman stated something to the effect that Ross could be a concern due to being easily swayed by crowd reactions and also because of having scored so few title fights. Thinking back on this it almost acts as an eerie foreshadowing of things to come.

Some fans are now even suggesting that Bob Arum played a hand in all of this. Anyone who has visited a boxing message board with some regularity knows that many boxing fans blame Bob Arum as the number one obstacle preventing the fight everyone has wanted to see for years now—Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Junior! With the surprising verdict awarding Bradley the fight, fans are once again echoing these exact same sentiments, claiming Arum benefits most from this because now he gets a big money rematch between two of his prize horses, which yet again further prolongs any possibility of seeing a Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown. Of course fans are always going to react suspiciously when they believe the wrong man has had his hand raised, and naturally they are going to look somewhere to place blame. In the immediate aftermath of this fight, it would seem the majority of outraged fans are glaring over in Bob’s direction.

Some observers may view this as a form of poetic justice given the fact many believed Pacquiao was given a gift in his majority decision win against longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez in November. On the other hand, most boxing fans just want to see the right man get his hand raised, and most do not believe that happened on this night. The shame of it all is that this decision overshadows what was otherwise a fairly decent matchup that had some entertaining moments along the way. Pacquiao showed he can still overcome the distractions and that he is still a world class talent, but he did show some deficiencies in terms of stamina. His work rate was considerably less, and tactically his power assaults are being neutralized with greater frequency in recent bouts. Bradley showed that he is extremely tough, very brave, and that he is a difficult nut to crack. But against Pacquiao the only advantage that truly served him well was his superior conditioning that came into play late in the fight when Pacquiao uncharacteristically faded.

Both fighters made good accounts of themselves, but the event has a bittersweet aftertaste because of the controversy in the scoring. This is not a fight that is going to be perceived as the worst robbery in recent times. Brandon Rios being awarded a split decision against Richard Abril was atrocious, and of course Erislandy Lara’s majority decision loss to Paul Williams was a disgrace! I do not believe this one will be viewed on that caliber of “robbery”, but make no mistake—the majority of the fans, do indeed view this as a “robbery”. This is never a good thing for the sport, especially when the general public already views the sport of boxing with an inherent degree of mistrust. When the public believes the wrong man was awarded a decision in a high profile fight like this, it only amplifies the cynical attitude of onlookers.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but for now we will have sit back and wait, as the possibility of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight seems even more remote now than ever. Apparently they are contractually obligated to have a rematch on November 10. Will the fans even care?


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Article posted on 10.06.2012

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