Photos by Sumio Yamada
TIMOTHY BRADLEY W12 (split) MANNY PACQUIAO
Controversial decisions are becoming so commonplace in boxing that we shouldn’t really be surprised at them any more. We had another one in the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight on Saturday night. Most of the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas thought that Pacquiao won. So did the HBO commentary crew. Just about everyone, it seemed, made Pacquiao the winner.
So, how come Bradley got out of town with a split decision win, capturing Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title and putting himself in line for his biggest purse by far in November’s rematch?
Once again, we come down to subjectivity, a matter of what the judges were looking at. Frankly, I wondered what the judges were looking at — judges CJ Ross and Duane Ford, that is, who each scored Bradley a 115-113 winner. Judge Jerry Roth’s score of 115-113 in Pacquiao’s favour was as close as I thought you could reasonably make this fight, although at least Roth, in my view, had the right fighter winning.
I watched the fight twice. The first time I watched without a commentary to distract me and I had Pacquiao up, 117-111 but with the possibility of a swing round that would have given a 116-112 score.
This morning I sat down and watched the fight again, this time with the commentary. I watched the fight segment by segment. I went back and re-watched some rounds. The closest I could come up with was 115-113 in favour of Pacquiao.
A judge shouldn’t try to find a reason to give a boxer a round. However, on my second look at the fight I did try to make a case for Bradley winning rounds.
There were some close rounds to be sure. For me, though, Pacquiao won most of them. He surely hurt Bradley more than Bradley hurt him. This doesn’t always equate to winning a fight, but it usually does.
Some of those left hands from Pacquiao’s southpaw stance — “booms” as HBO’s Jim Lampley called them — moved Bradley back several steps or had him hanging on.
Bradley did land some nice scoring shots, some well-placed right hands through the middle, but his punches seemed merely to be annoying Pacquiao.
Pacquiao, I thought, was landing all the really solid shots, the sort of blows that rock an opponent and bring a reaction from the crowd. Bradley boxed well, and he was always “in” the rounds. I do believe, though, that hard, clean punches usually win a round. Pacquiao just seemed to be landing enough of them to take at the very least seven of the 12 rounds. The fact that Bradley’s immediate reaction was that he wouldn’t know if he had won until he’d reviewed the tape was revealing.
There were rounds where I was saying to myself: “Bradley’s got this round as long as he doesn’t get caught” — and then Bradley would get caught.
The ringside analyst I respect most of all is Emanuel Steward, and Steward professed himself to have been left “dumbfounded” by the decision.
Harold Lederman’s 119-109 HBO scorecard was a little, shall we say, “off”. Bradley won more than one round. He clearly won the 10th round, which Lederman gave him, and I thought he dominated the 12th round. The 11th was close, but I gave it to Bradley.
The second, seventh and eighth all could, I thought, have been assessed as “swing” rounds — a round that could have been scored either way. On first viewing I gave these rounds to Pacquiao. On second viewing I could see how Bradley could have been given the seventh and eighth.
In the seventh a straight right to the body from Bradley brought a nod of appreciation from Pacquiao — and a “hit me again” gesture.
HBO’s punch statistics in the seventh round surprisingly (to me, anyway) had Pacquiao outlanding Bradley 27-9 with 20 seconds remaining, but I thought the seventh was one of Bradley’s better rounds.
The eighth was a round that I thought Bradley could have eked out. (“This was Pacquiao’s least energetic round in a while,” Lampley commented.)
I tried to give the second round to Bradley but I really thought that Pacquiao’s left-hand slams won Pacquiao the round — one missile through the middle of Bradley’s guard in the first 40 seconds of the round seemed to have Bradley’s knees dipping, and Pacquiao caught him with a couple of heavy left-hand hits later in the round. Bradley rushed Pacquiao to the ropes at one point in the second round but many punches were blocked on Pacquiao’s high guard — Emanuel Steward noted in the commentary that both men were showing a good defence.
So, for me, Pacquiao won, and won without question. Bradley, though, deserves tremendous credit for a courageous and highly capable performance. We now know that he injured his left foot in the second round, and he turned his right ankle when twisting his body away from a Pacquiao attack in the fourth.
Bradley fought through the pain, though, and by the later rounds was outboxing and outmanoeuvring Pacquiao, which was quite amazing considering Bradley’s discomfort from the foot and ankle injuries.
Pacquiao’s late-rounds fade was surprising. He just seemed to stop fighting — as in really fighting — and he gave Bradley the opportunity to pop away at him and pull back valuable points. Indeed, the way that Bradley was smacking his left jab into Pacquiao’s face in the 12th had me wondering whether all those who favoured Floyd Mayweather Jr. to beat Pacquiao might have had the right idea.
As I occasionally note in articles for Boxing Monthly and for Fightwriter subscribers, I like fighters to finish strongly, but Pacquiao just seemed to fizzle out in the home straight. That said, I still had not the slightest doubt that Pacquiao won the fight.
Despite all the outrage being expressed over the verdict, if you think about it boxing has been littered with controversial decisions over the years: Louis-Walcott, Graham-Gavilan, Schmeling-Sharkey II, Ali-Norton III, Whitaker-Chavez, Lewis-Holyfield I; Santa Cruz-Casamayor, Lara-Williams — the list goes on and on, down the long years of boxing history. Jose Luis Ramirez’s split decision win over Pernell Whitaker in Paris was an absolute shocker: The American Olympic gold medallist seemed to have outclassed the earnest Mexican slugger. When British Olympic gold medallist Terry Spinks survived three knockdowns to win an eight-round points verdict over Belgium’s seasoned Pierre Cossemyns in London in 1958 The Times described it as “a decision that defied understanding”.
Without wishing to sound too jaded, I’ve seen it all before, many times. There will always be differences of opinion when we sit down and score a fight — in almost every instance when a decision has been vigorously disputed there have been some credible witnesses who, even if in the distinct minority, have offered the opinion that the decision rendered had been the correct one.
The disputed decision in Saturday’s big fight is nothing new although I don’t think there has ever been a time in boxing history when there have been so many scoring controversies, one after the other.
I have written this before, and I’ll write it again: Whenever a fight goes to the scorecards we have to hold our breath, because we simply do not know if the judges were seeing the fight that we thought we were watching.