I know I am late on this blog post, but when you see the length, you will understand why. I wanted to take the time not only to get all my points across, but to re-watch the fight and study it. Enjoy.
On Saturday, June 9, 2012, recognized undisputed junior welterweight champion Timothy Bradley (29-0-1, 12 KOs) scored a huge upset by defeating WBO welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2, 28 KOs) by split decision in front of 14,206 fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. There was just one problem… Bradley did not deserve the decision. Pacquiao should have left the ring with his title. Instead, boxing is in the all too familiar situation of trying to explain a bogus decision.
I won’t rehash the whole fight, but it goes without saying that Pacquiao deserved the win. No, it was not by as much as the HBO cheerleading crew would have you believe, more on that later, but Pacquiao scored a comfortable win. He landed the harder shots and controlled the action. The fight was fought on his terms. Neither guy showed superb defense, but both were successful, at times, blocking punches. At times, Bradley used good head movement to avoid punches, but at other times it seemed like Pacquiao could not miss with the straight left.
Despite Pacquaio’s success, Duane Ford and CJ Ross both scored the bout for Bradley 115-113. Jerry Roth saw the bout 115-113 for Pacquiao. Ford scored rounds 1, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12 for Bradley. Some rounds can go either way, but I don’t see how Bradley won rounds 5 or 9 on Ford’s card. Ross scored rounds 2, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12 for Bradley. On Ross’s card, I don’t see how 5 and 7 went to Bradley. Roth scored rounds 2, 7, 10, 11, and 12 for Bradley. On Roth’s card, I don’t see how 7 went to Bradley.
As for me, I scored the bout 116-112 for Pacquaio. I gave Bradley rounds 1, 8, 11, and 12. I guess I can see rounds 1, 2, 8, 10, 11, and 12 being scored to Bradley if you give him every benefit of the doubt, though 10 may be a stretch. The only round I believe Bradley definitively won was round 8. The point is, even giving Bradley every benefit of the doubt; I do not see how he won a decision in this bout. I could have dealt with Roth’s card had he not scored the 7th to Bradley. Not sure how he figured that. Obviously, Ford and Ross had cards I could not deal with.
Not that Pacquiao should have anything to regret from this fight as he should have received the decision, but he probably will regret not stepping on the gas and going for a stoppage. I thought my prediction was going to come to fruition when Pacquiao hurt Bradley on the fourth round. I thought Bradley looked ready to go, but Pacquiao did not fight with a sense of urgency, instead opting to conserve energy and essentially letting Bradley off the hook. Even after the fourth Pacquiao seemed to stun Bradley on occasion, but either failed to follow up or failed to keep the pressure on. The point remains, however, that this should have been a critique of a win as opposed to a way to have won.
Prior to the bout much was made of the angles Bradley would present to frustrate Pacquiao. I wasn't sure we would see them and I don't think we did. Bradley did not really give angles. He moved around, but stayed in the pocket quite often. Bradley did block more shots with his gloves than I expected which allowed him to not only keep the fight competitive, but also avoid serious damage when Pacquiao had his bursts of activity.
Entering the bout, we all knew Bradley had great heart. Something I wasn't sure about was his chin. Bradley has a better chin than I expected. Bradley definitely was not the victim of a one punch knockout as I thought he would be. He ate some shots that hurt in the fourth round, but did not go down. That being said, I would probably still pick Pacquiao by stoppage in a rematch. However, instead of a one punch knockout, I'd pick an accumulation stoppage. Pacquiao could have finished off Bradley in round four with more aggression and a more risky approach - two things I think we would see from Pacquiao in a rematch.
As expected one of Bradley’s biggest problems was his lack of power. He was able to land some decent shots, but they had little to no effect on Pacquiao. Bradley did work the body well, but the lack of power did little to discourage Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s low activity seemed to be more a sign of age than Bradley keeping him honest. This was evident when Pacquiao had his bursts of energy. Bradley simply could not keep Pacquiao away. Bradley is fortunate that Pacquiao was not fighting for one to two minutes a round. Pacquiao walked through the punches and attacked when he felt like it. It only figures to be worse in the rematch when Pacquiao will be more aggressive and more motivated.
HBO and others have been trumping the punch stat numbers via CompuBox. That is a very dangerous thing to do. CompuBox employs two operators. Each operator watches one of the two fighters and presses a button when a punch is landed. There are different buttons for different punches. There is a button for a jab, missed jab, power punch, and missed power punch (a power punch being any punch that is not a jab). CompuBox, unsurprisingly, is prone to human error and can be quite wrong. It also fails to give a proper reading on the power of the punch and how clean it landed. Pick a round in the fight and count the punches yourself and you will see how difficult it can be and how CompuBox can be off.
Not only do I feel bad for Pacquiao getting jobbed in this fight, I also feel for Bradley. It is not his fault the judges scored the bout as they did. You can’t expect him to come out and say the judges messed up and he lost. If Bradley did, he could forget about getting a decision in Vegas and possibly other cities as well. Bradley is a good guy and does not deserve the backlash some are throwing at him.
When a head scratching, bad decision is handed down in boxing, conspiracy theories are not far behind. There are four big theories I have heard. One is that Bob Arum wanted to pass the torch from an old fighter in Pacquiao to a young fighter in Bradley. Under Arum’s watch, we have seen older fighters lose questionable to controversial decisions to younger fighters. Another theory is that Arum was running out of opponents for Pacquiao so a Bradley win guaranteed two future Pacquiao bouts – the rematch and the rubber match. A third theory is that Arum does not want Pacquiao to face Mayweather due to the bad blood of when Mayweather left Top Rank years ago. The final conspiracy theory I heard was that Pacquiao’s contract was set to expire and he was ready to walk to pursue a bout against Mayweather. By losing, Pacquiao now needs to re-sign with Arum to force the rematch.
Do I believe any of the theories? No. That’s not to say I would be shocked if we find out one of them to be true in the future. I just don’t see the evidence to support any of them to the point where I would lend credence to the theories. I would not be surprised if we found out Arum tries to pass the torch from Pacquiao to Bradley, but I have no reason to believe it is true. The opponent theory is interesting and maybe the most plausible, but I have heard nothing to make me believe it is true other than speculation. I mean, Juan Manuel Marquez is sitting there waiting for a fourth bout and the third bout was so controversial that a fourth meeting would seem to have been an option. With respect to the third theory, it is no secret Arum hates Mayweather and is not all that interested in putting Pacquiao in a bout against Mayweather. However, there are a number of other ways to avoid that match without harming your cash cow so I doubt that theory is true. The final theory is the one I know the least about. Finding out information on a boxing contract is harder than figuring out some of the scorecards from this bout. Previously, when Pacquiao was a free agent, it seemed like he signed contracts with a number of promoters including Golden Boy Promotions. I feel like if Pacquiao’s contract was going to expire, we would have heard something pre-fight about negotiations to re-sign or the fact that this could be his last bout with Top Rank, but we heard neither.
Now, I am not ruling out these conspiracies as one could be true. However, I have no reason to believe them to be true with the information I have. So, what do I think happened? I think a few things influenced the judges to improperly score this bout. First, I think Pacquiao’s sporadic work rate was held against him. Pacquiao was taking minutes off during rounds and storming back to win them in the last minute. I think the judges simply thought Bradley was controlling the action and doing more when in reality he wasn’t. I also think Bradley performed much better than the judges, and myself, anticipated. However, I scored the fight straight up, in my opinion, while I think the judges scored Bradley some rounds on the basis of him performing better than expected rather than outperforming Pacquiao. Finally, though punch stats say differently, I feel like Bradley threw more punches. I think the judges were influenced by the work rate and ignored the clean punching, effective aggressiveness, and ring generalship.
I have heard some people including Bob Arum call for open scoring. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the judges’s scorecards would be read aloud at the beginning of each round. Let me tell you now that open scoring is a horrible idea. There is some open scoring done. Sometimes the WBC does partial open scoring by announcing the judges’ scores after rounds 4 and 8. I hate this idea. In a vast majority of bouts, it allows a fighter who knows he is ahead to play keep away for the remainder of the bout. We have seen it quite often where a fighter builds a lead, knows he has the lead, and runs for the rest of the fight.
This would only be magnified when fighters get scores after every round. It would also allow fighters to take rounds off instead of having a sense of urgency in each round. It would take away the drama of truly close rounds that could go either way. There are many bouts where the rounds are so close you can’t tell which way the judges scored it. This leads to classic bouts as fighters leave it all on the table not knowing how the close rounds were scored. We would lose a number of these type fights. Why would a fighter risk a lead? Most importantly, it would take away the drama at the end of a realistically close fight that could have gone either way. Unless the bout is within a point going into the 12th, everyone would already know the winner. Forget about the fighter trailing getting a shot at a late stoppage win. It would be more of a track meet than a boxing bout. That or we would see the old four corners play in basketball. In short, it would be boring, ugly, and sap all of the drama out of the late stages of the fight.
Not to make light of a horrible decision, but Juan Manuel Marquez has to be furious at this decision. You could argue he deserved all three bouts over Pacquaio and lost three decisions. What you can’t argue is that Marquez came closer to beating Pacquiao than Bradley. Marquez has to be sick to his stomach.
So, is boxing dead, like many are saying, because of this decision? No. The hardcore boxing fans will be back for more. The casual fans will once again leave the sport until the next big fight where they would have forgotten all about this decision or decided to look past it because a big fight is on. If we get Bradley-Pacquiao II, casual fans will be back because there is nothing better than a story of revenge and the righting of a wrong. Boxing has always had a black eye and always will. What boxing also has is drama, guts, and glory. Boxing will be just fine.
As for the HBO bias I often talk about and spoke about above, here is a nice video that shows it in full effect. Just don’t take me posting this video as an opinion or proof that Bradley won the fight. I am simply adding this video to illustrate the HBO bias. Don’t let your ears fool your eyes.