A closer look at Pacquiao-Bradley reveals how awful (or not) the decision really was
By:Mike Sloan: It was in between rounds ten and eleven when I typed in my notes, “Bradley needs a miracle knockout to win this.” This was from my seat live inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena with unbiased, tunnel vision-like eyes when I typed that. In fact, my pre-fight prediction of Timothy Bradley actually beating Manny Pacquiao but officially being screwed out of victory was out the window and the small amount of money I placed on Bradley at the MGM Race & Sportsbook had turned into a worthless scrap of paper.
Pacquiao had controlled much of the fight and he landed far more effective punches; several times throughout their encounter he hurt Bradley. Many of Manny’s punches were moving Bradley whereas whenever “Desert Storm” hit the Filipino he barely even blinked.
There were several rounds in the contest where Bradley boxed beautifully for the first two minutes and appeared on his way toward winning the frame. However, he’d lose those rounds when Pacquiao would come alive during the final minute and land several clean, hard shots. It wasn’t as cheap a tactic as “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s against Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but it was a gameplan that worked well.
When the two teams converged in the ring before Michael Buffer began to announce the final scores, virtually nobody in the arena thought that Bradley was going to have his hand raised. In fact, the general consensus leading up to the fight was that Pacquiao would be given the win if it was close because, after all, he narrowly escaped losing thrice to Juan Manuel Marquez. But at least the battles in that historic trilogy were about as close as they come. Also, Pacquiao is the huge star and inLas Vegas, it seems as though the huge stars get the breaks more often than not.
On Saturday night, it appeared by all accounts that the duel wasn’t even remotely close. Most ringside observers felt that Pacquiao had won by such a large margin that it was almost pointless for Buffer to read the official scores. But when the Hall of Famer read that CJ Ross scored the bout 115-113 in favor of Bradley, the stench of foul play and/or incompetence spread throughout the arena like a swarm of bees. Jerry Roth’s score of 115-113 for Pacquiao returned some semblance of rationale to the aftermath, but when it was announced that perennially inept judge Duane Ford scored it for Bradley 115-113, it was as if everybody in the MGM just found that their car had been keyed.
Team Bradley’s collective body language when the final bell sounded was not one that was confident of victory. They were proud of their man for fighting so bravely and taking everything the mighty Pacquiao threw his way, but to think that they had actually won the fight? If they truly felt that Bradley did enough to dethrone Pacquiao, then David Copperfield had better shred his magician’s license because even he wouldn’t be able to hide those thoughts and emotions that well.
Bradley even stated immediately following the bout (and at the post-fight press conference from his wheelchair) that he needs to watch the fight on tape to justify his belief that he won. If that doesn’t reveal the mindset of someone who isn’t quite sure he deserved to win, then what is?
Per the norm, none of the three ringside judges, Ross, Roth or Ford, were available for comment or be interrogated after the fight. According to veteran writer Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, Ford spoke to him on Sunday and stood by his score but Ross never returned any phone calls. It would have been nice for the world of boxing to at least hear from the horse’s mouths exactly why they scored the bout the way they did. But then again, this is the Nevada Athletic Commission we’re talking about and the judges are never allowed to speak to the media.
A thorough investigation of the media who were live at ringside and/or in the media room watching the fight was conducted and I found one person who scored the fight a draw. Most of those I spoke with had Pacquiao clobbering Bradley points-wise or at least winning. All who had the fight close said that “many of the rounds were very close and could have gone either way,” but they still had the Filipino winning. I spoke to 23 members of the media who were not photographers (it’s difficult to shoot and score at the same time) and all but one favored Pacquiao. There were rumors of a few members of press row who actually gave the fight to Bradley but those individuals were not discovered by me before I left the MGM.
Since the fight was so controversial and it was such a huge event for the world of boxing, I decided that I absolutely needed to watch the fight again to ensure that my initial score of 117-111 for Pacquiao was justified or that maybe some of those rounds were closer than I thought. I stayed up very late Sunday night without interruption and in complete silence and watched the fight again.
Admittedly, the fight was actually much closer than how I saw it ringside and some of those rounds were extremely close (my notes from Saturday reinforce that opinion) and some of those rounds I can see giving to Bradley. After watching it again, my own personal score of the fight actually changed; it went from 117-111 for Pacquiao to 116-112 for… Pacquiao. I wound up giving Bradley one extra round. Initially I gave Bradley the first, eighth, and tenth rounds. Bradley came on strong over the last quarter of the fight and boxed beautifully and Pacquiao slowed down. Many of those I spoke with gave Bradley the final three or four rounds because Pacquiao wasn’t as aggressive, which allowed the American to steal those rounds.
However, I only wound up giving Bradley one more of those championship rounds; the eleventh. I still gave him the first, eighth and tenth and after the replay I gave him the eleventh. I almost gave him the final stanza of the contest as well because the twelfth was extremely close, but even if I had, he still would have lost the fight and my scorecard would have paralleled Roth’s.
At the end of the day regarding the fight itself, looking back at it and reviewing the tape without even a hint of distraction of any sort, it’s still impossible for me to understand how anybody could give Bradley the fight. Yes, I scored it a round closer and I almost gave Bradley another round but he still came up short. I can maybe – and I stress the word maybe – understand someone who scored it draw because Pacquiao did almost what Oscar de la Hoya did against Felix Trinidad. Pacquiao stopped dominating and it appeared as though he stepped on the brakes and coasted for the last four rounds. But to actually believe Bradley won the fight is beyond me and it’s something I simply can’t be convinced of otherwise.
Is Bradley’s win over Pacquiao the worst decision I’ve ever seen? No, not at all. In fact, earlier this year I saw the worst decision I’ve ever seen in Brandon Rios having his hand raised against Richard Abril (inLas Vegas, surprisingly). There have been hundreds upon hundreds of lousy decisions over the years and I’ve seen plenty worse than the one I saw on Saturday night. George Foreman-Shannon Briggs quickly comes to mind, so does Foreman-Axel Schulz, Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield I, Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara, Pernell Whitaker-Jose Luis Ramirez I, Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal I, and obviously Roy Jones-Park Si-Hun in the Olympics (I can’t comment on fights I’ve only read about from 50-plus years ago).
Many have shouted loudly that Saturday’s judging debacle was the worst ever; it’s not. However, Bradley’s victory is certainly among them and it will forever remain in the annals of boxing history as an absolute disgrace. Hopefully this fiasco can open the floodgates and change happens within the NAC. When Marc Ratner was the director of the commission, it was regarded as the finest athletic commission on the planet. It wasn’t perfect, but it had power, it had a great reputation, and scores like these were few and far between.
In the past year alone we’ve been subjected to two of the worst decisions in memory (Rios-Abril and now Bradley-Pacquiao); the horrendous refereeing of Russell Mora in the first Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko fight; Friday’s decision to switch the Mike Lee-Eliseo Durazo fight from four rounds to six, apparently mid-fight without instructing either corner; and countless other fights with horrible scoring from the likes of Lisa Giampa, Patricia Morse Jarman, Ford and Adalaide Byrd.
What needs to happen, if not an entire usurping of the power and control within the NAC is some sort of accountability for these officials. The fighters, promoters, and oftentimes trainers need to and typically have to speak to the media after fights. That’s what press conferences are for, for questions to be asked and answered. When we have atrocious scoring like what we saw on Saturday, there needs to be accountability and these officials should be forced to stand up and answer questions. Whether it’s during the post-fight presser or a live, rehearsed conference call or presser the following Monday from the NAC offices, answers from the officials themselves need to be given. There needs to be some sort of disciplinary actions taken against these judges who oft demonstrate they have no clue what they are doing when judging either boxing, MMA, or Muay Thai. Like Bob Arum said afterward, these judges “are too damned old and we need some new blood” to score these fights.
Hopefully if Bradley and Pacquiao fight again this November, one of the two fighters won’t even need the services of the judges and ends the fight. But if both men go the full twelve rounds, I certainly hope that Ford and Ross aren’t perched ringside. Or Giampa, or Byrd, or Jarman, or most of the other judges paid by the NAC.
You can also contact Mike Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19 or follow him on Twitter @mikesloan19
June 12, 2012