By Jake Donovan
The outcome appeared to be so obvious that many were already pondering Manny Pacquiao’s next move following his 12-round welterweight bout with Tim Bradley on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. There was enough time to kill between the final bell and Michael Buffer’s reading of the official scorecards to take in the 12 rounds of action and assess Pacquiao’s performance and career.
Opinions were already being formed while awaiting the final scores to be read. Some suggested Pacquiao hadn’t looked this good since his Nov. ’09 stoppage win against Miguel Cotto. Others noted the lack of major buzz surrounding the event, wondering if interest in his career had grown a tad stale. And of course, the obligatory hypothetical questions posed on the possibility of a showdown with Floyd Mayweather ever happening.
For all of the questions asked, few if any involved Tim Bradley. It was just naturally assumed that the Californian had suffered the first loss of his career. His lack of marketability was noted in the waning pre-fight buzz compared to previous Pacquiao events. The best guess was that he would simply return to the 140 lb. division, and await whatever notable assignment is offered to him.
Then came the scorecards, and with that a brand new story line. Tim Bradley was the announced winner of the fight. Usually in such shocking upsets, post-fight commentary dissects how the result came about. On this particular occasion, it was instead questioning how the judges came up with this result.
Bradley was moving up in weight to face a man many believed to be no worse than the second best fighter in the world. It was a huge risk for the unbeaten California, though the $5 million payday provided a reward well worth the risk. But this wasn’t a one-and-done catch grab for Bradley; he came to win, to the point of already insisting a rematch was in store for November 10.
The manner in which he began the fight suggested a man with supreme confidence. Bradley opened strong, enjoying periods of success in the first couple of rounds, though the viewing audience favored Pacquiao’s more telling blows.
This would become the theme throughout the fight, though at no point did anyone suspect a scoring controversy would come of the contrast in styles. Bradley attempted to be the aggressor. Pacquiao succeeded in landing more and causing the greater visible damage.
It’s the way the fight was viewed by the majority of fans and writers. One independent poll sought the opinions – and specifically the final scorecards – of 58 boxing media personalities. Nearly 95% of the panel saw the fight the same way as the fans. The scorecards varied anywhere from 115-113 (7 rounds to 5) to 119-109 (11 rounds to 1), but the consensus was that Pacquiao won the fight, with little to no justification for an opposite viewpoint.
Playing the odds, it seems improbable that two of three judges would come up with the same outcome as three out of 58 media members. Yet that’s what took place in the Vegas desert, the location for so many questionable decisions in boxing’s storied yet oft-troubled history.
The irony of the outcome was that it had little effect on the sport’s future.
An investigation was demanded by promoter Bob Arum, but produced no evidence to suggest anything other than incompetence.
Bradley scored the biggest official win of his career, but has yet to have been given a chance to cash in the lottery ticket.
Meanwhile, most of the year-end storylines continue to surround Pacquiao. He still went on to score a mega-million dollar payday, in his fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in December. That event played to a sold out crowd at the very same MGM Grand Arena, and also the year’s second highest grossing pay-per-view total. The fight itself was voted by Boxingscene.com as the best of 2012, and its ending – Marquez scoring a one-punch knockout in the sixth round – also a major part of the year-end awards season.
For the role he played in his June showdown with Bradley, one more storyline is dedicated to Pacquiao during awards season – recognition that he deserved a much better fate than what was decided in the fight recognized by Boxingsscene.com as the Robbery of the Year.
(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)
Tavoris Cloud SD12 Gabriel Campillo – The message through the years has been loud and clear; judges are just not big on Campillo’s fighting style. The former titlist is 6-3-1 in his last 10 bouts, with a very strong case for his deserving to be 10-0 over that stretch. The latest came in February, when he overcame two opening round knockdowns to otherwise hand Cloud a boxing lesson. Two of the three judges felt otherwise, including a 116-110 scorecard that should forever ban judge David Robertson from ringside for any fight beyond club level.
Alexander Povetkin MD12 Marco Huck – What appeared to be a successful heavyweight debut for reigning cruiserweight titlist Huck instead turned into despair as he was denied a major upset over an ill-prepared Povetkin. Huck enjoyed a late surge as Povetkin badly faded down the stretch. However, shoddy officiating on both sides of the ropes proved to be his undoing. Referee Luis Pabon was far too intrusive throughout the contest, nor was Huck shown any love from the three judges, registering no better than a draw on one card in a fight most had him winning anywhere from seven to nine rounds.
James Kirkland DQ10 Carlos Molina –Molina was playing the familiar role of spoiler for more than nine rounds, before getting caught and dropped as the bell sounded to end the 10th round. Referee Jon Schorle lost complete control of the situation, issuing a count while failing to ensure that Kirkland was in a neutral corner, and never informing any of the ringside officials that the round was still ongoing due to the knockdown. Molina’s corner entered the ring, believing the round was over. Schorle offered no warning, just shoving the cornerman out of the ring while exclaiming “Are you f***in’ kidding me?” as he continued the count. The same phrase could best describe the reaction from those in attendance or watching at home on HBO as Molina was moments later handed a disqualification loss in a fight he was winning handily.
Brandon Rios SD12 Richard Abril – The fight was preceded by Rios missing weight for his second consecutive fight. His punishment here was a 10% forfeiture ($45,000) of his $450,000 purse and not being eligible for the $50,000 win bonus offered by Top Rank. Yet it was Abril who was ultimately punished, as his stick and move style wasn’t well received by two of the three judges in a fight where nearly everyone at ringside had the Cuban winning with room to spare. Rios not only gained the underserved win, but his unbeaten record still intact for his Fight of the Year-worthy war with Mike Alvarado later in the year.
Roy Jones SD10 Pawel Glazewski – The fight was the latest piece of evidence that the 43-year old Jones has long been on borrowed time. The former four-division champ was floored and outfought for most of the night against late replacement Glazewski. Such a formula is normally enough for a visiting fighter to be suffer the consequences on the card. In the end, Jones’ name value proved to trump any hometown edge thought to be afforded to Glazewski, who deserved the decision anywhere in the world, especially in his own native Poland.
Marco Huck UD12 Firat Arslan – Huck actually had the audacity to call out Wladimir Klitschko in the days leading up to this fight, insisting that his brief time spent at heavyweight convinced him he was ready for the division’s best. At the end of 12 rounds of cruiserweight action, he wasn’t even ready for the 42-year old Arslan, whose stock skyrocketed and was given full credit by the media in the absence of any love shown from the judges. Huck’s win earned him the dubious distinction of being the only fighter to land on both sides of this year’s entries.
Koki Kameda SD12 Hugo Ruiz – Perhaps worse than the decision itself was the lack of sustained action in this anticipated war in early December. Kameda enjoyed a late surge, but it was almost all Ruiz through the first eight rounds of the fight. The judges felt different, somehow favoring Kameda’s dirty tactics and ability to absorb punishment as Ruiz’ nightmare came true of getting robbed on the road in Japan.
Tomasz Adamek SD12 Steve Cunningham – There were mixed reactions when Adamek was announced as the winner of his June fight with Eddie Chambers. Nearly everyone was on the same side after this one – the judges got it dead wrong. The few who actually had Adamek winning favored his “aggression” to Cunningham’s movement. The rest of the boxing world saw Cunningham deliver a boxing lesson, while Adamek was delivered a Christmas gift three days early. The greatest drawback to this outcome was that it came in NBC’s first boxing telecast in nearly a decade.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox