Ripoff: Bradley Decisions Pacquiao?
There’s no denying the sinking feeling that boxing has not only lost its way, but that it doesn’t even care that it has lost its way…
“Boxing is a great sport and a dirty business.”—Former heavyweight champion Ken Norton
In one of the worst decisions in the long and contentious history of boxing, three Las Vegas judges, aka the three blind mice, aka The Three Stooges, awarded Timothy Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) a split-decision victory, while robbing Manny Pacquiao (54-2-2, 38 KOs) of his WBO welterweight title, in a fight which he clearly did not win.
Perhaps we should be used to this by now. Lord knows we’ve seen it happen enough times that it should no longer come as a surprise. Yet there’s no denying the sinking feeling that boxing has not only lost its way, but that it doesn’t even care that it has lost its way. What then does boxing care about? I’m not sure I have the answer.
This has been an especially painful year for the sport, what with crappy decision following crappy decision, what with big fights biting the dust because champions tested positive for steroids. Under the circumstances it would seem logical, assuming any thought of self-preservation was in play, that the powers that be would do all they could to try to restore credibility to a sport whose credibility has been questioned more times than a pathological liar taking a polygraph. But that would make sense, and sense has no part in the theater of the unexpected, which is also the theater of the absurd, which is also the theater of the grotesque.
If it hasn’t already started, there will be more justification crowding the airwaves and internet than you can toss a stick at or avoid. Excuses and clichés will despoil the silence like canned music at Symphony Hall. “Boxing is subjective,” we’ll hear again and again. “It’s difficult to score a boxing match.” While that may be true in the larger scheme of things, let’s be real and stop kidding ourselves. What we’re dealing with is something other than subjectivity or a lack thereof. It’s not even incompetence. We’ve witnessed something sinister, not just another instance where an obvious victory was denied the true winner, and mealy-mouthed explanations no longer suffice.
What went down Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was highway robbery, impure and simple. Anyone with eyes in their heads and conscience in their soul knows that Pacquaio outclassed Bradley in every way imaginable. He landed more punches. He landed the more powerful shots. He dictated the pace and tempo of the fight. He won 10 rounds of the 12-round fight. In every category that exists, and even in categories that don’t exist, Pacquiao’s superiority was plain to see to those who were willing to see it.
Bradley put up a good fight. He ate straight lefts all night long and never went down. He deserves credit for that. What he doesn’t deserve credit for is winning a fight that he lost by a wide margin. It’s possible, however unlikely, that the judges were swayed more by Bradley’s flurries than by Pacquiao’s thudding shots. But I’m not buying it, not for a minute, not for any price.
Both Bradley and Pacquiao seemed less shocked by the decision than the thousands at the MGM Grand or the millions watching at home. It might be that they know the serpentine ins and outs of the fight game better than we do.
Bradley seemed surprisingly unsurprised at the verdict, as though he knew all along that if he didn’t go out on his shield, victory was his whether he earned it or not.
“I thought I won the fight,” he said to a chorus of boos from the crowd. “I didn’t think he was as good as everybody says he is. I didn’t feel a lot of his power.”
And Pacquiao, curiously, seemed as unsurprised as Bradley.
“I do my best,” he said, “and I guess my best wasn’t good enough. I’ve been watching the tapes of his fights. Tonight, he never hurt me. Most of his punches hit my arms. I don’t know what happened. I have no problem. I’ll be ready for the rematch.”
The only person who feigned surprise was the promoter Bob Arum, who gets to promote the rematch of a fight that doesn’t warrant it at the same time as he sidesteps, yet again, the possibility of Pacquiao ever fighting Floyd Mayweather.
“Can you believe that?” said Arum with indignation. “I had it 10-2! After I got into the ring after the fight, I went over to Bradley and said, ‘You did very well.’ He said, ‘I tried hard, but I couldn’t beat the guy.’ This is crazy. You talk about killing boxing?”
Then Arum, to muddy the waters even further, declared, “This is a death knell for boxing—and I’m going to make a ton of money on the rematch.”
Boxing is dying a death by a thousand cuts, and this one just nicked the jugular.