Here is what I tweeted after the bell ending 12 rounds between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday:
"8-4 [Pacquiao]. At least Bradley looked interested all 12 rounds. Can't say same for Pacman."
I just want to make clear off the top my scorecard for Saturday's controversial fight
, because some of what I'm going to write may annoy Pacquiao Nation.
Your man won the fight against Bradley, no doubt about it. But he abetted the misguided robbers just a little bit.
And for the crowd that watches two to three fights a year and said it was the worst decision ever, you kind of have to watch a bit more boxing than that to be entitled to such a claim. It wasn't even the worst decision in the last year (Erislandy Lara-Paul Williams, Richard Abril-Brandon Rios), but of course having such a verdict on a big stage isn't great for the sport.
Let's try and make a token attempt at defending the indefensible, or at least how it could have occurred.
Pacquiao won four rounds emphatically, Bradley perhaps one. But, barring a knockdown, the system in boxing rewards the same score (10-9) to a clearcut round as to a debatable round.
Boxing bouts aren't judged as a whole, they are judged in separate units. There is no carry over from a previous round. Also, advocate all day long for Pacquiao, but do so without quoting the punch stats you see on the TV. They do a disservice to the casual boxing fan because they're not official in the least and they're misleading: a guy can rack up a plus-20 in one round and a plus-1 in another round and legitimately be 1-1 in rounds because this isn't amateur boxing - it's not always about making contact more times.
Another problem is that boxing judges in the 1980s were discouraged to score even rounds after some ridiculous abuses in that regard. But discouraged shouldn't mean they be banned, and that's effectively what has happened over the years, to the sport's detriment. It creates unfair two-point swings in occasional rounds that should be called even, in my opinion.
It's clear that Bradley was given rounds on the official scorecard
that were quite close, one or two of which probably should have been called even. Just as in his previous fight Pacquiao was clearly given the nod in some even-ish rounds with Juan Manuel Marquez.
For whatever reason, Pacquiao took the first minute off in about nine rounds. He took the first two minutes off in about six. Even in a couple rounds he clearly won, his work was primarily done in the final 30 secons. It was like Leonard-Hagler in that regard, expect he wasn't rewarded like Sugar Ray in that 1987 fight.
He also cruised, cruised, cruised over the second half of the fight. Bradley earned three of those four rounds I gave him from round nine onwards. This wasn't quite Oscar De La Hoya late against Felix Trinidad - Pacquiao wasn't backpedalling, but he wasn't doing a heckuva lot either.
Nevada judges in recent years have (overly) rewarded aggression and activity. Bradley came to fight for three minutes in nearly every round.
Then there was the HBO factor. Most of you watched the fight through them. Jim Lampley - who served as executive producer of the doc series on Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach - has pretty much abandoned his job title as blow-by-blow man to serve as a third analyst.
So what you get are four guys (including judge Harold Lederman) having a conversation and working out a narrative. The crew is often notoriously bad, compared to someone like Al Bernstein, at noticing subtle shifts in the goings on in the ring because they're too busy outpontificating one another.
In the second round, referee Robert Byrd allowed the fighters to keep going on the inside, with one hand tied up each. Bradley pounded Pacquiao to the body repeatedly and once to the head. Lampley and HBO basically said ho-hum, but those were scoring punches.
On other occasions, some effective work of Bradley's was completely ignored because the punches didn't have the sting to hurt Pacquiao. Whereas the Filipino's best punches drove Bradley back and were easily viewable.
I have a problem with the decision, but I also have a problem with Lederman's scorecard of 119-109. Pacquiao gave away rounds on this night, the best I could see him winning was 117-111.
All this said, Bradley was there to be hit and Pacquiao did hit him often from rounds three to six. I really felt like Pacquiao should have stormed out in the seventh because he had an opportunity for a TKO victory in my eyes; Bradley looked vulnerable at the bell to end the sixth. But Pacquiao didn't take advantage.
This just isn't the same Pacquiao who walked through the very capable, sturdy Miguel Cotto in late 2009. He's still quite good, but that Pacquaio stops Bradley in about four or five.
Pacquiao in his last three fights has too often reverted to his older style of waiting on the left hand, not putting the investment in with the right or bodywork to set up that punch. And the defensive gains that seemed to be occurring not too long ago (which could have been affected by fighting fairly slow fighters) are gone. He's not that difficult to hit.
He didn't lose the decision, but he's kind of lost the plot. It's one thing to keep his trainer Roach on Pacquiao time, but to hold the viewing public up like he did Saturday was inexcusable. He can't do treadmill work and watch the Celtics at the same time? And, as Morgan Campbell
pointed out, who stretches their calves on the treadmill?Boxing, everyone's favourite whipping boy
A popular sentiment on social media in the fight's aftermath from fans was that they were done with boxing, boxing's a joke, this is why people watch MMA, etc.
Stop it. Everyone says this every time there's a bad decision. This decision was bad, but not as egregious as Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield I or Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez.
People watch MMA because it's tapped into things, consciously and by accident, that have become popular in the last generation, in a way boxing can't or hasn't: increased martial arts participation, the popularity of pro wrestling and blood-and-guts video games, reduced attention spans, among other factors.
The fact is, sports fans and sportswriters who aren't really fans to begin with are quite taken to delivering their sermons from the mount about boxing. That's a sport in itself.
I'll be willing to bet our most viewed non-hockey story at cbcsports.ca this weekend will be the AP report on the fight. If Pacquiao or Bradley wins in a sensational action bout, the hits are half as much.
Many want boxing to deliver the black eyes and controversies, but otherwise be gone. They don't want to spend much time anymore on the great stories and happenings that occur in the sport.
To quote boxing writer Coyote Duran on Twitter:Note to casual fight fans: Don't act like aficionados because you hated tonight's decision. Where were you for Corrales-Castillo I?
For the uninitiated, Diego Corrales beat Jose Luis Castillo in a 2005 fight that was more transcendent a sporting experience than 99 per cent of what's transpired in the entire universe of sport in the last 10 years. If you fancy yourself an expert or fan of all sports, you should have seen it by now.
Similarly, Jason Abelson from Toronto:"[Crappy] thing is, everyone is taking a kick at boxing's corpose, but next week we'll get a sweet fight in [Andy Lee-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.], & no one will see it."
There is something so visceral about watching two men fight that it inspires paroxysms of rage when the judges get it wrong. Casual fans are investing and projecting so much into these two or three times per year that they watch the sport on pay-per-view.
Unfortunately, boxing doesn't have a system where the amount you pay to watch gets dispersed throughout the year, like most other sports. So people feel it more acutely when the outcome is unsatisfactory.
So you have a right to be pissed off at the decision. But by God, sports fans, you need to cop to your own hypocrisy a little bit.
Specifically, hardly anyone threatens to turn their back when:
There's bad judging in MMA, suspendable hits aren't called penalties in the NHL, umpires from the same crew that can't agree on a strike zone in MLB, blown replay scenarios occur in the NFL on a weekly basis, star-driven NBA officiating affects outcomes, soccer is rocked by a match-fixing scandal every other year, the Tour de France is rocked by a drug scandal every other year, etc.
March Madness ratings have certainly been affected by the almost comical litany of corrupt practices and above-the-law coaches.
"[Bad decisions] are part of the game, we accept that," Pacquiao said after the bout.Fixing assumptions
My Twitter feed must be a big mass of confusion for those unfortunate enough to follow me - a mix of boxing, hockey and tennis and hit-and-miss humour.
So it was with great amusement that I read the tweets of the boxing experts from the hockey part of my world, more than a couple who brought up the word "fix." To put it in terms they would understand, it would be like the NHL conspiring to get the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup.
It makes no sense. Bradley can't draw flies to a barn. He certainly isn't going to inspire big fish gamblers, either. Not sure anyone's going to believe a rematch is a pick 'em deal.
The other dumb thing people said was that this effectively killed any chance of a Pacquiao superfight with Floyd Mayweather.
If nearly everybody thought Pacquiao really won the fight, how would that be so? All I've been hearing from the MMA crowd for years is that boxing people are too hung on up win-and-loss records and that the sport should be about staging great fights.
So then how is the matchup less compelling? Maybe it's a smidge less lucrative, but it would still tower above all but the Super Bowl. You could make the case that the fact that Mayweather looked more vulnerable than ever against Cotto last month, plus Pacquiao's recent problems, make it a more intriguing bout.
Bob Arum said on Saturday he was never more ashamed to be a part of boxing. In my 30 years of following boxing, this was probably about the fifth time the innocent naif Arum has said that.
He also said he could make a "ton of money" with a Bradley rematch. Literally speaking perhaps, but he can make a "ton of money" for Pacquiao vs. Anyone. A rematch with Bradley is less lucrative for Pacquiao than a few other options.
(Also, Arum is not technically the promoter of both guys as has been reported. He has an option on a future Bradley fight).
Pacquiao has the power to not be a puppet, so if you believe this is something a promoter could orchestrate, it's a pretty foolhardy strategy.
This is where the newly devoted Pacquiao
needs to step up. Enough with being the obedient, faithful servant of God Arum. Just because there's a mandatory clause with Bradley doesn't mean that fight has to happen. Call the shots, the people come to see you, not Arum.
The assumption is that Mayweather will come out jail laughing his ass off over Pacquiao losing.
Maybe. But there's real P.R. points to be made here for Mayweather if he comes out and says Pacquiao got handed a bogus loss, but he wants to show him what a real loss looks like.
For his part, Pacquiao turns 34 in December. Even if he doesn't get a 50-50 purse split, Manny should do a Mayweather fight as soon as possible. It still does huge bank, he does have a little something to prove despite this robbery, and if he wins he's back on top of the world.
And this was all a bad dream.
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