It was over. Everyone was waiting for the decision but there wasn’t much anxiety; Manny Pacquiao seemed to dominate the fight. It was just a matter of formalizing a decision everyone had come to in their heads: Pacquiao would remain welterweight champion.
Well…not everybody. Two judges, Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, scored the fight 115-113 for Bradley. The last, Jerry Roth, gave Pacquiao a 115-113 win but it was not to stave off the shocking split decision.
Most observers watching the fight were surprised…and dismayed. Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, said he was ashamed of boxing amidst a selection of unprintable expletives. Dan Rafael, ESPN’s top boxing writer, penned a column entitled, “What Were They Watching?” And nearly all ringside observers, including Rafael, Arum, HBO’s unofficial scorer, and Sports Illustrated, scored the fight for Pacquiao.
So, how did this happen? If the decision was so shockingly unexplainable, how can it be explained?
Although Pacquiao won the fight, the decision was less clear-cut than many are making it out to be in hindsight. Pacquiao dominated the early rounds and should have put Bradley down when he had him on the ropes in the fourth round. Bradley even had an injured foot at the time and looked reach to hit the canvas.
But, Pacquiao let him stay alive and Bradley crept back into the fight while landing a number of well-placed jabs and making Pacquiao look tired by the late rounds. By the final bell, Pacquiao had landed more punches with more accuracy but looked spent at the end while Bradley, who was statistically less impressive, looked more fresh. That last impression, combined with his work in the later rounds, may have left too strong an impression on the judges.
And fans were left, watching openmouthed, as Bradley became champion.
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