Although I enjoy boxing, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the sport, mostly because I’m much more into MMA and spend too much time following that rather than boxing.
But any time either Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao fights, any fight fan is obligated to tune in. Which is what I did for last night’s fight between Pacquiao and Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, ostensibly contested for the WBO Welterweight title.
But in reality, it was a fight designed so Manny Pacquiao could rebound from some disappointing performances by putting on a dominant display against a young, talented, but ultimately overmatched opponent. Over the course of twelve rounds, this is exactly what happened.
To virtually any observer, it would have been clear that Manny Pacquaio had – in fact – not lost the fight. He landed the cleaner, harder punches throughout the entire fight. He wobbled Bradley on numerous occasions.
With the exception of rounds 8-11, he outworked him. He was the faster, more aggressive fighter throughout most of the fight. Unless believe fights are won by getting punched in the face more than the other guy, Manny Pacquaio won more rounds than he lost.
Except he didn’t on two of the three judges’ scorecards. How this is possible, I’m still not sure. I was so assured Pacquiao had won I turned the fight off prior to the decision.
When I saw the various “WTF” statuses on Facebook and went to check the result, I did so thinking Pacquiao had won by erroneously small margin. It still hadn’t crossed my mind he might have lost!
This fight was meant to build Pacquiao’s aura back up after a rough performance against Juan Manuel Marquez that many, myself included, thought he lost. Was it his calves that had been bothering him? Was it the crazy life he was living? The partying, drinking and cockfighting that he had claimed to rid himself of prior to this camp? Whatever it was, it didn’t look to be a factor last night.
Pacquiao probably lost the first round, mostly because he didn’t do much offensively for the first two and a half minutes. But in the last few seconds, he unleashed right jabs and left straights at a speed Bradley was simply unprepared for.
That set the tone for the rest of the fight. In the next few rounds, Pacquiao dominated. He repeatedly landed hard shots that wobbled Bradley and sapped him of his speed and movement.
Prior to round 7, Bradley looked as though he was in a daze; he hadn’t been knocked down, but he looked about as competitive as a chinchilla against a steamroller (if, for some reason, that strikes you as competitive, you should not be allowed to judge a boxing match. Or own small rodents).
But Bradley found his second wind in the seventh. His movement returned, he opened up on offense and he slowly began to counter Pacquiao successfully.
This was possible because Pacquiao had slowed down by this point, and wasn’t throwing as many punches. But despite Bradley’s second life, the next few rounds remained extremely close. I might have given two or three to Bradley, but no more.
In the 12th round, Bradley fought valiantly but was caught by a number of clean shots from Pacquiao in the final minute, losing the round. It seemed an appropriate microcosm of the fight; a spirited effort from Bradley, but ultimately unable to threaten, let alone overcome, Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao would win a clear decision, and then we could all go back to hoping he’d finally manage to work out a fight with Floyd Mayweather when the latter’s brief prison sentence expires.
Now, that fight – if there ever was a chance of it happening – is as good as dead. I suppose it’s possible it could still happen, but maybe I’m just saying that because I just saw a fighter who clearly won his fight lose.
But I wouldn’t count on it. I don’t think this will diminish Pacquiao’s standing in history; no one who knows boxing will consider this an actual loss. But it’s a shame nonetheless.
Boxing is a dying sport. Between the rise of MMA, the dearth of heavyweight talent, and the cumbersome business model that prevents fights such as Pacquiao-Mayweather from getting made, boxing has enough trouble already.
To see one of its top two stars get robbed in such a manner won’t help improve the image of boxing as a corrupt sport fading into cultural obscurity. Manny Pacquiao didn’t lose last night. Boxing did.