For a sport with such a rich tradition, it has been extremely sad to see the way that boxing has fallen downhill over the past decade. The saddest part of it all has been that the fall and the continued problems recovering from that fall have been self-inflicted from those within the boxing world.
Saturday night turned out to be no different.
The problem? It shouldn't have happened.
To have given this fight to Bradley you would have been either somebody who hates Pacquiao, someone who was looking for a “pay back judgment” after the supposed controversy surrounding the result of Pacquiao/Marquez III, or you were on the take like two of the three judges probably were.
This writer hates the idea that he has to go to conspiracy theories when the fighter he believed won didn't get the win, but it seemed so cut and dry by fight's end that anything other than stupidity or corruption just doesn't seem like a good enough explanation for this.
The fight itself was a good one, a proper follow-up to last month's Mayweather/Cotto brawl. And in several ways, the two fights were similar. Both fights had megastars taking on known fighters, but fighters not on the same level. And in both fights, the underdog gave the megastar a great fight before falling in defeat. Even Bradley himself was quoted by Bob Arum, when the two quickly conversed after the fight, as saying that he wasn't quite good enough to get the win.
The reason Bradley thought this was because he wasn't good enough to get the win. Bradley gave Pacquiao a great fight, and showed his critics
(this writer being one of them) that he was good enough to be on the big stage.
Bradley was never dominated by Pacquiao during the fight, but at the same time, he was never doing enough to clearly win rounds. He was busy
and landing some pitter-patter for the majority of the round in most rounds, but Pacquiao's last minute rallies round after round produced more effective and better landed shots than anything Bradley had done in the previous two minutes of those respective rounds. On several occasions, Pacquiao was even able to stun and get Bradley on wobbly legs during these rallies.
Round four best personified the closeness of the fight. This was the first round of the fight where Pacquiao's late rallies came into play. It was a round that Bradley may have been on his way to winning had it not been for a surge that saw Pacquiao land 21 power shots and steal the round. But the round ended with both men going toe-to-toe and punch-for-punch, getting the pro-Pacquiao crowd into a real fury and preparing them for the competitive fight they would get.
Bradley and his corner claimed that they were working uphill almost the whole way, citing a fractured foot in round four. The only possible explanation for this would be when Pacquiao caused Bradley to stumble back in the round after stepping on his foot. Past that, it's hard to believe that Bradley was able to move as well as he did for eight rounds with that kind of injury to one of his feet. It does make the win seem like that much more to the people who buy that claim, but it seems like adding on to something that doesn't need to be embellished.
There were major questions on fight-night about Pacquiao's focus, and it all traced back to a basketball game. Sports fans are well aware that Saturday night the Miami Heat reached their second straight NBA finals with a win over the Boston Celtics in game seven of the eastern conference finals. On Friday, Bob Arum (promoter of the fight) announced that the fight would not begin until the basketball game had finished, if it ended up becoming an issue.
The game ended up finishing on time, but because Pacquiao, a huge basketball fan, was watching the game intently, the fight was delayed anyway because Pacquiao had not even been to his dressing room to get his hands wrapped until after the game. This was followed by a brief moment where Pacquiao needed a few minutes on a treadmill to get stretched out and ready to fight.
The fact that Pacquiao lost may give weight to the notion that he wasn't focused, but if you watched the fight you could clearly see that Pacquiao's focus was not only there, but it wasn't different from any other Manny Pacquiao fight.
What this decision means is more money for Bradley, more money for Pacquiao, more money for Bob Arum, and a black eye for the sport of boxing. There will be a rematch, and it'll make a ton of money, and Pacquiao will probably win again, but that's beside the point.
There have been plenty of outright robberies courtesy of boxing judges in the sport, and plenty in recent years. But as long as those decisions are relegated to fights in small arenas, the public at-large doesn't really care; the news to this group of people is more about when a mixed martial arts fight features the same kind of robbery via judges.
Why? Because MMA overtook boxing a long time ago as the combat sport for America.
If there is one silver lining (and it's a big if) to this whole thing it's that because this type of robbery took place on a major pay-per-view in a major fight for the sport, people will actually take notice.
True boxing fans really hope so.
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