Timothy Bradley scored a split decision over Manny Pacquiao that his fans deemed shockingly bizarre.
The unbeaten American, outfought and outgunned by Pacquiao throughout much of the 12-round bout, took a surprise decision and snatched the WBO welterweight crown from the Filipino superstar before a dejected predominantly pro-Pacquiao crowd at the MGM Grand.
Bradley, who hurt his ankle early in the fight and ended up in a wheelchair after the bout, couldn’t have made it without the help of two of the three judges whose minds, critics believed, were perhaps somewhere else, far outside the arena packed with a lively crowd of 14,206 on Saturday evening here and millions more all over the world.
Pacquiao, fighting like the vintage champion that he was in search of a convincing win after a lackluster performance the last time out, put the pressure on Bradley and was ahead for fans and fight experts’ scorecards.
But the judges saw it otherwise.
Jerry Roth gave it to Pacquiao, 115-113, but C.J. Ross and Duane Ford handed it to Bradley, 115-113, for the split decision.
“It is so bizarre. It is unfathomable,” said Top Rank chief Bob Arum in the post-fight press conference.
Upon hearing the decision, the eyes of the ageless promoter almost popped out of his head. He faced the press box, his arms spread on the ropes, wide-eyed.
Arum was surprised like he’s never been in his life, and it looked like he wanted to leave the ring as soon as possible.
“I have never been ashamed to be associated to the sport of boxing as I am tonight. This is ridiculous. This is absurdity,” he also said, adding that as stipulated in the fight contract, there will be a big rematch. The date already set for Nov. 10.
“I want a rematch. I want a rematch,” said Pacquiao.
Even the winning score for Pacquiao was questioned and contested because it was hard to believe that the fight was really that close.
After ring announcer Michael Buffer read Roth’s winning score for Pacquiao, there was a hush from the crowd. Then Buffer read the scores of Ross and Ford, and after brief pause, he announced Bradley as “the new” welterweight champion of the world.
The crowd, mostly Pacquiao fans, instantly reacted with boos that must have been heard along the famous Strip. Those inside the arena, except for the judges, were stunned, even American mediamen who had Pacquiao winning convincingly.
Pacquiao fans froze from their seats.
“This is the worst boxing decision I’ve seen in my life,” said the former mayor of Manila and one of Pacquiao’s biggest supporters Lito Atienza, on his way out of the arena.
Pacquiao dominated the fight that lasted 12 rounds, giving away more than a couple of rounds at most. He had Bradley in trouble at times, like in the fourth round when the American staggered. But he failed to bring Bradley down even once.
Still, it doesn’t mean that Pacquiao had no right to win the fight. The punch stats were all for the Filipino fighter who hadn’t lost a fight in seven years and three months, when he dropped a bloody decision against Erik Morales in the same MGM ring.
Bradley said he got his second wind in the sixth round, and started to move more, landing occasional punches to Pacquiao’s head and body. In the last three rounds, Bradley became more aggressive because he said that’s what his trainer asked him to do.
He also said he sprained his left ankle as early as the second round. He showed up for the post-fight presser on a wheelchair, and had to leave early to be taken to the hospital for X-Rays.
“I was told by my corner that if I win the final round I would win the fight,” said Bradley, who remained undefeated in 29 fights. He was the WBO junior-welterweight champion, and moved up to challenge Pacquiao.
On his wheelchair, Bradley said he was still “shocked” and didn’t know what to say. But felt that he deserved the victory.
“What do you want me to do?” he replied to one question. “There were judges and two of them felt I won the fight. I’m the new champion. We did it baby. I’m the new champion. Let’s do it again.”
The 33-year-old Pacquiao took only his fourth loss in his career (54-4-2) and how this loss would affect him will be worth watching. He fought a good fight, and was so much in control he often challenged Bradley to come in. He smiled a lot inside the ring.
Pacquiao just couldn’t believe it.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said in an interview inside the ring. “I did my best but my best wasn’t good enough I guess. I have no problem with the rematch. I will be ready.”
Pacquiao said Bradley never hurt him during the fight, because most of those punches he was able to block with his arms.
Did he feel he won the fight?
“No doubt,” he said.