10 Jun 2012 – Boxing Killed by Split Decision
Here I am, almost two hours after the fight ended, and I still can’t believe it.
Timothy Bradley “beat” Manny Pacquiao after twelve rounds in their WBO welterweight title fight. Two out of the three judges awarded Bradley, the challenger, the win in what is surely one of the most controversial boxing matches of all time.
It’s certainly the one that makes the least sense to me.
The only one that remotely comes close in my mind is the Hagler-Leonard fight from 1987. I saw that fight on television with my father, and though I was all of twelve years old at the time it seemed clear to me (as it did to my dad) that Hagler won that fight.
The Pacquiao-Bradley fight was nothing like the Hagler-Leonard fight.
The Hagler-Leonard fight was close. It even looked like a close contest, with Leonard winning the early rounds, then Hagler coming back stronger and more aggressively the longer the fight went on. Then, as I maintain to this day, it looked to me that Hagler won more rounds, earned more points, by hitting the harder punches, hitting more punches, basically out-working Leonard. In contrast, Leonard held and clinched Hagler far more, tactics that tired and outclassed fighters usually employ to save themselves from getting hit more often that they already are.
I still remember the outrage my twelve year-old self felt when the ring announcer delivered the judges’ scorecards.
But the Pacquiao-Bradley fight…
I’d love to know precisely what criteria boxing judges use when they do their job when the fighters’ fists don’t do the job and deliver a clear-cut decision.
How does one fighter win a particular round?
Is it by the number of punches hit? By that measure, Pacquiao won easily, 253-159. That’s a margin of almost 100 punches over twelve rounds.
Is it by the number of “power punches” hit? By that metric, Pacquiao won easily too, 190-108. That’s a difference of 82 power shots over twelve rounds in Pacquiao’s favor.
The only stat Bradley had the edge over Pacquiao was in punches thrown, 839-751. This might suggest that he was the more aggressive fighter, but this interpretation would only hold true over the last two or three rounds, when Pacquiao had obviously backed off the gas and was basically coasting towards the end. That’s smart boxing in most cases: Why expose yourself to the risk of leaving yourself open to a potential knockout by staying aggressive when you believe you were winning the fight and had earned enough points via rounds won?
Judging just by what my eyes told me, the winner of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight was very clear to see.
Even my baby sister saw it clearly. She said that Pacquiao was completely controlling the pace of the fight. Absolutely true. He was the aggressor for most of the fight.
To be perfectly honest, I had no rooting interest in the fight. In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say that although I am a Filipino just as Pacquiao is, I thought Bradley was going to win this fight. I told friends at work that, and I told my family the same on Saturday hours before the fight.
I simply thought that Bradley would win because he is younger, is a strong fighter, and is probably hungrier than Pacquiao is.
I honestly had no investment, whether emotional or financial (I don’t gamble money on sports – I can’t afford it), in the outcome of this fight. I would have been indifferent no matter who won a fair contest.
But NOTHING irritates me more than something that is unfair and unjust.
And I wasn’t alone, insofar as the Pacquiao-Bradley fight was concerned.
The fans’ reactions, whether we’re talking about the ones who watched live in Las Vegas or the ones who bought the fight at home (no, I didn’t see the fight via pay-per-view), is near unanimous in the condemnation for the judges’ verdict. The split decision was also condemned by every single commentator from the press that I follow on Twitter (for whatever that’s worth).
So many people saw the fight the same way as I saw it.
The wrong man won the fight and the WBO title, and he won it in the worst possible way.
He didn’t earn it.
Instead, the sport of boxing earned all the vitriol heaped upon it amidst allegations of corruption.
As Tim Kawakami of the MercuryNews.com Tweeted then later wrote on his blog, “If you can’t trust the outcome, can you go back to the sport?”
If the answer to Tim Kawakami’s question is “No,” well…