Now that we've had a few days to digest the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley decision, some of the initial outrage has subsided. Note that the operative word in that sentence is some.
The world is still spinning, the sun still shining. Boxing isn't dead, this too shall pass, and whatever other cliches you want to throw in here still apply. It doesn't change the fact that many people are still pissed off about that startling split decision verdict for Bradley. Lots of them paid good money to watch and are now experiencing something called buyer's remorse. I feel bad for all of them.
With time to organize my thoughts, I've come to the conclusion that the effects of the decision branch out in lots of different directions. The sport will survive, as it always does, but that doesn't mean it will do so without dealing with all the ways that Pacquiao-Bradley sucked. Here, in approximately descending order, are my top five:
1. Effective aggression is dead (at least in Nevada)
Judge Duane Ford, one of the men who scored the fight for Bradley, had a chance to offer us some insight into what he saw that millions of other fans and journalists did not. Instead, he chose to double down on idiocy, serving up the "boxing lesson" quote that was so rightly derided by Dan Rafael and pushing what was already a debacle further down the spiraling road toward outright farce.
What bothers me most is that Ford dragged the concept of effective aggression into his explanation. Bradley was aggressive, no question. He threw more punches than Pacquiao overall and tried taking the lead more often than not.
Whether he was effective was highly debatable. Actually, it's really not. CompuBox numbers can't tell the story of a fight by themselves, but they can reinforce what we think we just saw. In this case, they back up the idea that Bradley was throwing a lot, but not really landing a lot. He fired many of his punches into Pacquiao's arms, and Manny isn't exactly a master of defensive boxing. When he did connect, he visibly appeared to do less damage. Only one man was in trouble of any kind during the bout, and that was Bradley in the middle rounds.
Ford makes it sound like Pacquiao was the inaccurate one, but it was just the opposite. And in some of the later rounds, when the judges acted like the momentum had gone over to Bradley's side, he was the one backing off when Pac-Man wanted to fight? How exactly is that effective aggression?
Nevada judges have always had a tendency to favor busy fighters, but this clinches it. Here's some advice for trainers preparing for big fights in Las Vegas: Just tell your guys to throw tons of punches. Who cares if they land at a high rate or, you know, hurt the other guy? Ford an company will reward you for firing away.
2. Bradley didn't become a big star
Had Desert Storm beaten Pac-Man convincingly, he'd now be well on his way to becoming the crossover star that U.S. boxing so desperately needs. His work ethic and down to Earth charisma make him easy to root for, and a win could have catapulted him ahead of Andre Ward and the others who are oh so tentatively carrying the torch into the post-Pacquiao, post-Floyd Mayweather era. I mean, beating Pacquiao with an injured foot? That would have been huge.
Fans, even casual ones, aren't stupid, though. Most don't think that Bradley won the fight, and they won't support the idea that he is now "The Man" in the sport. It will be interesting to see if Top Rank even attempts to market him that way, because it sure doesn't look that way in the immediate aftermath of the fight.
Certainly, all is not lost here. Bradley could win the rematch that we all know is coming. If he does that, he'll probably be one win away - against Pacquiao to complete the trilogy or Mayweather when he gets out of jail - from becoming boxing's big dog. But since we don't even think he beat Pacquiao the first time, that's an enormous "if."
True stars can't just be made, they need to be forged in competition. American fans will have to keep waiting.
3. Haters got a chance to say "I told you so"
As a boxing fan, it always stings when there's a crappy decision and non-boxing fans ask you to explain it. When it happens during a Pacquiao or Mayweather fight, it's roughly 10,000 times worse.
Like horse racing, boxing in the U.S. is in a position where it can't afford many missteps. You know, things like a boxer losing after damn near every reputable observer thought he won. It strains the already poor credibility of the sport. Also, you see people comparing the sweet science to figure skating. Ouch.
There's no shortage of people who want boxing to fail, and they all had a hearty laugh at our expense this past weekend. Some don't like the violence. Others are mixed martial arts fans (and in the interest of disclosure, I'm also a big fan of MMA). Those folks got to conveniently forget that there have been a number of questionable decisions in the UFC over the past year while they were pointing fingers. The worst part is, they weren't even wrong to do it, because the Pacquiao-Bradley verdict was worse than anything that happened in the octagon.
At this point, there's really nothing that can be done. Even an investigation won't help, because if it turns out the judges were bought off, that would be even worse for the sport. Nothing would wash the stink off then.
All we can do is grin and bear it. Thanks for that judges!
4. Mayweather has no reason to fight Pacquiao now
I've long been of the mind that Mayweather isn't afraid of anyone. Some of his persona is calculated, but his faith in his own abilities is quite real.
I will say that he hasn't exactly seemed overly eager to fight Pacquiao. It's not because he thinks he will lose, but because he might lose. For Floyd, even that idea is unacceptable.
Now that Pacquiao has lost to someone Mayweather undoubtedly considers inferior, there is much less urgency to make the fight that everyone wants to see. He didn't watch the fight while serving his prison sentence, but you just know he cracked a smile when he found out what happened. Mayweather won't draw the distinction that the loss was tainted, just as he saw no reason to worry about the difference between the letter and spirit of the rules when he knocked out an unsuspecting Victor Ortiz. To him, a loss is a loss, and he can comfortably say Pacquiao isn't on his level.
I don't even consider myself a Floyd hater and it makes me a little ill just thinking about the first time he talks about it in public. Let's just move on.
5. Juan Manuel Marquez is running around acting like the decision was some kind of karmic correction
JMM has every right to be bitter. I disagree with his assertion that he won all three of his fights with Pacquiao, but I scored the second bout a draw and the third for him, so he probably should be 1-1-1.
Like all right-minded viewers, Marquez says he thought Pacquiao beat Bradley, and that it wasn't even that close. He went on to add that Pacquiao now "knows how I felt this past November," and there's where I have a bit of a problem.
All three Pacquiao-Marquez fights were close. Pacquiao-Bradley wasn't, really. Close fights produce decisions that are controversial, while fights that look wide in one direction but end up awarded to the other man are more properly called robberies.
I thought JMM got the short end of the stick once, possibly twice, but he was never robbed because the fights were tight. Pacquiao just got ripped off big time, which isn't the same thing. He doesn't seem too bitter about it, possibly because his newfound commitment to his faith is helping him cope.
Sorry Marquez, but karma, if it exists, doesn't apply here. This was just a bad deal, pure and simple, and on a whole other level compared to the Pacquiao-JMM trilogy.
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