|Photo: AP/Julie Jacobson|
Boxing is what happens when honest action just isn't enough. And the latest "Choose Your Own Adventure" edition of big stage boxing was Tim Bradley winning a highly controversial split decision (video) over Filipino fighting diva Manny Pacquiao Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Though a response to the grotesque attention will likely be "At least they're talking about boxing," the end result is that controversy with the scent of corruption isn't good for the sport, status quo or not.
But the Pay Per View card itself was strangely satisfying at times, even though another undercard bout gave the conspiracy theorists and non-thinkers plenty of fodder in the months to come.
On the undercard, Guillermo Rigondeaux played some fine jazz percussion on Teon Kennedy's face, downing him five times before stopping him in as many rounds; Jorge Arce was on the receiving end of the rare "four-foul combination" courtesy of Jesus Rojas that rendered him unable to continue in the 2nd; and Randall Bailey laid out Mike Jones with a right uppercut in the 11th that should have been the talking point of the evening, good or bad, but wasn't.
Following a lot of time-killing and pre-fight theatrical analysis, the crowd in attendance at the MGM Grand and PPV viewers were made to wait even longer for main event pageantry when it was revealed Manny Pacquiao had basically "disappeared" from his dressing room. Manny's trainer Freddie Roach was quick to quell the impatience, explaining that Pacquiao had gone off... somewhere, in a pre-planned move to stretch his calves before fight time.
The concern from the HBO commentating crew was that Bradley would cool down by the opening bell, and they sure had a lot of time to talk about it.
In the opening round, a twitchy Tim Bradley did well to out-reflex Pacquiao from a distance, using angles well and firing off quick combinations until the final half-minute or so, when Manny was able to land a handful of hard left hands. Round 2 began similarly, with Bradley hustling well and working in close as Manny appeared wary of getting butted and clinched. Tim was also able to land a number of right hands to the body in the 2nd.
Rounds 3 and 4 saw a shift in momentum though, with Pacquiao finding a home for his reaching southpaw left and Bradley growing more and more conscious of it. The two exchanged at the end of the 4th, not long after Bradley appeared wobbled by a series of whacks from Manny. And they continued to exchange entertainingly in spots during Round 5, bringing the crowd to its feet as Bradley went quasi-honey badger, likely taking the worse licks but attempting to respond nonetheless.
In the middle rounds, Bradley managed to sustain offense here and there, but was largely getting walked down and forced into playing a game he wasn't winning. Pacquiao's mouth bled freely throughout, though, and it looked between rounds as if he'd bitten his tongue at some point. At the end of the 6th, Bradley took a slow walk back to his corner after taking more lefts to the noggin, and he was outdone in the 7th by Manny's greater accuracy and punches that moved him backwards. It was more monotonous than anything, with Bradley actually landing the odd punch or combination, just without much effect.
Both men had moments in the 8th and 9th, but the quality belonged to Manny more often than not. While Bradley put up stiff resistance, the wear on his face became more apparent as both eyebrows began to swell and he fought with his feet increasingly flat.
Surprisingly, Pacquiao's pace slowed in rounds 10 through 12, and his jab output essentially doubled, giving Bradley wiggle room to win a round or two outright. Manny remained the aggressor though, with Bradley electing to dart in and out relatively safely in comparison to prior rounds.
Judge Jerry Roth's questionable score of 115-113 for Pacquiao was half-legitimized by the fantastically priceless cards turned in by C.J. Ross and repeat offender Duane Ford, who each had Tim Bradley winning by 115-113. For those interested in more laughs, here's a picture of the official scorecards.
A few outliers aside, the majority of those who caught the main event felt Manny Pacquiao clearly beat Tim Bradley and deserved to retain his WBO welterweight trinket, and that's not what the result reflected.
Compubox punch statistics are outstanding tools when used in conjunction with, say, an honest report of what actually happened in a given fight, and in Tim Bradley's slight defense, he did indeed slip many punches that appeared to land flush, or roll with some left hands, thereby taking steam off them early. But as the fight wore on, he stood around to catch shots more and took many full-force, which the punch stats are unable to demonstrate. If two fighters are landing equally in terms of quantity, the quality of the connects has to be assessed, and largely by their visible effect on an opponent.
Bradley's issue here is that he was visibly affected in multiple rounds and couldn't manage to budge Pacquiao with some of his best stuff. It wasn't until the last few rounds that Tim Bradley could carve a niche for himself, responding to Manny's rushes with counters, and even then the danger was still very real. Even when Bradley was landing, it was difficult to see as he often flailed wildly as if getting ahead of himself.
Although occasionally sluggish, Manny, now 54-4-2 (38 KO), still found ways to work in a whipping right hook, and the way he sets up the range on his left hand is still impressive. Bradley, who stays undefeated at 29-0 (12 KO) and 1 No Contest, deserves credit for lashing out when stunned and refusing to quit despite reportedly incurring a fractured left foot and twisted right ankle (MRI pending) on top of the couple hundred power shots he took.
In addition to the official verdict not exactly jibing with reality, winning a tight decision over Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas and on a Top Rank PPV was probably one of the least likely results possible.
Immediately preceding the main event was bloodlusting soldier Jorge "Travieso" Arce getting fouled up (video) by Puerto Rican prospect Jesus Rojas in the 2nd round which, in hindsight, was the perfect set up for the main event controversy.
Arce, 60-6-2 (46 KO) and 1 No Decision, dropped Rojas moments into the fight with a left hook, and the younger fighter got up unhurt to battle back and force a self-contained brawl to end the round, possibly earning himself an even stanza. And in Round 2, just as outstanding action appeared imminent, Rojas, 18-1-1 (13 KO) and 1 No Decision, bounced toward Arce with his head lowered which caused him to headbutt Arce in the mouth, hit him low, land a kidney punch and then sock him with a left hand as his back was half-turned, in that order.
The Mexican battler went down in a corner and told referee Kenny Bayless and ringside doctors that he couldn't sit up or stand because he felt he was losing balance. Arce complained about his ear, seeming to have ruptured an eardrum, and the foul sequence was ruled inadvertent, thus rendering the result a No Decision in 2.
After the bout, Rojas matter-of-factly called Arce a "coward" -- a claim bogus enough to make your head spin considering the toughness and grit "Travieso" has shown time and again in the past.
Arce called for an immediate rematch.
Refusal or inability to stand up and fight will be questioned, but this is a case where it absolutely shouldn't be. The fouls happened very quickly and in the heat of battle, though intentional or not, Rojas gave a nice few minutes; he rose from an early knockdown to get in his assailant's face, and he apparently has killer instinct if the final moments of the bout are any indication. Starting with a rematch, Rojas may be one to keep an eye on.
If there was anyone at all to blame for the early end, it was surprisingly enough Kenny Bayless, a usually very solid referee, who was late stepping in when Arce initially reacted to the first foul.
In other action, Philadelphia's Mike Jones wandered his way into a pair of right hands from Randall Bailey that made all the difference in an otherwise ho-hum affair, getting completely ironed out (video) in the 11th round of a fight he was winning handily on the cards.
Bailey did well in the 1st and 2nd rounds, pressing the action and reminding Jones of his punching power even with glancing right hands. They weren't one-sided though, as Mike Jones fought back when cornered and showed a clear hand speed and footwork advantage for the most part.
And then Bailey simply resorted to tossing throwaway right hands and harmless jabs much of the 3rd through the 9th or so, fighting so sedated that his trainer John David Jackson all but refused to instruct him further in the corner. But it should be noted that Mike Jones did very little considering he was given so much room to work. His offense consisted of short bursts forward and quick combinations before falling into Bailey and tying him up in close.
Curses, hexing and a little blasphemy from Bailey's cutman spurred him into action nearing the end of the 10th, as out of almost nowhere he set up and landed a right hand from range that split through Jones' guard and put him on his back. He got up looking shocked and made it out of the round, but in Round 11 Bailey adjusted slightly to a lazy Jones jab and countered with an unholy right uppercut that disconnected the circuits and made for a terribly decisive KO. A slow motion replay also showed that the shot obliterated Jones' nose.
At 43-7 (37 KO) and 37-years old, Randall Bailey created more late career money options for himself with the win, even if only because he picked up the vacant IBF welterweight strap that Andre Berto vacated. And if not for the stock "scandal" between Pacquiao and Bradley, his win would've held more weight in the headlines.
Jones was right to be cautious, apparently, but his hesitation was excessive considering Bailey wasn't putting up much of a fight for rounds at a time. Failing to take a chance and push a pace that may have sapped more of Bailey's energy left the door open for the old man to pull off the come-from-behind maneuver. And now Jones' record falls to 26-1 (19 KO) in addition to losing his first title bid.
Randall Bailey didn't do much impressive outside of two punches that flipped the fight on its lid, but that's all he needed. While it's a good win for him, his title reign is unlikely to be a long one based on his cyborging through numerous rounds aimlessly, and Jones was underwhelming in effort.
And, please... somebody get Max Kellerman out of his face already.
The most dominant performance of the night, despite what headlines would have you believe, was Cuban defector Guillermo Rigondeaux's knockdown-laden outing (video) against Teon Kennedy in the first bout of the broadcast.
In moving forward to 10-0 (8 KO) and defending his WBA junior featherweight belt successfully, the two-time Olympic gold medalist could do no wrong against the badly out-gunned Kennedy. His class was glaring early on, as he decked Kennedy once in the 1st, then twice more in the 2nd, and then again once apiece in rounds 4 and 5, and virtually all with laser-like left hands.
Kennedy actually began the fight well, offsetting Rigondeaux's speed some by doubling and tripling up on his jab. But using his rear power hand as a sort of improvised jab, the Cuban saw openings to land the left and took them as he pleased. Teon Kennedy, 17-2-2 (7 KO), didn't appear very shaken until the final knockdown that buckled his knees and sent him falling into the ropes. At this point, referee Russell Mora wisely halted matters.
And there's not much to say about the bout that wasn't glaringly obvious by the in-ring action. Guillermo Rigondeaux has extraordinary talent, but thus far he hasn't been in with someone able to match him in just about any facet of the game. At 31, he's been on the fast track, but his ability is so far ahead of his opposition that he could stand to elevate the latter some. He's fun to watch though, and razor sharp more often than not.
Teon Kennedy need not be embarrassed by the result. He was in with an extraordinary fighter, took a plethora of left hand snipes and kept coming back despite the growing points gap on the judges' cards. It may sound patronizing, but right now the Friday Night Fights or ShoBox level is perfect for him, and he could be matched well for some good fights there. Winless in over a year, he needs his arm raised after a fight, and soon.
Needless to say, most of the post-fight banter has been about what were considered the more sensational moments of the broadcast, and no, not Bailey's KO. Instead boxing once again found a way to pimp itself out to the masses to the tune of millions of dollars, compromising whatever integrity it still has along the way.
The idea that Tim Bradley actually deserved the win is a stretch, and scouring through the 36 minutes of fighting to find excuses to give him the fight won't create moments where he did more damage than Manny Pacquiao did. Neither will explaining very carefully the "true" art of scoring fights to people who likely have a fine idea of what scoring a fight entails.
And at this point, it doesn't matter whether it was "corruption" or "incompetence" when the result was simply incorrect.
Consistently inept judges and referees continue to get jobs on prestigious fight cards with little to no accountability for inability to do nothing more than what they're paid to do, Russell Mora's reeducation and subsequent turnaround notwithstanding. It robs the fans from talking about and enjoying the "right" things: an excellent walk-off grand slam from Bailey, a brilliant performance by Rigondeaux, a gutsy effort from Tim Bradley in losing, and Manny Pacquiao soundly defeating the top fighter from a division below his own.
It's not "killing boxing," but it's sand kicked in our faces when promoters and networks know that a large chunk of us will return for whatever snake oil is sold to us next. But boxing is what happens when honest action just isn't enough.
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Sunday, June 10, 2012
The Weirding Ways of Boxing - Bradley vs. Pacquiao PPV Recap
Posted by Patrick Connor