The big crowd and the journalists at ringside had Pacquiao the clear winner, but in a bizarre twist, two of the three judges saw otherwise and made Bradley the new World Boxing Organization welterweight champion.
Jerry Roth had Pacquiao ahead, 115-113, in the first scorecard, but CJ Ross and Duane Ford overturned the result by similar 113-115 scores, earning boos and shouts of insults from the 14,206 in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Although stunned by the outcome of the bout he dominated three-fourths of the way, Pacquiao remained calm and composed. He was sure he had won convincingly.
Pacquiao climbed the ring corners, looked up, and acknowledged the throng who commiserated with him and offered solace and comfort as they still regarded him as king of the ring.
Revered promoter Bob Arum, however, did not take the split decision sitting down.
The 80-year-old boxing Hall of Famer labeled the judges as the “three blind mice,” and said that even Roth’s score did not reflect the real outcome of the fight.
“Unfathomable” and “incomprehensible” were just some of the words the octogenarian used in describing the rip-off that occurred in this gambling city.
Arum said there would be a rematch on Nov. 10 at the same venue.
And come that time, Pacquiao said he would be a warrior gunning for a knockout and leave no room for officials to interfere with the outcome.
From the opening bell, Pacquiao showed he was the faster, stronger fighter.
He staggered Bradley, who stretched his unbeaten run to 29, several times, but was unable to dispose of the durable 28-year-old who was fueled by vegetarian diet in the course of his three-month training camp.
Bradley acknowledged Pacquiao’s speed and power during the post-fight conference, where he appeared in a wheelchair, but said he fought well and the judges awarded him a fair decision.
Incredibly, Bradley claimed he twisted his ankle as early as the second round and then also hurt the other after stepping on Pacquiao’s foot.
Bradley said he told his chief trainer, Joel Diaz, about his predicament, but decided to go through the pain and fight to the end.
According to Diaz, Bradley will be brought to the hospital for X-rays and other tests for his swollen feet.
The major networks and websites like Yahoo, CNN, BBC, USA Today and HBO also had Pacquiao, who suffered his first loss in 16 fights dating back to 2005, as the winner.
The Filipino hero dropped to 54-4-2 with 38 knockouts.
While Arum had Pacquiao ahead—11 rounds to one—chief trainer Freddie Roach had it 10-2.
The Sarangani representative gave three rounds to Bradley. The Philippine Daily Inquirer saw it the same way as the eight-division world champion and Fighter of the Decade.
Arum also lashed out at the Nevada State Athletic Commission for the choice of the referees and its failure to send a representative to answer the queries of reporters.
Although Pacquiao and Roach smirked at Team Bradley’s antics when they brought giant replicas of a fight ticket, a poster announcing the rematch and even fake press credentials during a press conference in Los Angeles, the stunt, which according to Bradley was his idea to hype up the bout, turned out to be prophetic—at least to the judges.
The new champion appeared like a loser in the post-fight conference, however. Security personnel pushed his wheelchair on the way in and out of the post-fight conference.
Pacquiao indeed appeared to slow down in the ninth round as Bradley gained ground with jabs. The American had his best moment early in the next round when he tagged Pacquiao with body shots.
With Pacquiao well ahead up to the eighth round, fight pundits said it would have been impossible for Bradley to snatch victory without knocking out Pacquiao. He never came close to it.
Realizing that his victory was highly suspect, Bradley said he would fight Pacquiao again and try to get a more convincing result.
Roach said Pacquiao should not have relaxed a bit in the decisive 11th round.
The final punch statistics reflected Pacquiao’s superiority as he landed more punches—253, to Bradley’s 159—and connected with the more telling power punches, 190-108.
For the first time in a long while, however, Pacquiao was outworked in punches thrown. He threw just 751 to Bradley’s 839.
Pacquiao’s shock defeat, wiped out the pride and joy felt by Filipinos inside the arena after Jessica Sanchez, the Filipino-Mexican American Idol runner-up rendered a powerful but soulful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, drawing thunderous applause.
Another United States-based Filipino, 14-year-old Kirby Asunto sang the national anthem.
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