This Saturday, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley enter the ring to face each other for the 3rd time. The two men have developed a fascinating rivalry over the past 4 years, and here it finally wraps up. Perhaps the most memorable chapter of their story is their highly controversial first fight.
Taking place in June 2012, Pacquiao vs. Bradley I seemed like another routine fight for the unstoppable Pacquiao. It was far from it. When all was said and done that night, Pacquiao's seven fight win streak was over, Bradley was the unlikely conqueror, and the boxing world was up in arms over what was loudly called the worst boxing decision of the current era. It was not long before accusations of fight fixing started, with everyone irate over the injustice.
As the two men get ready to settle things this weekend, now is a good opportunity to revisit that fight. Is it the robbery people claim it to be? Let's take a look.
Two quick notes before we get started. First off, the full fight video is below - please watch and let me know how you see it in the comments. Second, a caveat: judging a fight is tough. Judging a fight by watching it on TV instead of live is tougher. Judging a fight that you know the outcome to is tougher still, and judging a highly controversial fight that you already know the outcome to is toughest of all. But it's still fun to try.
PACQUIAO VS. BRADLEY I
R1 - Good defense from both men, so little landed of note. Leaning Bradley through most of it, but Pacquiao steals it with some decent punches in final seconds. 10-9 Pac
R2 - The pace quickens here with Bradley looking to get into wild exchanges. It's a good strategy for him, as he lands more when it's moving at this pace. 10-9 Bradley
R3 - Close round. Pacquiao lands some good lefts, but a nice comeback from Bradley late. Not enough though. 10-9 Pacquiao
R4 - This is the one that shows the issues with scoring this fight. In the opening minutes, Bradley gets inside and gets some good body work going, winning the early stages. Then Pacquiao launches a huge flurry late, throwing tons of punches at Bradley. Trouble is, from my perspective, I don't think that many of them connect. CompuBox gives him credit for way more punches than I see, and the announcers say it's an obvious Pacquiao round. I still give it to him, but it's not as clear as you think, simply because many of those punches miss. 10-9 Pacquiao
R5 - Bradley twisted his ankle in round 4 and is moving really slowly here, allowing Pac to land some pretty heavy shots. 10-9 Pacquiao
R6 - Not a ton of offense from either man here, but late in the round Pacquiao gets Bradley in the corner and connects. 10-9 Pacquiao
R7 - Close round again, as Pacquiao lands the round's best punch, but Bradley has more success in those fast exchanges. His volume is enough to trump the one Pac shot. 10-9 Bradley
R8 - Not a ton landed by Pacquiao here, but he does stagger Bradley at one point, which is enough to take the round. 10-9 Pacquiao
R9 - Again, close, but this time it's more due to inactivity. Both men moving slowly, and Bradley gets almost nothing in here. 10-9 Pacquiao
R10 - This time it's Pacquiao taking the round off, as he gets in no notable offense, while Bradley lands some good shots straight up the middle. 10-9 Bradley
R11 - Bradley works off the jab nicely, but Pacquiao lands the harder shots late. This is a close one again. 10-9 Pacquiao
R12 - Bradley is in control here, with Pacquiao never getting going. He's on cruise control here, and it shows. 10-9 Bradley
Final: 116-112 Manny Pacquiao.
So like the majority of viewers, I have Pacquiao winning this, but I disagree that it is a heinous robbery. This fight largely comes down to how you score volume vs. power. Bradley is consistently working more in the rounds, but he's also the one getting staggered more often. That conflict makes for a lot of close rounds that could go either way. I have 5 rounds that I marked as close, but I gave Pacquiao the nod in 4 of those 5. If Bradley takes just 2 of those 4, then this is a draw fight. And maybe that result wouldn't be the end of the world?
See how the third fight plays out with live fight night coverage of Pacquiao vs. Bradley III, this Saturday night live on Bloody Elbow.