LAS VEGAS – It was unfair, unjust and just plain wrong. But, contrary to what many might say, this was no bad night for boxing.
Timothy Bradley's controversial split-decision victory over Manny Pacquiao on Saturday in their World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden was one of the best things that could have happened for the sport.
It was a fast-paced, back-and-forth scrap between a pair of quality boxers at the peak of their professions.
That Bradley won a decision the vast majority of those in attendance and watching on television around the world thought was laughably wrong is hardly the "death knell" for boxing that promoter Bob Arum said it was seconds after the verdict was read.
Controversy sells. The bigger the controversy, the bigger the rematch.
This rematch will be bigger than Saturday's bout by a wide margin. Bradley will become a star; he's already a charismatic guy who performed well when he finally got his chance on the big stage. And Pacquiao's legion of fans will rally to his support, believing he was wronged and demanding justice in a second fight.
"Some rounds, I took off and relaxed and didn't throw so many punches," Pacquiao said. "I could give him three rounds, and almost every round I hurt him. I know he felt that."
Judge Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Pacquiao, but he was overruled by his counterparts, C.J. Ross and Duane Ford, who had it 115-113 for Bradley. Ross gave Bradley the final three rounds and five of the last six. Ford scored five of the last six for Bradley as well.
Yahoo! Sports had it 117-111 for Pacquiao. The vast majority of reporters covering the fight at ringside had it for Pacquiao, the No. 2 fighter in the world in the Yahoo! Sports rankings. HBO's Harold Lederman, a former professional judge, scored it 11 rounds to one for Pacquiao.
Arum was outraged, at one point referring to the judges as "The Three Blind Mice," while he was introducing Pacquiao at the post-fight news conference.
"Can you believe that?" Arum said. "I had it 10-2! After I got into the ring after the fight, I went over to Bradley and said 'You did very well.' He said, 'I tried hard, but I couldn't beat the guy.' This is crazy. You talk about killing boxing? All three scorecards you throw out."
It was unfair to Pacquiao, who deserved to win.
But bad for boxing? Not in a million years. More people were talking about the fight when it ended than would have been had Pacquiao gotten the wide verdict most had expected.
It's created a lucrative rematch for November and helped turn Bradley into a star.
Even to those who felt Pacquiao won, there had to be a respect for Bradley, who fought a spirited, high-paced battle despite injuring both of his feet. He attended the news conference in a wheelchair.
"Going into the last rounds, my corner was telling me I had to win the last couple of rounds to win the fight," said Bradley, who said he felt something snap in his left foot in the second round and injured his right in the fifth.
The only loser in the event was probably the state of Nevada, which likely won't get the opportunity to host the rematch. Arum said the rematch will be held in a "non-tax state," meaning it's likely headed to Texas.
That will cost Nevada millions in tax income, but the impact of not having the fight in the state is the only bad thing to come out of the fight.
Arum called the scoring "unfathomable" and offered to get the judges medical assistance.
"I have best eye doctor in the world," Arum said. "Let's get them on a plane, fly to Los Angeles and I'll pay for their visit."
The perception that the sport is corrupt won't help, but there is so much of that surrounding boxing and its judging that it's more like white noise than a serious issue for the sport.
Bradley trainer Joel Diaz said he had no doubts that his fighter would be given the decision and expressed surprise at the outrage against the scoring.
"Don't blame that on Timothy," Diaz said. "He went out and fought. That's what he did. They had three judges to score it. I thought he won the fight. I wasn't scoring it, because I was watching the fight, but he won it in my mind. No doubt. But it's not his fault what the judges said."
Even Pacquiao, who said he thought he won "100 percent," wasn't down. He was smiling and affable at the post-fight news conference and, notably, didn't have a mark on his face for the first time in years.
"Don't be discouraged about boxing," Pacquiao said. "There's always next time."
The next time will be Nov. 10. There will be a huge paid gate. There will be a massive pay-per-view buy. The media will debate the fight endlessly.
That's not bad for boxing by any stretch of the imagination.
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