LAS VEGAS: Much of the boxing world was still reeling on Sunday as the smoke began to clear after Manny Pacquiao’s shock defeat at the hands of American challenger Timothy Bradley the previous night.
There was hardly a person watching inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena who did not believe that Filipino Pacquiao had won the fight, promoter Bob Arum describing it best when he said the split decision was “crazy” and “unfathomable.”
The faster and more powerful Pacquiao seemed to be in cruise control for at least nine of the 12 rounds, and Bradley himself made comments immediately afterwards suggesting he had not done enough to win.
“Can you believe that?” Arum fumed during the post-fight news conference, at one point describing the three judges as “The Three Blind Mice.”
“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’s not good for the sport of boxing.”
Judge Jerry Roth (115-113) awarded the fight to Pacquiao while C.J. Ross (115-113) and Duane Ford (115-113) gave it to the American, but the crowd erupted in boos after a contest which the Filipino had appeared to dominate.
Ross gave Bradley the final three rounds and five of the last six. Ford scored five of the last six for the American. Pacquiao, who has claimed world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, ended a run of 15 consecutive wins.
While Pacquiao was stunned after suffering his first defeat since he lost to Erik Morales in Las Vegas in March 2005, he took the decision with good grace and looked forward to a re-match on Nov. 10 at a venue yet to be decided.
“Don’t be discouraged about boxing,” the Filipino said after his career record slipped to 54-4-2 with 38 knockouts. “There’s always next time.”
However his trainer, Freddie Roach, was totally dumbfounded.
“I think they (the judges) had their eyes closed,” said Roach. “Something wasn’t right because what everyone else saw and what they saw were two very different things.
“I didn’t see that many close rounds. I thought we clearly won the fight. I am very proud of Manny. I thought that was one of the best fights he fought since the (Miguel) Cotto fight. I thought he boxed well.”
Roach was then asked whether he felt Pacquiao had perhaps paid a ‘payback’ price after winning his previous fight, against Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez, on a highly a controversial majority decision.
“I’m not sure if our last fight had something to do with that,” he replied. “That was a very close fight and maybe controversial but I thought Manny won that. Did they hold that against us? I’m not sure.”
Arum scoffed at the suggestion, while adding that Saturday’s decision was much more of a shock.
“It was close, everybody said it was close,” Arum said of Pacquiao’s win over Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena seven months ago. “This wasn’t really a close fight.”
For all the controversy, though, the November re-match between Pacquiao and Bradley is certain to whet the appetites of the fans much more than their initial encounter, which failed to attract a sellout crowd.
Filipinos, other boxers shocked
In the Philippines, a crowd watching the fight on a giant screen in a Manila public park fell into silence for seconds, some wept unabashedly after the announcement that Pacquiao lost in the judges' count.
Filipinos in cinemas, hotels, public parks and even army bases across the Philippines were shocked, too numbed to react.
"I'm so devastated," basketball coach Charles Tiu, who watched the fight with his family and friends at a bar, told Reuters.
People at the bar were stunned by the decision. They were speechless for a moment but there was no big simultaneous outcry.
"I'm shocked and disappointed," Gina Tubo, a 42-year-old mother, said, wiping tears from her eyes.
"The decision was unfair. There was a moment when Bradley was wobbling. How can Pacquiao lose that way."
Even British boxer Amir Khan tweeted that the result was a "robbery" while former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis called it "disgraceful."
There was also frustration etched on the faces of hundreds of soldiers who watched the fight at army bases across the country.
Filipinos stood behind their Pacquiao, who was immediately offered a rematch by Bradley.
"Manny will remain and will always be our champion," army spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said of Pacquiao, a lieutenant colonel in the reserve force.
"God may have other plans for him" Tubo addded of Pacquiao, a congressman and widely regarded as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter.
Manila's streets were deserted before and during the fight as Filipinos were glued to the television.
Police authorities have said the crime rates drop every time Pacquiao enters the ring.