Bradley stuns Pacquiao to claim WBO crown
|WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (L) of the Philippines fights Timothy Bradley Jr. of the U.S. during their title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada June 10, 2012 (Manila time). REUTERS/Steve Marcus
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) -- Unbeaten American boxer Timothy Bradley Jr. pulled off a stunning upset by dethroning Filipino boxing icon Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao in their world Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight clash at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The unfancied Bradley claimed Pacquiao's WBO crown after winning via a controversial split decision, with scores of 113-115, 115-113, and 115-113.
Bradley, who was extremely confident going into the fight, extended his unbeaten streak to 29 fights, while Pacquiao sustained his fourth career loss against 54 wins and two draws.
It was Pacquiao's first career defeat since a 2005 decision loss to Mexican legend Erik Morales.
Following that loss to Morales, Pacquiao went on an impressive winning streak, becoming the sport's pound-for-pound king by defeating boxers like Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Ricky Hatton.
"I accept what the result is. I respect the judges, I cannot blame them. It is part of the game. I give thanks to the Lord. I do my best, but my best wasn't good enough," Pacquiao said in a ringside interview.
But the Filipino champion insisted that he believes he won the fight.
"The fight was good, and he's not an easy opponent. He was very strong and he moved around, I mean, I respect that. But I believe I won the fight," Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao said he did not expect Bradley to back off from him, as he expected the unbeaten American to be aggressive.
The Filipino champion added that Bradley did not hurt him during their 12-round encounter. "Most of his punches hit my arms. I don't know what happened," he said.
"But the decision is already done, and I give credit to him," Pacquiao added.
In the press-conference, Pacquiao reiterated that he "100%" believes that he won the fight.
"I could give him three rounds. But almost every round, I hurt hum. I knew he felt that," Pacquiao said.
The fight was slightly delayed as Pacquiao was reportedly watching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, wherein his team, the Boston Celtics, lost to the Miami Heat.
HBO even said before the fight that Pacquiao could not be found in his locker room, but it was later revealed that trainer Freddie Roach had Pacquiao stretch his calves on a treadmill.
Both boxers entered the arena to an enthusiastic ovation, with Pacquiao coming out to his usual ring entrance song "Eye of the Tiger."
Bradley had some success in the early rounds when he targeted Pacquiao's body, but was stunned late in the first when Pacquiao landed powerful left hands to his head.
Pacquiao was in control of the middle rounds, unloading several combinations that wobbled the American boxer. He was able to stagger Bradley at numerous points during the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, though Bradley managed to stay on his feet.
Bradley aimed to get back in the fight towards the later rounds, starting the ninth round in attack mode. But he was forced to get defensive anew as Pacquiao pressed him.
In the later rounds, however, Pacquiao seemingly took his foot off the gas pedal to start the rounds, allowing Bradley to sneak in punches to his head and body. The Filipino boxer threw less punches in the later rounds, but still managed to avoid most of Bradley's attacks.
The referee was kept busy throughout the bout as Bradley got into the habit of clinching, and in the eighth round, he had to stop the bout for a few moments to check the fighters for cuts.
He also warned both boxers in the ninth round to avoid low blows.
Punch statistics were overwhelmingly in Pacquiao's favor.
According to CompuBox, Pacquiao landed more punches (253 out of 751) for 34%, while Bradley landed 159 of his 839 punches, for 19%.
Pacquiao threw and landed more power punches: 190 out of 493 for a 39% rate, while Bradley landed 108 out of 390 punches for a 28% rate.
Bradley admitted in a ringside interview that he was hurt by the Filipino boxer.
"Manny's a beast. He has fast hands, that left hand caught me a few times and hurt me," he said.
"Every round was pretty close. Pacquiao won some of the early rounds, and I controlled the later rounds with my jab," Bradley added.
He admitted that he needs to "go home and review the tape" for the bout.
"He rocked me a couple of times but I held my ground and fought to the end. This is boxing," Bradley said.
Bradley arrived at the press conference in a wheel chair, saying he injured his ankle in the second round of the bout.
Despite this, he insisted that he was the winner.
"Manny came on strong in spurts, but he missed a lot of shots. My corner felt like I was winning the fight," Bradley said during the post-fight presser.
"I'm in really good shape. I didn't go down. I got hurt once in there, but I survived," he added.
"I was controlling the action. The jab pretty much controlled the jab from the seventh round."
Bradley was so confident in the weeks leading up to the bout that he printed promotional materials for a rematch, scheduled for November 10 in Las Vegas.
After the bout, he confirmed that he will be willing to fight Pacquiao a second time.
"Absolutely, I gotta give Manny a rematch. I definitely have to give him a shot to let him earn his title back from me," Bradley said.
"This is boxing, and we gotta do it again," he added.
Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, was extremely upset with the decision, however.
"I have never been so ashamed to be associated with the sport of boxing as I am tonight," Arum said in the post-fight press conference.
Arum said he had Pacquiao winning the bout 10 rounds to two, and slammed the judges for their decision.
"I have the best eye doctor in the world. If they get on a plane to LA (Los Angeles), I would pay for their visit," he replied when asked about his message to the judges.
Pacquiao's Hall-of-Fame trainer, Roach, said it was his boxer's finest performance since his 12-round technical knockout victory against Miguel Cotto in 2009.
"I thought we clearly, clearly won the fight. I think the judges had their eyes closed," Roach said, adding that he did not see many close rounds.
Pacquiao said that he wants a rematch against Bradley, and Arum agreed.
"If you want it, Manny, then that's what we'll do," the Top Rank boss said during the press conference.
Pacquiao's loss to Bradley now puts his mega-fight against another unbeaten American, Floyd Mayweather Jr., at risk.
Boxing fans have been clamoring for a Pacquiao-Mayweather clash for years, especially after the two fighters ascended to the top of boxing's pound-for-pound list.
With Pacquiao's loss, however, and a looming rematch with Bradley, it is unsure if the much awaited mega-fight against Mayweather will ever happen.
Mayweather is currently incarcerated in the Clark County Detention Center, where he is serving an 87-day jail sentence for a guilty plea to a 2010 domestic violence charge.