Pacquiao vs Bradley: Chronicle of a Fix Foretold

After a bizarre but largely irrelevant undercard, thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world eagerly awaited the main fight. So, for about 40 minutes after the last of the preliminary bouts ended, while Lampley and Steward populated the airwaves with vacuous filler, Kellerman went on a quest around the MGM Grand Garden Arena to answer a simple, yet crucial, question: Where is Manny?

He visited Bradley’s dressing room, spoke to Tim, to his trainer, then he went to check things out at Pacquiao’s dressing room, finally found Freddie Roach, and got some sort of an answer. Pacquiao wanted to watch the end of a basketball playoff game, and so he put the whole evening on hold. But he was also on the treadmill, something having to do with his legs; jumping on the treadmill before a fight helps him avoid cramps during the contest. And Manny being the king of the event, if he needs more time to prep for the fight, then he will get it.

In retrospect, and in light of all that transpired in the next couple of hours, one wonders if maybe Manny didn’t delay his entrance to the ring because he was feeling inadequate, or uncomfortable with what was about to happen, and with the circumstances surrounding the fight. Pacquiao vs Bradley would five fans the chance to see Manny face the challenge of a hungry, young opponent, supposedly a stiff test indeed for the Filipino. Even though the Pacman climbed into the ring as the clear favourite, the odds in his favour in the Vegas casinos had been steadily dropping during the days leading up to fight night.

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Pacquiao landed powerful left crosses on Bradley all night long

But rewind the tape a couple of days and we’re taken back to that press conference in which a confident and determined Timothy Bradley presented a billboard announcing a rematch between himself and Pacquiao. A date of November 10 was printed on the novelty oversized ticket he also brought with him to the shindig. He was so sure he would beat Pacquiao that he started promoting the rematch right away. This made Bradley’s supporters feel confident about their undefeated hero’s chances, while everyone else either admired “Desert Storm’s” conviction or smiled in approval of the cute gimmick.

Leave it to Las Vegas to perversely turn gimmick into reality.

On Saturday night Pacquiao consistently dominated and outgunned Timothy Bradley over most of twelve rounds. He landed more and cleaner punches, he controlled the pace of the fight and dictated the terms of battle. He neutralized Timothy’s offense with his high, tight guard and with effective head and body movement. The fight was so one-sided (despite the fact Pacquiao gave only a half-hearted effort on several rounds) that in retrospect it’s hard to understand how anyone who picked Bradley to win thought “Desert Storm” would win, exactly. His stamina, chin, and even hand-speed may match Pacquiao’s, but the Filipino had the edge on power, skill and movement. Bradley got hit with punches he never thought could even be thrown. “Desert Storm” did nothing in the ring last night that made Pacquiao respect him in any way.

But none of that matters when an agenda has been set beforehand. Top Rank promotions (led by the infamous and indefatigable Bob Arum), the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), and even the city of Las Vegas as a whole, all have a vested interest not in the sport of boxing in general, but in the events Manny Pacquiao stars in in the city cash built. Last night Manny Pacquiao was the “victim” of one of the worst scoring travesties professional boxing has ever seen. And there’s no need to point out that is no trivial statement.

More than a few disillusioned fans point out to karma as the main culprit. The reasoning is that Manny got a gift in his last outing against Juan Manuel Marquez, in which the Mexican easily outboxed Pacquiao over twelve, while still coming up short in the scorecards. Last night the karma police came knocking on Pacquiao’s door, these fans say, and justly took back from him what it had so capriciously given him before.

Say it ain't so, Manny
Say it ain’t so, Manny

Nonsense. As bad as the Pacquiao-Marquez III decision was, Pacquiao-Bradley was even worse. And besides the fact that two wrongs don’t make a right, there’s a non-cosmic explanation that suits reality a lot more comfortably: officially giving Marquez a win last November would’ve all but forced Top Rank to make Pacquiao-Marquez IV. While a deficient performance against “Dinamita” could easily be taken care of by way of giving Manny the official win and invoking a “bad night” (making the official score 2-0-1 in the trilogy in the way), giving Marquez the decision and then making fight IV would’ve put at risk any and all pugilistic equity Manny Pacquiao had left.

Which is not the case at all with a Pacquiao-Bradley rivalry. Last night Pacquiao showed glimpses of the greatness we came to know during his De la Hoya-HattonCotto run. The reason we saw only glimpses of it instead of the full thing is not because Pacquiao is older, or shot, or because Bradley made it difficult for him to perform to the best of his ability. The reason is that Pacquiao was giving Bradley a chance to compete. He wanted it to be a close fight, even while he remained in control throughout. It speaks volumes of Manny’s boxing ability that he was able to win ten rounds of twelve while only half-stepping on the gas. Bradley, unfortunately, is nowhere near the level Pacquiao and Arum wanted him to be, but that didn’t stop the fix from happening.

Now boxing fans have one of the worst decisions ever to deal with, while they wait for November 10. Arum is playing dumb to the whole thing, making a show of calling the judges incompetent–at the same time acknowledging he will be the first to profit from the rematch. Pacquiao, for his part, is desperately trying to play the part of the victim, which must be no easy thing for him given the fact he’s both a terrible actor and a lifetime winner in the ring. But it’s all made a little easier by knowing last night’s sour aftertaste will quickly fade once Pac-Bradley II is signed (no doubt with the prospect of the rubber match on the horizon).

"It's not personal, just business"
“It’s not personal, just business”

Besides the mountains of money Top Rank, Pacquiao, Bradley, the NSAC, and the city of Las Vegas will make thanks to the newly crafted Pacquiao-Bradley rivalry, Arum and Pacquiao have harvested the fringe benefit of avoiding both Marquez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. for the foreseeable future. At the risk of being called a conspiracy-theorist, I submit the facts that are discernible amid all the putrid stench: it is fact that Top Rank has now been involved in three of the last four worst decisions in recent memory (besides Pac-Bradley, there’s Pac-Marquez III, and Rios-Abril; Williams-Lara is the odd one out); it is a fact a date for the Pac-Bradley rematch was set in advance of Saturday night; it is a fact there was a rush of late money being put on Bradley to win it, altering the odds significantly right up until the moment the opening bell rang.

It is shameful and tragic that a sport with such rich history and tradition is being slowly strangled by the hands of the corrupt, the greedy, and the inept. While incompetence and corruption are not quite the same thing, they do go hand in hand. Incompetence serves as bait that attracts exploitative jackals. Money is there for the taking for those willing to sink low enough. Last night, those who wield the power may have sunk lower than ever before, killing for the moment any chance of an audience outside of hardcore followers giving a damn about this most shameless of rackets.
– Rafael Garcia

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