Now, I don't care what side you are on. I myself originally scored it eight rounds to four for the favorite on the first look, and felt that way again upon revisiting it, but I could see how someone could see it seven rounds to five. I have friends that saw it closer, even making the argument for the undefeated fighter leaving with his hands held high, despite them being so low before the announcement was made. Yet, no matter how you scored the Manny Pacquiao/Tim Bradley fight, one thing is certain, there has rarely been a time in which the winner of such a huge event left the card with as few options as Tim Bradley.
I think that Tim Bradley could imagine losing the fight. Bradley was, after all, going against the pound-for-pound king on many lists, a man who garnered ninety-five percent of the crowd on his side and a pre-fight spectacle that accompanies the two mega-fights in boxing. Everything going into the bout suggested that he could give his best effort and still lose a close decision. Being an undefeated champion, I am certain that he more than likely pushed these thoughts out of his mind and entered the squared circle to win. After all, this is the man who went to England to win his first major title against Junior Witter. Yet, when the score cards were read and his dejected face turned to jubilation, he probably had no idea that he was better off losing. Strange sentence to say in a combat sport, or any for that matter, but as we look at the following weeks and months since the fight, it is clear that no one seems to think or care that Bradley won.
The first factor in the "victory defeat" is that the judges clearly stole the show. Again, it doesn't matter who you had winning, but the fact that, after fight, the hype surrounded the three people outside of the ring scoring, not the combatants, is bad for the winner. In time, the criminals or heroes of the scorecard are forgotten, and the work of the fighter remains. This time, it seems that the work of the judges defeat the action in the ring.
A great factor in the judges winning out is the performance of Tim Bradley. His injury aside, even those who had him winning would admit he had no crowd-stealing moments. Unlike those who feel Juan Manual Marquez beat Manny last December, Bradley had no strong round where Manny looked confused, where he rocked Manny's head back several times, or where the crowd wondered if the hero would fall. No, Bradley, who many thought would win because he would use his youth, strength, and pressure style to get in Manny's face and make him pay with stronger shots, decided to work a boxing strategy for his win, landing a few, then turning out on his right foot, keeping Manny in chase mode. Manny, on the other hand, seemed to be knocking the younger man around the ring, bringing about Bradley's injury by pursuing him heavy with big shots. The man built like a comic book hero on the retreat from the man who actually has a comic. The eye test supports a Pacman win to the audience in attendance and the ones watching at home, no matter what the cards read at the end of the fight. Which leads to the next problem for Bradley on the issue.
Memory matters in combat sports. There have been some crappy Superbowls, but history only remembers the winner in football...well, the Superbowl winner and the best commercials. Every fight is the Superbowl when you are a major titleholder in boxing, and a lackluster performance kills viewers for the next Superbowl (before anyone thinks it, clearly a Mayweater or Pacquiao fight would be like the World Cup Final in soccer by comparison to regular title defenses). Ask anyone about the fight and they remember feeling that Pacman was cheated out of a victory. Again, it's not relevant whether or not you feel Bradley actually won or that you feel the HBO broadcast was favoring Pacquiao. People do not remember the fight for Bradley's performance, and worse, if they do remember him for his performance, they still do not care to see him fight Pacquiao ever again. So when Bradley called Pacman a chicken for choosing to fight Marquez again, someone that the public believes he did not beat, or at minimum, has constant struggles with, Bradley got no public demand to support his desire for a rematch. Who could blame Pacquiao, who feels he easily won the fight, for moving on to the one the public has doubts about him defeating.
Which brings us to my thesis. In my memory, I can hardly remember a fighter who was having trouble finding a fight after a win over a top-earner in the sport. In my recollection of solid B sides getting victories over premiere A sides, I am brought to guys like Mosely, who got a rematch with De La Hoya and several big fights later in his career, despite the controversial nature of some of the wins. However, the general public was split over the winner of those fights, something that Bradley does not have. Antonio Tarver got a rematch and several big fights after the Roy Jones victory, and while we are in the weight class, so did Glen Johnson, who actually got bigger fights the older he got.
All of those names are men who were high level B sides without fan bases, entered the squared circle with PPV draws and seat-filling pound-for-pound A sides, attained victories, and were able to continue to find big fight opportunities, despite never becoming A sides themselves. At minimum, they fought in such a way to earn rematches. Now realistically, I never expected a Mayweather/De La Hoya transition for Bradley with a Pacman win anyways, but I thought people would want to fight him if he beat one of the big two. Yet, I never imagined that so many people would see the fight as an insignificant name to have on their mantel. Bradley's management sought the right name once they were out of the Pacman sweepstakes. Kell Brook of England was coming off a big win and is a huge draw, as England is a combat island and they have a huge community of people who support their combat sports. Yet Brook was not interested in Bradley, in particular because he needs further pro grooming against high-level opposition, not to mention the fact that he could hold out and just as easily get a Mayweather/Pacquiao fight his first time crossing the pond.
It is looking like Bradley is going to rematch Lamont Peterson, a man he beat at 140 back in December of 2009. Yet, as much as that is a fight we will watch, I don't think its a fight that either party wants, despite the fact that they are willing to do it. Adding to this sad story, it is looking like they are not going fight in the DC area, which is where it would draw crowds of Peterson supporters. I should have known better than to hope for that, because this is boxing, and of course they are not going to fight where it makes the most sense.
Being the problem solver that I am, here are a couple of directions I think would be beneficial to the undefeated Bradley. For starters, return your focus to 140. It is the hottest division in boxing and a Danny Garcia fight would be ideal. The easiest to make contract-wise would be a Zab Judah fight, who still brings a high-level name to the table. The winner of Alvarado/Rios would also be great for the weight class, but his timeline would want someone different. If he stays at 147, the always entertaining Victor Ortiz would be an interesting option, not to mention Paulie Malignaggi. The only problem with any of these names, besides the Golden Boy/Top Rank cold war anyway, is their interest in the Bradley fight, which wouldn't bring any of them closer to the mega-fights of Pacquiao and Mayweather. Which brings me back to my original point again. Can you think of a guy who beat a major pound-for-pound fighter and didn't have anyone truly interested in fighting him? I, for one, cannot.
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