LAS VEGAS -- Five things we learned from Saturday's Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. card at the MGM Grand:
1. Anyone can fall victim to a bad decision
Conventional wisdom, for whatever it's worth, holds that close, controversial decisions will always fall in favor of the "house" fighter, the man who brings in the most money for the promoter, the venue and the TV network. That isn't always true, of course -- Oscar De La Hoya, for example, might have gotten the benefit of the doubt against Felix Sturm, but he certainly didn't in his second fight with Shane Mosley. But Saturday night stands as Exhibit A for the argument that, on the right night -- or the wrong night, depending on your perspective -- anyone can be on the receiving end of a bad decision.
Pacquiao is one of the two biggest stars in the sport. He is the unquestioned No. 1 at Top Rank, which promoted Saturday's show. A potential showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. would have been the richest fight in the history of the sport. And in the eyes of the great majority of observers, he didn't just beat Timothy Bradley Jr., he dominated him. This wasn't even comparable to Pacquiao's disputed wins over Juan Manuel Marquez, which almost everyone agrees were both at least close. To be fair, although there were some isolated dissenters ringside who gave Saturday's fight to Bradley, the great majority saw it as at least a 116-112 win for Pacquiao -- and plenty reckoned it was wider than that. (I scored it 117-111; ESPN.com's Dan Rafael and HBO's unofficial official, Harold Lederman, scored it 119-109.) In the immediate aftermath, before the scores were announced, even Bradley didn't seem to think he had won.
This was just a stunning, breathtaking decision. Even in the light of the following day, it's difficult to know what else to say.
2. Timothy Bradley deserves credit, anyway
Before the scores were announced, I anticipated writing a piece that congratulated Bradley on making a determined effort to win, especially during the first half to two-thirds of the fight, when he displayed a seemingly unwise willingness to exchange, and kept swinging even when he was tagged and his knees buckled after absorbing Pacquiao left hands. At least for the first nine rounds or so, it was, as one observer expressed it to me afterward, "one of the most exciting one-sided fights I've seen," and that was largely due to Bradley's determination and bravery. And, it turns out, he did it all with a fractured left foot and swollen right ankle. It isn't his fault he was awarded the decision. The judges deserve opprobrium, but not Bradley.
3. Boxing continues to be the theater of the bizarre
Almost from beginning to end, it was one of those nights: the shocking suddenness of the Randall Bailey win over Mike Jones; the bizarre quadruple foul (low blow/head-butt/kidney punch/free shot to the head) that prematurely ended Jorge Arce's night; the Case of the Missing Manny before the main event; the astonishing scoring in that fight; and at the end, an officially victorious but subdued Bradley answering questions at the postfight news conference from a wheelchair. Only in boxing. You can't make this stuff up.
4. Rigondeaux is ready
Guillermo Rigondeaux's relatively modest 10-0 professional record is misleading; after a lengthy and outstanding amateur career, Rigondeaux is the real deal and a polished product. Granted, Teon Kennedy offered no kind of opposition at all, but Rigondeaux is a special talent worthy of a big fight against any of the other top names in or around the 122-pound division. Unfortunately for him, Nonito Donaire likely isn't interested; nor, probably, is Toshiaki Nishioka. If Arce and Donaire don't tangle next (and there is a good chance they will), a Rigondeaux-Arce matchup would be mouth-watering.
5. But Mike Jones is not
A couple of years ago, Mike Jones was being spoken of as one of the hottest and best young prospects out there. Shane Mosley's trainer, Nazim Richardson, even mentioned him as a possible opponent when Mosley's slated 2010 fight with Andre Berto fell through, following the Haiti earthquake. But since Jones has failed to impress, looking disappointingly pedestrian even in wins against Jesus Soto-Karass and Sebastian Lujan. He was ahead by miles going into the 10th round against Randall Bailey on Saturday night, but the crowd was lustily booing a lackluster performance. Then Bailey's vaunted power dropped Jones on his back and, in the 11th, knocked him cold. This first defeat doesn't in any way have to be a career killer for Jones, but he'll need to retool and regroup off TV for a while as he seeks to prove his early positive reviews weren't premature.