More than any one thing, the most persistent stench that attaches itself to modern day boxing is the poor quality of judging in many high-profile bouts.
The stench was heavy and lingering on June 9, 2012, when Manny Pacquiao met 9-to-1 underdog Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Most watchers, in person and on TV, thought Pacman, the whirling dervish from the Philippines, had got the better of Bradley. He landed more than the California-based Bradley (253 to 159) and drama wasn't thick in the air as ring emcee Michael Buffer read the cards submitted by C.J. Ross, Duane Ford and Jerry Roth. But when Buffer said, "...and newwww," the howls of protest and disgust were heard from Baguiao to Boston, and beyond. Ross and Ford had seen something different than the majority, but something all to familiar to fight fans.
Promoter Bob Arum thundered in the days following that he wanted the government to look into the matter, and while Pacquiao reacted with as much class and dignity as one could hope, Bradley was left shaken by the blowback. The poor man even received death threats from some knuckleheads who were taking the sporting event far more seriously than it deserved to be taken. Bradley (31-0 with 12 KOs) has fought two times since, beating Ruslan Provodnikov in the 2013 Fight of the Year, and outboxed the 55-5-2 Pacman rival for the ages Juan Manuel Marquez in October, but I could see as I chatted with the 30-year-old hitter in NYC on Thursday afternoon, that event in 2012 sticks with him, and takes up space in his head, despite his occasional protests.
"It was hard for me to accept criticism at times, it was hard for me to read the things people were writing about me, the negatives in the blogs and the Twitter, and all that, but since the Pacquiao fight, there's nothing you can tell me that's going to affect me," he insisted during the media gathering held at New World Stages on West 50th St. "They're just words. And that's what I've learned and how I'm stronger now."
All due respect to Bradley, but I have a strong suspicion that he isn't over it just yet, that the attacks that were leveled at him, as Manny rooters came to Pacman's defense, and hit Bradley with some collateral shrapnel, may have lessened in sting, but remain. I think we're going to see a man of strident purpose gloving up against Pacman in the rematch, to be staged by Top Rank and seen on HBO pay-per-view on April 12.
I heard pain in Bradley's voice at the Stage, I read in between the emotional lines that he thinks he still isn't being given the respect he feels he's due, and has further work to do to convince everyone, even people at Top Rank, who promote both him and Pacquiao, to get them to acknowledge his true worth. Seems to me nobody is overlooking Bradley this time around, though, and I doubt Pacman will. Manny admitted to ESPN NY that he underestimated Bradley in 2012, but won't this time.
That said, most everyone I talk to sees this as a coin flip fight, which could go either way. Me, I think most highly of Bradley, and note that he deciphered Marquez last year infinitely more easily than Pacman has in four tries over the years. No way I'd feel confident enough to bet the house, or even a month's rent, on Pacquiao or Bradley to get the W in the rematch.
Check back for more from the presser, from chats with Pacquiao, trainer Freddie Roach and promoter Arum.