It’s boxing. Stranger things have and yet still continue to happen. We shouldn’t act so surprised anymore at rotten decisions, feigning shots to the child factory region or anything else that draws our respective ire. To the trained eye or at least to the purest administrator of the eye test, the final ten seconds of Saturday evening’s welterweight clash between Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley and Jessie “El Nuevo Generacion” Vargas was more a case of a seasoned referee slightly cracking under pressure as opposed to displaying his usual grace under the same conditions.
Vargas literally did save the best for last. He connected with a thunderous right cross to Bradley’s chin. The former multi division champion from Palm Springs, California almost went face to floor with the canvas, but he didn’t. He used what he had left in his veteran bag of tricks to stay afoot to the few moments left in a bout he had deservedly won.
The shot from Jessie was simple yet effective.
A thought–judging by the sparse attendance at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, the Las Vegas based fighter could have reared back to row ZZ in the upper balcony section to gather even more power for himself.
Bradley knew he had to survive for just a bit longer, so he didn’t just try to get on a bicycle. He tried to jump a train. None of this should have seemed awkward to even the most casual boxing fan. If the object of the sport is to not get hit, then it goes without saying that once a fighter momentarily yet dangerously has his clock cleaned, then he should try his best to not get hit again. That’s all Tim tried to do. After a brief clinch, referee Pat Russell was simply looking to make Vargas aware that the tangling had to go, yet perhaps he wasn’t aware of where time stood in regard to the amount left in the round.
To be sure, the majority of us can decipher the clear audible differences between a sound akin to sticks breaking and a loud ringing of a bell. One is wooden and the other is some sort of metal. One echoes while the other resonates. Sounds easy enough, yes? Russell heard the customary clicking of sticks at ringside to signal ten seconds left in a round. He was in the middle of conversing with Vargas and he made a quick yet baffling decision. Pat thought the fight was over. He didn’t wave his hands high into the air to signal that he’d called the fight due to a knockout or a fighter’s inability to continue. Rather, he used a short flick of the wrists just as our parents would to signal, “no more of that.”
Either way, the job is much harder than it looks.
Jessie Vargas, through no fault of his own, thought that Russell was calling the bout to a close and ran across the ring in a very understandable celebratory fashion. Alas, it was not to be.
Let’s be fair or more to the point, frank with ourselves. Mistakes happen. The scene at the Stub Hub Center was much like when a time out is called in a football game just as a kicker has booted a potentially game winning field goal. The ball splits the uprights, but the score doesn’t count because the clock was halted just in the nick of time. The time-out goes as planned and then the kicker shanks the same kick just moments later. It’s gut wrenching to watch and likely tenfold in misery for the athlete in question. Jessie Vargas had to be crushed when reality set in.
The fact is that Bradley won the bout in a convincing fashion manner and he didn’t have to use his ramrod of a head to do it. Tim almost got another raw deal. He almost showed up at McDonald’s at 10:31am only to be told that breakfast was no longer being served. In any case, the right man won and the right decision was made. Thankfully, what we didn’t see was an all too familiar case of an up and coming fighter being pushed through with another questionable decision simply because he made it through the contest upright. Likewise, we didn’t see a recognizable fighter get by on his name alone. In that regard, the result was a refreshing one.
Bradley’s only 31 and he never deserved the harsh criticism leveled upon him after his 2012 win over Manny Pacquiao or his victory over Juan Manuel Marquez eighteen months later. He’s still a very good fighter with a still tremendous upside and Saturday evening, Jessie Vargas showed those with HBO why he belongs in the conversation for the near future. The snafu in the ring didn’t change anything.
Boxing isn’t the theater of the unexpected as much as it is that of the unsurprising.