Upon Re-Watching, I Still Think Pacquiao Won, But...
|Written by Michael Woods|
|Tuesday, 12 June 2012 20:02|
Three days on, and I'm still wrestling with the Pacquiao-Bradley decision. I'm still not sure what it was that my eyes saw. Fight night, I was certain. I was right there with the HBO crew, and that thunk you heard from Park Slope, Brooklyn was the same thunk you heard en masse in Vegas, and in the Philippines, and everywhere else people had access to the broadcast or stream of the fight. It was my jaw and your jaw, and probably hundreds of thousands of jaws hitting the floor when Michael Buffer got done telling us what we could scarcely believe..but could believe, without a lengthy bout of processing, because similar circumstance had forced us to pick up our jaw from the floor last month, and the month before that, and so on, and so forth
But then I kept ruminating, and marinating, and pondering some what ifs. What if there was a contrarian stance to take? What if a tsunami of emotion and opinion, coalescing around the new wonder that is social media, had turned a semi-screwy decision into a Brinks Job, a Madoffian fleecing. What if those two judges, Ross and Ford, weren't inept or worse, compromised, but actually turned in scores that were within the bounds of reason, based on the criteria they use to score fights. These were out there "what ifs," because on fight night, I saw the replays, I saw Manny throwing shots that had mustard on them, I saw him landing more than a couple straight lefts that landed flushed and tested Bradley's chin, I saw minute after minute in round after round of Bradley backing up, or throwing mushy shots which seemed to find Pacman's forearms and gloves as much as anything else. I also saw the CompuBox numbers, which helped cement my take, based on the hard, cold numbers, that Manny threw more power shots, and landed many more, and that Manny won the fight. But, I had to remind myself, these old pros didn't have those watching aids on fight night. They didn't get the benefit of the super slo mo replays, or the punchstat numbers, to help inform their scores. Course, word was that just about every media person present at the MGM saw Manny the victor, and we all heard that Bradley after apologized to promoter Bob Arum for not getting it done. But I felt like I owed it to those judges who've been getting slammed by everyone and their brother, raked over the coals with Lasik jokes and such to re-watch that fight, with the sound off, and lose the replay and CompuBox crutches.
On Monday and Tuesday I did that. I re-watched the bout. And guess what? Manny still won on my card.
I still saw him doing more, a bunch more, based on the main component I use to score a bout: effective aggression. He landed the cleaner, harder shots. Round after round. But..I re-watched with another purpose in mind. To try and watch the rounds and determine if they could PLAUSIBLY be scored for Bradley. And guess what? I saw, on second watch, a fight that was closer than it looked initially.
Now, maybe my mind is irrevocably tainted. Maybe I'm bending over too far backwards in sympathy to Ross and Ford, trying too hard to take that contrary stance. But I found it exceedingly hard to find a runaway round, the sort of round that a kindergartner could watch, and tell you who won. There were no knockdowns. There were no shots landed that buzzed a guy to his marrow, made his knees knock. There weren't more than a couple blows that sent sweat spraying off into the second row, a clear signal that damage has been done, solid contact has been made.
On fight night, I gave a single round to Bradley, and upon further review--sorry Tim--I only gave him one more than that. This might be derided as the wimpiest unofficial card ever produced, but remember, I re-watched with a new purpose, to give Bradley and Ross and Ford the benefit of the doubt...and I scored 5 rounds for Pacquiao, two rounds for Bradley, and five rounds even. And what that told me was that I am backing off terming this fight a "robbery." Bad decision, yep. Should Duane Ford beg and plead a moment of insanity for telling Steve Carp and the world he though Bradley gave Pacquiao a "boxing lesson?" I think he should...But there have been worse decisions than this one, and will be a half dozen more in the second half of this year, sad to say.
ROUND ONE Was it as effective as the most aggressive we've seen Manny on his best night? No, but he still pushed the action, looked to me to land half a handful of cleaner blows, plus Bradley landed on Manny's arms, up in front of his face. Manny's best shots probably landed in the last ten seconds, so if you were on the fence, as many could have been with this round, that late work might have nudged it to Manny. (Not fair to score with aid of replay, if you are trying to replicate the experience of the onsite judges; but replay showed Manny landing a clean, crisp left, the best of the round for either man, in the waning seconds. I think it was the waning seconds, I was watching with sound off, lest I be seduced by the smoothtalking seducers. Did that launch impress the judges like it did me? Not Duane Ford; he liked Bradley in the first.
ROUND TWO No one separated themselves in this frame. Since we are undertaking this endeavor to test our initial reaction, and want to be as fair as possible, want to not be reflexively dismissive of friends and colleagues who saw a closer fight than we did, we tilt towards trying to view Bradley with open eyes and mind.
ROUND THREE Another tight one. No sharpshooter landing sniper fire. One Manny straight left stood out for me, in the middle third, but if you want to call this one a draw, power to you. I would have given a slight edge to Pacquiao, because, yes, I will typically reward you for trying to make the fight, "hitting" is the main aim of the game, but will bend over backward for Bradley here. Maybe I was being "too fair;" all three judges gave Manny the round.
ROUND FOUR Manny got into fiery mode, and the boys traded some early, and the Filipino's power emerged for me here. The crowd told you, I think, who took this round, with their ovation after the frame. Bradley spent most of his energy trying to slip shots, moving his head here and there to evade. His offense wasn't top drawer here. All three arbiters were on the same page, for Pacquiao.
ROUND FIVE Pacman tried to push the action, went forward, was the more aggressive man in this round. Did he miss a lot? Yes. Bradley was quite intent on focusing on defense here, and neglected a concerted offensive focus. But..only Jerry Roth saw it my way.
ROUND SIX Guess what else is new? No runaway winner here. Bradley did a ton of backing up, and used a pecking jab, which to my eyes didn't bother Manny a stitch. Neither man was very busy the first two thirds of the round and in the last third Manny did more. He actually went on the offensive whereas Bradley mostly focused on D. All three watchers agreed with me.
ROUND SEVEN Bradley got into more of an offensive groove. Don't know if heard it in his corner after the sixth, because I was watching with sound off, but it seemed like he was fighting as though he did. Then, a graphic popped up that said Manny was outlanding him in the round by about a 3 to 1 margin, so..I don't know. As I'm watching this bending over backwards to see all the good Bradley is doing, maybe I give him too much credit. Siiighhhh. The judges, by the way, refuted the CompuBox info, and all gave the round to Bradley.
ROUND EIGHT Same thing here; no runaway winner. Another round where I cannot say, damn, that judge should be locked up, or suspended and sent to remedial ed. Manny wasn't busy in the first third, and Bradley made him miss a lot, with that underrated head movement the last two thirds. I don't like flipping a coin; if a round is close, I generally won't do it. I am unafraid to admit that I didn't see separation and thus, declared no clear winner. More judges doing so might encourage more fighters to fight more aggressively, so as to send a non-subtle message to the judges. I WANT TO WIN. (Note: After the round, the camera showed Mrs. Pacquiao at her seat, head bowed, concern on her face. her body language didn't say, "We got this in the bag. This thing is sewn up." Just sayin'...) Only Roth would've reassured her that her guy did better in this one.
So, we will continue to talk about this one. Maybe more useful than looking back, and my robot judges jokes, would be brainstorming and implementing improvements to the system. I'm thinking using more ex professional boxers, who do tend to know what they are seeing in there, couldn't hurt. Coming up with standardized criteria, so all judges in all jurisdictions are working off the same playbook, seems to make sense as well. And being more judicious about using words like "robbery," I think, is something I will try to incorporate.