Saturday night’s controversial ending in the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley has raised several questions. Many fight fans are wondering if the Bradley split decision victory could imperil a much-anticpated bout between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Pacquiao. Another lingering question is if this Bradley win will bring new attention to his career, the sport or the return of black fighters to prominence in boxing.
The first answer is yes, Saturday’s debacle of a decision does endanger a potential Floyd vs. Manny face-off, because it only pushes Pacquiao further away from boxing. Manny has been accused recently of spreading himself too thin in areas outside of boxing including politics, music and acting. He also has a renewed commitment to his Christian faith, which landed him in controversy last month. After Saturday night, I don’t think Manny is in any hurry to focus on the same sport which so blatantly betrayed and cheated him. Keep in mind too that boxing has made Pacquiao its poster child for the last six years. I wrote before the bout that a loss to Bradley would depreciate the value of a potential Mayweather bout — and I stand by that assessment now that the fight is over.
The only upside to possible negotiations between Mayweather and Pacquiao is that it’s believed Manny’s contract with Top Rank Boxing promotions expires in 2013. Mayweather has been very vocal about his reluctance to do business with Top Rank’s CEO, Bob Arum accusing him of “standing in the way” of potential fights on several occasions. Even with Pacquiao possibly severing ties with Arum and adopting the more lucrative Mayweather business formula, he will still have to first redeem himself from Saturday’s unfair decision. That redemption can only be vindicated by a knock-out of Timothy Bradley.
The answer to the second series of questions is – sort of. This Bradley win will make his popularity and future prizefighting purses grow, but I’m sure he didn’t envision his win coming like this. Once his victory was official, Bradley said, “I’ll have to look at the tape to see if I won.” That doesn’t sound like a confident Muhammad Ali after he upset Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title for the first time! A victory over one of boxing’s pound-for-pound bests should propel a fighter onto a higher pedestal. Bradley should be and would probably prefer to return to his hometown of Palm Springs, California to a parade of paparazzi and police escorts while riding high on the Buster Douglas float.
Even Bradley would have predicted the sweet taste of victory over a fighter of Pacquiao’s caliber should be a lot less bitter. Unfortunately for Bradley, this “win” only places him onto a bigger platform and podium — and forces him to answer even bigger questions. Bradley has the platform now and needs to prove he deserves all of this sudden attention — even if it’s unclear to him. He has no other choice. Although I didn’t think he came close to “giving Pacquiao a boxing lesson” as Judge Duane Ford claimed, I do give Bradley credit for his willingness to continue fighting despite fracturing his left foot in the second round and injuring the right one in the fifth.
If Bradley fizzles in future fights, this controversial decision will not only haunt his career but will also haunt the sport itself. Boxing is still buzzing over another questionable decision that took place on December 10, 2011, when up-and-coming African-American fighter Lamont Peterson beat Amir Khan by split decision for the WBA and IBF Light Welterweight titles. Khan, the more popular and promising prospect of the two, was penalized two points by the referee for pushing, which enabled Peterson to secure the victory. The rematch to silence all critics and a beginning sign of African-Americans’ possible return to prominence in the sport was set for May 19. But Peterson crashed and burned. He tested positive for a banned synthetic testosterone substance, thus cancelling the rematch.
The Bradley win does bring additional attention to the sport as the decision was covered globally, but it is unwanted and unneeded attention. Throughout time, prizefighting has been synonymous with corruption, whether it’s fixed fights, gambling, illegal substances, shady promoters or loaded boxing gloves. This has all contributed to the demise of the sport. Saturday night is another low blow in an already sinking perception of boxing.
Whether Bradley maximizes and makes the most of this moment is up to him, but he certainly still has a high mountain to climb to gain respect and an even steeper fall if he fails to do so.