LAS VEGAS, Nevada (UPDATED) – Timothy Bradley won a contested split decision over Manny Pacquiao, ending the Filipino fighter’s remarkable run and handing him his first defeat in seven years.
It didn’t come easy and it wasn’t without controversy, with the pro-Pacquiao crowd booing loudly when the decision was announced.
Pacquiao landed more punches and seemed to land the harder punches. But when the scorecards were added up, Bradley was up 115-113 on two scorecards and behind by the same margin on a third. The Associated Press had Pacquiao winning 117-111.
Pacquiao tried to turn the fight into a brawl, using his power to hurt Bradley in the early rounds. But Bradley changed tactics in the middle rounds and used his boxing skills to win enough rounds to take the narrow decision for the welterweight title.
"I thought I won the fight,’’ Bradley said. "I didn’t think he was as good as everyone says he was. I didn’t feel his power.’’
Ringside punching statistics showed Pacquiao landing 253 punches to 159 for Bradley, who vowed before the fight to take the title from Pacquiao.
Bradley was so confident that he had oversized tickets printed up for a Nov. 10 rematch that will now likely happen.
Bradley seemed hurt in the fourth and fifth rounds, but Pacquiao had trouble landing big punches after that. Still, he seemed in control of the fight everywhere but on the judge’s scorecards.
"Can you believe that? Unbelievable,’’ promoter Bob Arum said. "I went over to Bradley before the decision and he said, `I tried hard but I couldn’t beat the guy.’’’
Bradley said he hurt his ankle in the second round, and that trainer Joel Diaz said he could either quit or try to take the fight to Pacquiao.
"I did my best," Pacquiao said. `"I guess my best wasn’t good enough.’"
Pacquiao said he studied Bradley on tape before the fight and wasn’t surprised by anything he did. He said he thought he was in control of the fight and was shocked when the decision went against him.
"He never hurt me with his punches, most of them landed on my arms,’’ Pacquiao said.
Arum said there would be a rematch, though he criticized the judging. Arum has contracts with both fighters.
Pacquiao fell to 54-4-2 with 38 wins inside the distance, suffering his first defeat since he dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to Erik Morales in March 2005.
Bradley improved to 29-0 with 12 wins inside the distance and seized Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization welterweight title.
Bradley came out aggressive and got the better of the exchanges early in the first round before Pacquiao hurt the American with three straight lefts late in the round.
Pacquiao continued to get to Bradley with the straight left in the second and third rounds, connecting also with some right hooks to the body and the occasional over-hand left.
Bradley stayed in front of him and kept punching but didn’t appear to be hurting the champion.
In the fourth Pacquiao hurt Bradley with a series of blows. After one exchange that included a left to Bradley’s jaw the American stumbled back.
Pacquiao rocked Bradley with another left to the head in the fifth and in the sixth backed Bradley into the ropes, unleashing a barrage that included a strong right hook to the body.
A tenacious Bradley continued to challenge Pacquiao, and it was Bradley’s work in the final three rounds that turned the tide for the judges, even though by then he was complaining to his corner of pain in his right foot, which he had twisted in an earlier round.
The announcement of the result was greeted by boos from the pro-Pacquiao crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Pacquiao’s wife, Jinkee, and sons Manny Junior and Michael -- watching their father fight in Las Vegas for the first time -- looked stunned.
Pacquiao, a world champion in eight weight classes who is reckoned the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, said he thought he had done enough to win.
‘’Absolutely, yes,’’ he said, to cheers from the crowd.
However, Pacquiao wasn’t prepared to criticize the judging. (Associated Press and Agence France Press)