Saturday night, Timothy Bradley earned an extremely controversial split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Noticeably missing from the HBO broadcast was the venerable Larry Merchant, who TQBR had a chance to speak to early Monday evening and learn his thoughts. It must be noted that this writer saw the fight 114-114, a very unpopular verdict.
Thanks for talking to us, Larry. Obviously, we had a very controversial result this weekend in Las Vegas where Timothy Bradley got a decision over Manny Pacquiao. First, your thoughts on how you saw the fight?
I thought Pacquiao clearly won, I had it around nine rounds to three. It is not unusual that judges don’t agree, it is unusual that they get it as wrong as that. Pacquiao landed more punches and more hard punches. I’m sure you could do a slow motion to any fight and find where somebody did or didn’t get credit or discredit for something. I’m not prepared to do that. I don’t know what I would have said if I did, I’ll have something to say about it after this weekend. To me, it is about who puts more hurt on the other guy.
Were you surprised at how well Timothy Bradley did, even though you had Pacquiao winning?
I was not surprised. And I would like to point out even he was surprised. If there was surprise, it was that he was surprised that he won.
His trainer Joel Diaz throughout the fight was telling him he was doing well and he was winning. Do you believe Diaz really believed he was winning or do you think he was trying to motivate him?
I don’t know him well enough to know how he really operates, but maybe he felt because Bradley fought gamely and shook off a lot of good punches, that made him the winner.
Did you feel that Bradley made good adjustments in the second half to make it a closer fight than it was?
I thought he decided that he would be smarter than braver in the second half of the fight, after taking a lot of punishment in the first half. But not getting hit by a lot of punches doesn’t mean much if you yourself don’t land very much and I don’t recall that Bradley landed many meaningful punches in the fight. To me a fight is about who hurts the other guy more, usually. And in a close decision, I would give it to the guy who is more aggressive and lands more punches or it is not prizefighting, it is something else.
Do you think that Pacquiao has lost a step given how he looked in this fight versus in fights maybe three or four fights ago?
It has to do with styles. When guys who are naturally bigger than him thought they could put pressure on him and overcome him then he had a chance to look spectacular. When they probably decided that was not the right strategy and they decided to go away from him and try and survive him, then the fights were not spectacular but they were usually one-sided. Any professional fighter can survive if that is his intention. And that was some of their intentions, certainly Shane Mosley after the first few rounds was there just to survive, so it wasn’t a knockout. I don’t count that against Manny Pacquiao. If anybody holds him to the standard of his fights against [Oscar] De La Hoya and [Miguel] Cotto and [Ricky] Hatton, nobody lives up to that standard every fight. The fact that Bradley didn’t get punished as much in the second half of the fight doesn’t mean he won those rounds. And I think there is a kind of feeling of relativity like “Okay, he didn’t lose that round that big, so therefore he won the round.” I don’t agree with that!
What are your thoughts on the way Pacquiao delayed the start of the fight?
I thought it was not professional and arrogant.
Do you think there is a possibility that scenario affected the way the fight was scored? A majority of the judges were into their 70s.
I don’t know how to judge that. I’m an old guy too so I qualify as being an old guy and I was unhappy with it. I don’t know if those judges sitting ringside or wherever they were knew why the fight was delayed. I know they knew that Arum said the fight wouldn’t start until after the game, etc. I don’t know how to measure that. If you think the other guys would have put up with it better, and wouldn’t be out of sorts, you are a younger guy and you largely agreed with them and it didn’t bother you.
A lot of people were using CompuBox to support why Pacquiao won the fight. Do you think CompuBox is really a good tool for people to judge whether or not one guy won a fight?
I think it’s a tool, I think it’s a quantitative tool and not a qualitative tool in the sense that it can somewhat accurately show who is throwing the most punches and maybe it gets close on who is landing the most punches. I don’t think it can measure the quality of punches, normally. It is just a tool and it is usually the guy who throws the most punches is the aggressor and who wins the fight but it is not always the case.
Did you expect Bradley to make it to the finish line given the way he traded with Pacquiao for the first three or four rounds?
I thought there was a possibility that if he tried to trade more or tried to get inside that eventually there could be a stoppage and I saw a few times where he got hurt and stepped back and wasn’t in control of himself and then went to “Plan B.”
Would you call this one of the worst decisions that you have seen?
In a big fight, yes it is one of the worst of recent times in a major fight. If it was as bad as [Pernell] Whitaker and [Julio Cesar] Chavez it would have been good because it would have been a draw.
Does this decision really hurt Manny Pacquiao given that a vast majority felt he won the fight and this isn’t a situation where because Pacquiao lost the fight he is going to miss out on a payday, whereas in cases like Richard Abril and Erislandy Lara, they may never get another opportunity of that stature?
No because veteran champions are judged on a different standard than a young fighter or relatively unknown fighter. He is judged on body of work, on his style. Who would you rather watch fight, Lara or Pacquiao? I would rather watch [Marcos] Maidana than Lara. Maidana keeps getting fights because he makes good fights. It is not just boxing, it is prizefighting. It is fighting in a style that moves people. It is not just Pacquiao, if you come to fight and are willing to take risks, then there will be rewards, win or lose.
Now the obvious question, does this kill the already unlikely fight of [Floyd] Mayweather-Pacquiao completely?
I don’t think so but I said for a long time, the longer they wait to make it to happen, the more likely something will happen to make it never happen. Is this one of those things? It is possible, we’ll see what happens. We don’t know how Mayweather will be when he gets out of jail, we don’t know how Pacquiao will do in his next fight. I don’t think this helps a bad situation get better, it makes a bad situation get a little worse.
If there is a Pacquiao-Bradley rematch, how do you expect it to play out?
I think that Bradley will probably make “Plan B” into “Plan A.” If he just comes and boxes and tries to stay away and doesn’t take any real risks, then Pacquiao will have to fight, perhaps making his own kinds of adjustments to that.
Is this decision bad for boxing?
Well it is not good for boxing, but there is a script in boxing that takes controversy to a higher level where people are suspicious that a sinister force is afoot. Boxing has brought that on itself, it has long been thought of as the red light district of sports, and so sometimes there are people who only take notice when there is controversy. I don’t see anyone taking notice that the Celtics and the Heat went seven games when the Celtics had a chance to close it out in Game 6. If that happened in boxing, people would be looking at what the motives were. That’s just what boxing is and how it is viewed and I don’t take it personally and I don’t think boxing does either. I don’t think it is the final bell on boxing, something sort of like this happens in boxing every while, some outrageous thing that is unique to boxing.
There were a lot of people chiming in that this is why they don’t watch boxing or saying boxing is dying with decisions like this and really the people that say those things mostly are those who buy one or two PPVs a year and aren’t boxing fans.
Right, they are buying a big event for one reason or another and they got intrigued and Manny Pacquiao is a celebrity outside of boxing as well as inside of boxing. Given the impression that the fight made and people paid money to see the event and it turns out that they saw something different, so I understand their confusion.
Thank you so much for your time, Larry, I look forward to seeing what you have to say about this fight on next weekend’s [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr.-[Andy] Lee broadcast in Texas.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America (BWAA) and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.