In a stunning decision, unbeaten Timothy Bradley (29-0) won a split-decision victory over eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2) at the MGM Grand Gardens Arena. Two judges scored the WBO welterweight title fight 115-113 for Bradley, who appeared to be trailing all night. The third judge gave Pacquiao a 115-113 edge. The results were loudly jeered by a near-capacity crowd in the arena, many of whom stood stunned at their seats.
Here is a round-by-round recap of the fight (scoring is unofficial).
Round 1: Referee Robert Byrd completes his final instructions and the fight is underway. At the bell both fighters charge to the center of the ring. Bradley throws the first punch but misses. Pacquiao throws a wild combination then, after Bradley connects, Pacquiao lands a pair of punches. Bradley might be throwing fewer punches but he’s landing more. With 15 seconds left, Pacquiao catches Bradley a couple of times but Bradley wins the round, 10-9.
Round 2: Bradley continues as the aggressor but 30 seconds into the round the patient Pacquiao lands a couple of shots. At the minute mark Bradley catches him in the middle of the ring and lands some punches of his own. With 1:12 left Bradley backs Pacquiao against the ropes and gets off three shots. Then after the champ escapes, Bradley chases him down and lands a couple of more. Pacquiao again answers in the final 30 seconds but Pacquiao looks to be fighting defensively. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Fight is even, 19-19.
Round 3: Bradley lands a hard right to the midsection to start the round, then the two fighters clinch. Bradley is probing with the left, keeping the left cocked and loaded. Pacquiao is bobbing and weaving, looking for an opening. With 90 seconds left he finds it and gets off the kind of lightning-fast shot Bradley fears. That one stung the challenger. Now Pacquiao is moving forward. Pacquiao just misses on a wicked right hook but he pins Bradley against the ropes momentarily. Bradley looks stunned in the final seconds. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the fight 29-28.
Round 4: The most action in the fight so far with both men mixing it up in the center of the ring. But again Pacquiao is getting the best of it. Bradley is cautioned for a low blow, then twice clinches, forcing Byrd to step in to separate the fighters. Bradley is in trouble with 40 seconds to go in the round, and Pacquiao chases him around the ring. The challenger is all but defenseless, eventually grabbing the champion to stop the assault. Bradley appears close to going down a couple of times in the final 30 seconds. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the fight 39-37.
Round 5: Bradley has become much less aggressive and now it’s Pacquiao who charges forward, slapping his gloves together. Pacquiao’s confidence is growing with each passing second, it seems. Bradley fakes a couple of punches, then begins backing up again. Pacquiao is trying to cut the ring off. Bradley lands a couple of lefts but they had little effect. With 35 seconds left Pacquiao gets off a combination, missing the first punch but landing hard with the second and Bradley looks to be in trouble again. Pacquiao is all over him as the bell sounds. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9, Pacquiao leads the fight, 49-46.
Round 6: Bradley lands a soft left but it doesn’t hurt Pacquiao, whose speed is overwhelming the challenger. Bradley flinches every time Pacquiao so much as feigns a punch. Pacquiao gets off a good left counterpunch. Then another straight left with 45 seconds left. Bradley is stuck in a corner, holding his gloves in front of his face as Pacquiao pounds at his body. Five, six, seven unanswered blows. This one is getting very one-sided. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the fight, 59-55.
Round 7: It took Pacquiao most of the first two rounds to get a feel for Bradley but the champion is unstoppable now. Even on the rare occasions when Bradley gets off a good punch Pacquiao answers with two of his own. And while Bradley’s punches appear to have little effect, Pacquiao’s apear to be taking a toll. With 70 seconds left in the round Pacquiao just misses with a devastating left. But even when that landed him against the ropes, he escapes easily. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9., and leads the fight 69-64.
Round 8: Early in the round Pacquiao hops up and down likes he’s riding a bike, apparently trying to get Bradley to come after him. A minute in Bradley appears to get caught in the eye by Pacquiao’s thumb and Byrd momentarily pauses the fight. Then it resumes and Bradley is once again in trouble. Bradley is just tapping at the champion –- and for good reason because whenever he winds up he leaves himself wide open to Pacquiao’s vicious counterattack. Pacquiao again has him backing up at the bell. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the fight, 79-73.
Round 9: Pacquiao again blesses himself before the start of the round but perhaps it’s Bradley who should be praying. Pacquiao, patient as always, finds Bradley leaning forward and drives him into the ropes with a couple of shots. Then halfway through the round, Bradley bends at the waist to avoid one punch, Pacquiao nails him with a pair of uppercuts. Bradley gets off a right to the head but he continues to leave himself open. Bradley’s punches have too much sweep and not enough power -– a recipe for disaster against someone with Pacquiao’s speed. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the fight, 89-82.
Round 10: Bradley’s goal now appears to be just to survive. With 12 knockouts in 28 fights, he doesn’t have the punching power to kncck out Pacquiao now. And as he backs around the ring he seems almost uninterested in rejoining the fight. Just inside two minutes in, however, he lands a couple of punches. And halfway into the round, while Pacquiao clinches, he gets off a shot to Pacquiao’s head. With the score where it is, he needs to be way more aggressive. Bradley wins a close round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the fight, 98-92.
Round 11: Bradley is showing some fight, first slipping a couple of punches and then backing Pacquiao against the ropes. But he doesn’t make much of the chance. Pacquiao keeps bouncing on the balls of his feet, as if to show Bradley he’s not tired. The crowd, quiet for most of the fight, begins to shout Bradley’s name. Pacquiao shuts that down with a flurry of punches that are mostly for show. For one of the few times in the fight Pacquiao appears to be flailing until he gets Bradley against a turnbuckle again. Pacquiao wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao leads the right, 108-101.
Round 12: The fighters touch gloves to start the round. Bradley needs a knockout but he’s not showing sufficient urgency. A combination a minute into the round misses on both ends. Pacquiao isn’t sitting on his lead, though. Like a true champion he continues to fight moving forward. He has given up on the idea of a knockout, though. Bradley hits him in the jaw early in the final minute, and that appears to wake Pacquiao up. The round ends with both fighters throwing wild punches. Bradley wins the round, 10-9. Pacquiao should win the fight, 117-111. But now it’s up to the judges.
Official scoring: In a stunning decision, unbeaten Timothy Bradley won a split-decision victory over eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Gardens Arena. Two judges scored the fight 115-113 for Bradley, who appeared to be trailing all night. The third judge gave Pacquiao a 115-113 edge. The results were loudly jeered by a near-capacity crowd in the arena, many of whom stood stunned at their seats.