Pacquiao appeared to win no less than nine rounds on many scorecards and the decision never seemed to be in question. Bradley was a game opponent but was never in the fight. Pacquiao backed him up and rocked him on several occasions with big punches.
Yet somehow two of the three judges found a way to give Timothy Bradley the fight and caused a storm of controversy in the process.
Manny Pacquiao is not the first fighter to be the victim of a head-scratching decision and sadly he won’t be the last.
Here are 10 of the worst decisions in boxing history.
Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad were the two best welterweights on the planet and the two most popular non-Heavyweight fighters when they met on September 18, 1999. The fight would set a then non-Heavyweight record for Pay Per View sales.
It was supposed to be a competitive fight with two undefeated champions trying to stake their claim as the best welterweight in the world. The fight turned out to be a dud. De La Hoya manhandled Trinidad in the early rounds of the fight, bloodying and busting him up. The fight was so one-sided it prompted HBO commentator Jim Lampley to say “Outclass isn’t a big enough word for what’s happening here.”
After nine rounds, De La Hoya appeared to have an insurmountable lead and was advised by his corner to stay away from Trinidad. It was a tactical error that would haunt De La Hoya for the rest of his career.
Trinidad would win the late rounds of the fight but it seemed to be too little too late. However, the judges’ decision left many perplexed: 114-114, 115-114 and 115-113 in favor of Felix Trinidad.
Many questioned how any judge could have given more than six rounds to Trinidad who was clearly behind heading into the last third of the fight.
The decision was disputed but upheld and sadly the two would never have a rematch.
After George Foreman shocked the world and regained the World Heavyweight championship at age 46, he fought German journeyman Axel Schulz in what was supposed to be an easy fight.
Schulz had other ideas.
Transforming into a real-life Rocky, Schulz proved to be a tough challenge for “Big” George and took him the distance. Schulz closed Foreman’s left eye and outclassed him over the course of 12 rounds and look poised to take the Heavyweight championship from him.
When the final bell rang it appeared that Schulz would become the first German World Heavyweight champion. Schulz celebrated believing he had won and Foreman had the look of a defeated man.
Howard Lederman had Schulz winning 117-111. The judges' scores came in 114-114, 115-113, 115-113, and Foreman retained his title in a majority decision. There was a chorus of boos in Las Vegas after the decision came in and in Schulz's native Germany fans threw objects at a huge screen. Foreman felt Schulz couldn’t win the title because all he did was “run.”
Foreman walked away with the title and refused to give Schulz a rematch.
In 2004, Oscar De La Hoya wanted to make boxing history by going up to Middleweight and fighting legendary Middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. Before the fight could be made De La Hoya fought a tune-up bout with strong, young contender Felix Sturm.
De La Hoya came into the fight more resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy than one of the best fighters of his era. Whether he was unprepared or overlooking Sturm will never be known, but De La Hoya was clearly not ready for the challenge Sturm presented. The young challenger battered and bruised De La Hoya and did enough it seemed to block any chance of a De La Hoya vs. Hopkins fight from happening.
The judges had different ideas and handed down a questionable decision. All three judges scored the fight 115-113 for “The Golden Boy.” The crowd booed but De La Hoya won despite being out-punched by an 18 percent connect rate.
At age 48, Foreman was primed to make one last run at the Heavyweight Championship. He fought tough Heavyweight Shannon Briggs in a title eliminator and gave the younger Briggs a boxing lesson.
Over the course of the bout Foreman rocked Briggs with big punches and often had the younger on his heels as he was unable to mount much of an offense against the aging warrior. Foreman punctuated the fight by out-punching Briggs in the last round and appeared to have won the fight.
Foreman landed 284 of his 488 punches, giving him a connect percentage of 58. While Briggs threw six more punches, he only landed 223, or 45 percent. Despite that the judges scored it 114-114, 117-113 and 116-112, Briggs walked away with a majority decision.
Briggs was booed by the crowd, who yelled expletives after the decision came down. Foreman retired after the fight and never fought again.
Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez met on September 10, 1993 for the WBC Welterweight Championship in a fight that was considered to be between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
Chavez entered the fight with an impressive 87-0 record and was favored to beat the slick punching champion Whitaker. In the eyes of most who watched the fight, Whitaker clearly out boxed the Mexican legend and did what he needed to do to defend his title.
The judges did not come to the same conclusion and for the second time in his career Whitaker found himself on the wrong side of a disputed decision. Two of the three judges scored the fight a draw at 115-115 while the third judge scored the fight 115-113 for Whitaker. The fight was declared a majority draw.
A Sports Illustrated issue after the fight featuring Pernell Whitaker on the cover had the headline “Robbed!” The magazine believed Whitaker won nine of the 12 rounds.
Unfortunately a rematch was never made and the fight remains one of the most controversial in boxing history.
Paul Williams was doing his best to put his career back together after being knocked out cold by Sergio Martinez in a December 2009 Middleweight Title bout. His journey back to the top would feature a fight with former Cuban amateur boxer Erislandy Lara in July 2011.
Williams was heavily favored to beat Lara and setup a third fight with Sergio Martinez but Lara had other ideas. From very early on Lara connected with huge left hands and backed up and often stunned Williams.
Lara bloodied Williams and badly cut his left eye on the way to what appeared to be an easy upset decision.
Howard Lederman scored the fight 117-111 for Lara and many others in the boxing public agreed with that score. However, the judges saw the fight differently and scored it 114-114, 115-114 and 116-114. Paul Williams won in a majority decision against Erislandy Lara.
After the decision was read Roy Jones, who called the fight exclaimed, “This is what is wrong with boxing now. This feels like Seoul, Korea all over again (referring to the time he was robbed of a gold medal as an amateur).”
Lara landed 42 percent of his punches compared to just 19 percent for Williams. While the decision was not overturned, the New Jersey Athletic Control board suspended all three judges for the controversial decision.
In 1988 Pernell Whitaker was a young undefeated prospect who decided to try his luck fighting out of the country when he went to France and fought Jose Luis Ramirez for the WBC Lightweight Title. For 12 rounds Whitaker out-boxed, out-classed and out-fought Ramirez and seemed to be headed for another easy victory.
The judges did not agree and came down with one of the most puzzling decisions in boxing history. They scored the bout in 117-113, 115-116 and 113-118, and Ramirez won a split decision.
The most shocking scorecard came from the judge who had Whitaker losing by a five-point margin in a fight many felt he unquestionably won. In the 1999 edition of the ‘World Encyclopedia of Boxing,’ when talking of the fight’s decision Harry Mullan said it was “generally considered to be a disgrace.”
Whitaker would earn his revenge a year later pulling out a decision victory over Ramirez.
The names Thomas Hearns and Ray Leonard will be forever linked in boxing lore. Their first fight in September of 1981 featured the two best welterweights of the 1980’s, and maybe of all time, meeting in one of the most epic fights in boxing history. Hearns was on his way to defeating Leonard, but the fight was stopped in the 14th round.
It took nearly 10 years to make a rematch, but one was finally scheduled on June 12, 1989. By this time both men were past their primes and fighting at Super Middleweight. Hearns knocked Leonard down in the third round and again in the 11th round in what was a spirited and competitive fight.
When it was done many believed Hearns had earned his revenge and even the score with Leonard. The fight was scored 113-112, 112-113 and 112-112 and ruled a draw. The Las Vegas crowd booed the decision, and Leonard even admitted he felt Hearns deserved the decision.
Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield were arguably the two best Heavyweight boxers of the '90’s. In March of 1999, the path was cleared for the two to meet and to unify the Heavyweight championship.
Before the opening bell sounded Larry Merchandt exclaimed “praise the lord and pass the ammunition!” The fight had many good exchanges, most of which Lewis got the better of. At several points in the fight Lewis backed Holyfield to the ropes and had him visibly flinching as Lewis fired away punches.
At the end of the fight, Lewis had a punch stat edge of 348 to 130 for Holyfield and 137-52 in landed jabs. With such a large disparity in punches landed it seemed Lewis was on his way to regaining the Heavyweight championship.
But it was not to be. The fight was scored 115-113, 116-113 and 115-115 and the fight was declared a draw. Jim Lampley said after the fight “Lennox Lewis had just been robbed of the Heavyweight championship of the world.”
Lennox Lewis would get his revenge eight months later and win a unanimous decision over Evander Holyfield.
Manny Pacquiao might have been gifted with a victory in both his second and third fights with Juan Manuel Marquez but he was robbed in his fight with Timothy Bradley. Pacquiao landed the cleaner, harder punches but it wasn’t enough to retain his Welterweight championship.
Bradley landed at a lower punch connect percentage and power punch percentage and never seemed to hurt Pacquiao.
On the other hand, Pacquiao landed punches that seemed to rock Bradley on several occasions. By the late rounds Bradley looked to be just trying to survive to the final bell more than he was actually trying to win the fight.
Yet when it was over many were scratching their heads as all three judges scored the fight 115-113 with two of them scoring the fight in favor of Bradley.
Bob Arum, the promoter for both fighters, was so enraged at the decision that he is demanding the Nevada State Athletic Commission launch an investigation.
While it doesn’t seem likely the fight result will be overturned, one has to wonder what fight the judges were watching.
There is no guarantee that the two will fight a rematch or that the fight would be worth seeing again. Pacquiao seemed to easily win this fight but it wasn’t all that particularly entertaining until the scorecards were read.
It is likely that a rematch would yield much of the same results.