Timothy Bradley might be the luckiest boxer on the planet, getting help from unlikely sources to pick up wins he doesn’t deserve. He has now added escaping a knockout by Jessie Vargas to the list, saved by referee Pat Russell to his win over Manny Pacquiao, thanks to blind or corrupt ringside judges in one of the worst decisions seen in the boxing ring in recent years.
Outside that big hit from Vargas, Bradley was winning. He ended up taking it by unanimous decision: 117-111, 115-112, 116-112. It wasn’t very close. It wasn’t very exciting either. This wasn’t the kind of fight we saw in the same arena (StubHub center) when Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov clashed in the 2013 fight of the year. This was something more cautious, boring.
But it had its one big moment. Vargas hitting Bradley with a huge right hand in the closing seconds of the 12th round. Bradley was reeling, and was clutching for his life. He barely seemed able to stand on his feet. And then came the save from referee Pat Russell. Maybe it was an honest mistake, but too many things have happened in boxing over time to make us believe with all of our hearts that this was a clean decision by Russell.
With 10 seconds left in the fight and Bradley clutching on to Vargas, trying to stay on his feet, a ringside official slammed the clapper to announce the time left in the fight. Russell, for some reason, thought it meant the fight was over. Vargas thought it means he won because Russell wasn’t going to let it continue, and ran to the ropes. Turns out, the referee made a mistake, but on one is going to bring back those seconds to Vargas.
Bradley, like after he knew he didn’t beat Manny Pacquiao but still got the win under very suspicious circumstances, acted like he wasn’t even close to getting dropped: He caught me with a good shot at the end. The ref thought that he heard the bell. I was good enough. I could have maintained. I grabbed hold of him toward the end of the fight and I was squeezing him so tight it was like his mom was holding him.
Obviously it’s all hypothetical now, but like Vargas himself said after the fight; even though it was an honest mistake by Russell (not so sure it was), those 10 seconds cost Vargas the fight. Bradley can say all he wants that he would have stayed up, but the fact is that he was barely keeping it together, and Vargas had the time and chance to hit him again, which would have dropped him. Oh, and there was no ‘saved by the ball’ in this fight. Had Bradley been dropped, regardless of the time, Russell would still had to have counted him out, had he stayed down or looked unable to keep on fighting.
Bradley is now the WBO Welterweight champion, even though he probably doesn’t deserve it. Vargas didn’t seem too upset at the end after talking to the referee, but he now expects a rematch, something Bradley told him he’s willing to give him. Whether or not that was the plan all along? We’ll never know, but boxing continues to shoot itself in the foot by providing us weird moments of controversy that don’t help the sport in regaining credibility.