Pacquiao reclaims belt, exacts vengeance on Bradley
Ringside by Chris Cozzone
Photos by Mary Ann Owen / BoxinginLasVegas.com
You could make a case that the third man in the ring with Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was referee Kenny Bayless. It was obvious, I mean, he was right there, the man in blue, doing such a good job you hardly noticed he was there.
But you could also make the case that Juan Manual Marquez, recently defeated by one, after having knocked out cold, the other, was also present.
Standing tall and unseen would be a fifth shadow, that of Floyd Mayweather, untoppled from his hill and less-than-gently reminding the 15,601 in attendance – not to mention the promoter – just whose house they were brawling in, whose city, and whose sport.
For 12 thrilling rounds, however, we might've forgotten all that – the unforgotten fight, the unbegotten showdown, the failure to negotiate – to sit back and enjoy a rare thriller between two of the second, perhaps third, best fighters in the world at welterweight, perhaps at any weight.
At stake was Bradley's WBO slice of the pie, which was formerly Pacquiao's, one (perhaps not so) clean record, a chance at retribution and the possibility that this could be it, for one or the other.
But it wasn't.
Evening the score and proving that almost anything can happen in Vegas – even justice – Pacquiao wiped clean, at least in theory, the 2012 controversial split decision loss to Bradley, by soundly, maybe not easily, winning the rematch.
The return bout topped an HBO pay-per-view, near-starless telecast promoted by Top Rank. This time around, same place, two years later, a brawl ensued. It was will over wit and clarity over controversy.
Clearly the house favorite, Pacquiao edged the opening rounds, showing superior speed and firing lefts at Bradley, who was caught somewhere between staggered and off-balance.
Digging into the trenches, Bradley sought to fire back in the third and fourth frames, briefly elevating a host of square-offs, from good to great. Swinging his right hand of a Louisville slugger and aiming for the fences, Bradley managed to dodge Pacquiao's nastiest lefts while finding a frightful home for his chief weapon. Right hand after right crashed into a staggered Pacquiao in the fourth, balancing the fight.
Both fighters had their moments in the fifth. Pacquiao picked his shots, brushing away any cobwebs but also misfiring a fair number of missiles. Bradley shook his head, as if to say, "No, you didn't get me – c'mon, bring it on."
Pacquiao did. In the sixth, Bradley danced away, waiting for openings with his home run punch. Both missed, but looking suddenly weary, Bradley let Pacquiao edge forward on the cards yet again.
In the seventh, it was Pacman dancing out of range. Bradley resumed the brawl, swinging downstairs, swinging up, bobbing and weaving out of harm's way and swarming Pacquiao late in the round. He remained on the warpath through the eighth, but the fight faded, just enough for the crowd to boo.
By the ninth, however, Bradley's finest moments had already been seen. Still looking fresh, Pacquiao took over the remaining rounds. Bradley stumbled twice, perhaps from a tangle of legs, while Pacquiao swarmed. One round later, Pacquiao hammered Bradley with his sizzling left, again harrying at the close.
Looking more like the beast that, once upon a time, battered Barrera and Morales and a host of others to submission, Pacquiao came at Bradley, who sought only a safe defense, at least in the 11th. In the final round, Bradley, stunned at least once, gathered what he had left and, a la Bradley-Provodnikov, gave a last-ditch effort. With just ten seconds left in the fight, a clash of heads had ref Bayless halting the action to give the ringside doc a look-see into a gash over Pac's right eye. The fight resumed, Pacquiao and Bradley brawled for the final moments and, when the bell clanged, both raised their arms for victory.
Unlike the first fight that resulted in a questionable split decision for the "wrong guy," this time around, the judges were not only in agreement, but actually had totaled it for the right man. Judges Craig Metcalf and Michael Pernick scored it 116-112 and Glenn Trowbridge, 118-110, all for Pacquiao. Fightnews.com was in agreement, scoring it 116-112.
"My opponent was trying to knock me out, but I was trying to knock him out, also," said Pacquiao, after receiving 32 stitches for the cut above his eye. "He hit me with a hook [in the fourth] but I was okay. I managed his punches.
"All I can say is, I'm satisfied. The fight was really important. I had to prove that I could continue boxing."
Hinting that he had, perhaps, suffered a tear in his right calf, Bradley took the loss as a man, heaping props upon his victor but promising that "the war is not over."
Beltran decisions Usmanee
In a strangely-chosen co-main (and, generally, the undercard) that lacked star power, Raymundo Beltran (29-6-1, 17 KOs), of Sinaloa, Mexico, picked up the vacant NABO lightweight title, with a unanimous decision over Arash Usmanee (20-2-1, 10 KOs), of Montreal, Canada, who was a late sub for Rocky Martinez.
Showing the same grit he did in his last fight – a controversial split draw with Ricky Burns – Beltran used sheer aggression to bully Usmanee around the ring for 12 rounds before a somewhat silent, disinterested crowd.
The fight paralleled the previous two pay-per-view bouts, matching opposing styles and fighters who, generally, lacked the firepower to do much about it but go the distance. Beltran applied the pressure and Usmanee, the dance moves, though the Canadian, occasionally, stepped forward or planted his feet to brawl. Beltran's loopy punches, sheer will and forward movement secured the win.
The best moments were saved for the last 15 seconds when the two brawled their way to the finish line, prodding the audience to cheer.
After 12, the judges scored it unanimously for Beltran. Judge Glenn Feldman had it 118-110 while Burt Clements and Dave Moretti both scored it 117-111.
Vargas lucky in Vegas
Inspiring boos from the crowd, hometown kid Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9 KOs) got lucky in Vegas with a controversial unanimous decision over formerly undefeated Khabib Allakverdiev (19-1, 9 KOs), of Derbent, Russia. The win netted Vargas Allakverdiev's WBA light welterweight title.
It wasn't the first time Vargas has won by controversy. Back in 2011, Vargas picked up the win against Josesito Lopez when many thought it should've gone the other way. This time around, Vargas was up against a gutsy Russian who applied steady pressure and superior hand speed.
After a tentative first round, Allakverdiev started to apply pressure in the second, while Vargas countered his way back in the third. In the fourth and fifth, steady forward movement behind a snappy jab and fast straight left forced Vargas to retreat and cover up.
Vargas discovered the uppercut in the sixth, edging the round, while, in the seventh, Allakverdiev reversed the momentum with well-placed hooks that brought a grin from Vargas.
Vargas returned the aggression in the eighth, taking the fight back in a close round but, one round later, Allakverdiev was all over Vargas, landing a series of left hands – most of which were thrown after referee Tony Weeks momentarily halted the action to give a cut over Allakverdiev's left eye the eye. The two brawled when the fight ensued, making it a flip-a-coin round.
Allakverdiev was back to pressuring in the ninth and, after yet another look at the cut by the ringside MD, landed solid shots on Vargas, who countered with a loopy right. After his best onslaught and, perhaps, egged on by a possible injury stoppage, Allakverdiev racked up this, and the next two, rounds. Vargas bounced back in the final round, brawling with Allakverdiev, who remained in control of the fight.
Surprising most of us in press row, the judges had a different opinion of the fight, all three scoring it for Vargas: 115-113 twice (Robert Hoyle and Alan Krebs) and a mysterious 117-111 (Jerry Roth).
Needless to say, the crowd was compelled to boo.
Vasquez mars Felix record
Opening up the PPV telecast, Costa Rica's Bryan Vasquez (34-1-1, 17 Kos) retained the WBA interim super featherweight title with a unanimous decision over formerly-undefeated Jose Felix Jr. (26-1-1, 21 KOs), of Sinaloa, Mexico.
What started out as an interesting swap and swat of styles, turned into a somewhat one-sided affair as Vasquez imposed his will by mauling the slicker, counter-punching Felix.
Throughout the first half of the fight, Felix countered Vasquez with rights while Vasquez threw caution to the wind, eating hooks upstairs while hoping to soften Felix's middle. Outboxing Vasquez during his stretches of success, Felix wore a grin while he popped-countered and danced out of range.
The grin faded from the seventh on, however, when Vasquez took the fight to Felix, mauling and brawling. There were back-and-forth moments in the eighth – a tough one to score – but Vasquez was rarely dissuaded from coming forward. With the fight slipping away, Felix further suffered a point loss for a low blow in the ninth; he was warned at least two more times thereafter.
In the championship rounds, Vasquez maintained control, while Felix came dangerously close to losing another point. The two mixed it up heavily in the final frame, Vasquez finally appearing to have Felix hurt in the closing moments before the bell clanged to a finish.
All three scorecards were in favor of Vasquez: 117-110 (Levi Martinez & Fightnews) and twice at 114-113 (Dick Houck and Patricia Morse Jarman.)
Gvozdyk destroys Montoya
Making his pro debut, Ukrainian 2012 Olympic Bronze light heavyweight medalist Oleksandr Gvozdyk (1-0, KO) took out Mike Montoya (4-3-1, 2 KOs) of Colorado Springs, Colo., in less than a round.
As with the entire undercard, opponent Montoya was easy fodder for the hometeam corner. Big rights from Gvozdyk popped Montoya's head back like a malfunctioning Pez dispenser, until the last minute when a final right added the finishing touch. Referee Russell Mora didn't bother counting but immediately waved off the fight, with the official time of 2:55.
Valdez folds foe to floor
In a scheduled eight-rounder, former Mexican amateur star Oscar Valdez (10-0, 10 KOs) picked up the NABF super featherweight belt against hand-picked foe Adrian Perez (10-5-1, 1 KO), of Sarasota, Fla.
Body shots, body shots and more body shots had Perez increasingly questioning just why he was coming forward against the younger, faster, stronger Valdez. Midway through the fourth, it was one hook too many for Perez, who folded to the floor, unable, or unwilling, to get up.
Referee Russell Mora counted Perez out with the official time of 1:23.
Falcao peppers Pena
At super middleweight, Brazilian amateur standout, southpaw Esquiva Falcao (2-0, 1 KO) threw a little bit of everything against overmatched Rhode Islander Pubilo Pena (2-1, 1 KO), who did a whole lot of nothing while covering up for six one-sided rounds.
Falcao had no trouble peppering Pena for a shutout decision, but found he couldn't put on enough hurt. Outgunned, outskilled, Pena had to settle for the moral victory in finishing the fight on his feet.
Judges scored the bout 60-54 twice and 60-53, all for Falcao, of course.
Monaghan TKOs McCreedy
In the opening bout, retaining a minor WBC belt at light-heavy, Long Islander Sean Monaghan (21-0, 14 Kos) tenderized Joe McCreedy (15-7-2, 6 Kos), of Lowell, Mass., scoring three knockdowns en route to a fifth round TKO victory.
Monaghan, whose claim to fame was a knockout over Matt Vanda, in his last outing, had little trouble with the hand-picked McCreedy, who proved game but susceptible to a body attack. Monaghan jabbed his way through the first, started to find a home for a right in the second, then, as McCreedy faded, mixed in hooks to the body. At the end of the third, McCreedy sank into a crouch when Monaghan tore into him. He was up at eight.
Moving forward and applying hooks to the torso, with rights up top, Monaghan buckled his foe's knees in the fourth. Then, in the fifth, Monaghan finished the job with body hooks – one left, one right. Referee Jay Nady called it off at 2:25.