LAS VEGAS, Nevada, June 11 – Timothy Bradley was savoring a career-making victory and nursing a broken left foot Sunday after seizing Manny Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization welterweight title with a controversial split decision.
Bradley, a 5-1 underdog despite his unbeaten record, ended a 15-fight winning streak by Pacquiao that dated to 2005 and helped make him a national treasure in his native Philippines.
California’s Bradley, who improved to 29-0 with 12 knockouts, had vowed before the biggest fight of his life to “shock the world” and he did so, despite injuries that manager Cameron Dunkin said Sunday turned out to be a swollen, twisted right ankle and a broken left foot.
Bradley — who arrived at the post-fight press conference in a wheelchair and was taken afterward to hospital for X-rays — said he thought it was in the second round that he stepped on referee Robert Byrd’s foot and “felt a pop”.
“I went back to my corner and said I think I might have broken my foot,” he said.
Trainer Joel Diaz said it was up to him — quit or carry on in the biggest fight of his life.
Bradley’s decision to carry on paid off, although for many his courage was lost in the “shock” of the night — that two judges saw Bradley winning the bout 115-113 while the third gave it to Pacquiao by the same score.
Promoter Bob Arum called it an “unbelievable” decision after Pacquiao appeared to have the fight well in hand.
Through the middle rounds, Pacquiao repeatedly landed his powerful straight left, the 33-year-old champion looking as if he might deliver his first knockout since 2009.
Bradley weathered those rounds and from the seventh made the adjustments that satisfied the judges, even if he never appeared able to hurt Pacquiao.
“I started working with angles, sticking and moving,” said Bradley.
“Most of his punches hit my arms,” Pacquiao said.
The controversy set the stage for a lucrative November re-match.
“I’ve got to give him a chance to win his title back,” Bradley said, and Pacquiao responded that he was determined another fight with Bradley wouldn’t go to the scorecards.
But the defeat may prove yet another stumbling block to a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather mega-fight — a bout that has repeatedly failed to materialize despite the clamor from fans worldwide.
Immediately after the decision was announced, Pacquiao said: “I did my best but I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”
Later, Pacquiao’s usual smile seemed a bit strained as he told disappointed fans to keep their faith in boxing.
“Whatever happens, don’t be discouraged about boxing,” he said. “Next time.”