Late Breaking

Portrait of 2012’s most interesting week, part 1

MostInteresting
The night American Timothy Bradley decisioned Manny Pacquiao to become only the second man to beat the Filipino in 13 years concluded a week of diminished electricity at MGM Grand, one with considerably less voltage in Las Vegas than previous Pacquiao fight weeks. Bradley fans didn’t travel from Palm Springs, Calif., or if they did composed such a small band their presence was less noticeable in Nevada than Michigan 16 months before. The disappointment of another Pacquiao fight that didn’t include Mayweather, this one a month after another Mayweather fight that didn’t include Pacquiao, and a malaise born of testing requests and accusations and midnight conference calls, draped itself soggily over a fight no one requested.

The reevaluation of Pacquiao’s two-year run had yet to begin, too many and too much invested in calling Pacquiao undiminished, but may examine someday the explanatory narratives of four fights – “Calf cramps”; “Marquez ever a stylistic problem”; “Everyone knows he beat Bradley”; “Lucky punch in a fight he was winning” – and see them for what they are: crestfallen pitches in lieu of sober analyses.

What startled in the week that began with Pacquiao’s loss to Bradley on June 9 was a public need for consensus, insecure as it was intense. No doubt was brooked. When a search for conspiracy uncovered nothing – calculus itself couldn’t conduct three crooked judges disagreeing on six rounds of a championship fight they meant to fix for an unpopular underdog – the volume got raised: Those with dissenting tallies for Bradley-Pacquiao probably never watched a fight in their lives! Except that what three credentialed media sat ringside and joined two official judges in scoring the fight for Bradley had been ringside for at least 1,000 fights between us.

Then it was time to ignore the result. Postfight promises of an immediate rematch, the timeworn remedy for any championship lost in controversy, were undone by the following Thursday in hot, dusty El Paso: Even Bradley knew he lost, and so why rematch?

Two days later Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. beat up Irish Andy Lee in Sun Bowl Stadium, and a September match with Sergio Martinez got announced. El Paso surprised and impressed its visitors.

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The night American Timothy Bradley decisioned Manny Pacquiao to become only the second man to beat the Filipino in 13 years, there was reflexive disbelief in the MGM Grand media center afterwards, disbelief that fed on itself and colored its reporting. Maybe Pacquiao did lose to Juan Manuel Marquez in November, the concessions went, but if that decision was Pacquiao’s and the congressman looked better tonight, why, this was a robbery.

Bradley, in a black hat with teal lettering, afterwards took questions from a wheelchair, one or both feet and ankles rendering him gimpy early and late in a fight whose championship rounds he won officially 5-1. It was a point lost on most, distractedly searching as they were by then for any unobvious explanation, that Bradley, hobbled by bad feet and ankles, had not merely survived a 15-minute onslaught from the world’s best prizefighter but unanimously beaten him in their final three minutes together.

Weeks before, El Paso, a west Texas city that tried to lure tourists with museums instead of golf courses, was declared too dangerous by an operator in Austin to host a prizefight with alcohol vending so near Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. There were snipers on the roof at University of Texas El Paso’s football stadium when Chavez Jr. made his ringwalk, after Mayor John Cook sang the national anthem.

The Associated Press did not have a boxing writer in the vicinity. I wrote the Chavez-Lee story for them, with lots of help from a local crime reporter on hand to cover sightings of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera’s familiars or misbehaving soldiers. There was none of either, and our crime reporter instead collected vulgar and masculine quotes from Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. about his son’s next opponent, quotes the AP did not use.

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The night American Timothy Bradley decisioned Manny Pacquiao to become only the second man to beat the Filipino in 13 years, Bradley was a 28 year-old prizefighter with a record of 29-0, a winner with a spectacular obsidian physique who beat every man he was matched against, occasionally rising from the blue mat to do it. He was an excellent ambassador for the sport, politely asserting he did not feel he robbed Pacquiao or was party to a robbery of Pacquiao, and in so doing committed a sin as yet unpardonable to most: He did not declare Pacquiao the match’s victor and apologize in behalf of the judges.

A fight, the winner of whose rounds three professional scorers did not agree about 50 percent of the time, was declared the clearest victory, for its official loser, by folks universally quick to cite a conclusion reached by the groupthinking employees of a cable network whose fortunes rose and fell with what revenue Pacquiao could generate in a match against Mayweather. For those previously inexperienced with it, the onslaught of drunken outrage that happened across the internet, multiples larger than anything expressed by writers at ringside, was jarring – herd animals risen on their hind legs and hoarse with boasts of objectivity.

El Paso, with a free art museum empty of visitors but full of masterworks – Canaletto, Ribera, Murillo, Zuburan and Van Dyck – was such a pleasant and quiet departure from what Las Vegas had been, underpromising and overdelivering in a manner the Strip could never understand, that answering what few polite emails floated like lovely debris atop a flood of digital spite was an apropos way to pass time in the comfortable lobby of Double Tree El Paso Downtown.

In the opening round of his fight with Chavez Jr. at Sun Bowl that Saturday, Irishman Andy Lee outboxed the Mexican so very easily, following the late Manny Steward’s blueprint so exactly, it was indeed a surprise to see Chavez, who in a preview of his September match with Sergio Martinez did not land a meaningful punch in four minutes, suddenly taunt Lee, plow through his punches, and arrogantly stalk him.

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Editor’s note: Part 2 will be posted Wednesday.

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Bart Barry can be reached at bart.barrys.email (at) gmail.com