Bradley upstages Pacquiao

MANILA (4th Update, 3:36 p.m.) -- Timothy Bradley grabbed the spotlight away from Manny Pacquiao Saturday (Sunday Philippine time) when he wrested the WBO welterweight crown from the Filipino global boxing icon via split decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Bradley, who appeared exhausted in the middle rounds, slowly bounced back in the later phase of the fight and escaped with a split verdict on the judges card -- 113-115, 115-113, and 115-113, ending Pacquiao’s remarkable run and handing the eight-division world king his first defeat in seven years.

The 28-year-old Bradley, who was guaranteed a $5-million paycheck, made true his earlier claim to shock the world – though not in convincing fashion as the crowd booed loudly when the decision was announced – and remained undefeated with a 29-0 record.

Pacquiao landed more punches early on but seemed to have lost focus in the later rounds, allowing Bradley to score bit by bit that contributed to his controversial downfall. Sun.Star Network Exchange had Pacquiao winning 117-111 as well as the Associated Press, but two of the judges unfortunately saw it otherwise.

The pound-for-pound king, who was aiming for a knockout, tried to turn the fight into a brawl, using his power to hurt Bradley in the early rounds, but Bradley refused to slug it all out and used his boxing skills to score enough points and take a narrow decision for the title.

"I thought I won the fight," Bradley said. "I didn't think he was as good as everyone says he was. I didn't feel his power." He later admitted though that he was hurt a couple of times by Pacquiao’s fast and power lefts.

Ringside punching statistics showed Pacquiao landing 253 punches to 159 for Bradley, who was so confident that he had oversized tickets printed up for a Nov. 10 rematch that will now likely happen.

Bradley seemed hurt in the fourth and fifth rounds, but Pacquiao had trouble landing big punches after that. Still, he seemed in control of the fight everywhere but on the judge's scorecards.

Malacañang deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said despite Pacquiao’s failed defense of his title, the whole Filipino nation continues to support the 33-year-old Sarangani representative who is dubbed as "Pambansang Kamao" or National Fist.

"Manny once again demonstrated the stability and strength of Filipinos around the world: any suffering and pain we suffer, we are not deterred to pursue the fight for the honor of our country," she added.

The Philippines is set to celebrate its Independence Day on June 12, and Bradley has probably ruined what could have been a tremendous opening of a weeklong celebration.

"Can you believe that? Unbelievable," promoter Bob Arum said. "I went over to Bradley before the decision and he said, 'I tried hard but I couldn't beat the guy.'"

Bradley said he hurt his ankle in the second round, and that trainer Joel Diaz said he could either quit or try to take the fight to Pacquiao.

"I believe I won the fight. I did my best," Pacquiao said. "I guess my best wasn't good enough."

Pacquiao said he studied Bradley on tape before the fight and wasn't surprised by anything he did. He said he thought he was in control of the fight and was shocked when the decision went against him. Pacquiao now has to console himself with his $26-million purse and shares in pay-per-view and gate receipts.

"He never hurt me with his punches, most of them landed on my arms," said Pacquiao, whose main intention was to knock out Bradley to make up for his lackluster performance against Juan Manuel Marquez, whom he hardly beat by majority decision last November.

Arum said there would be a rematch, though he criticized the judging. Arum has contracts with both fighters.

His colleagues in the House of Representatives credited Pacquiao for "bringing out his best" in Sunday's match with Bradley.

"Even with his defeat, I'm truly proud for Pacquiao that once again, he had shown to the whole world the true character of a Filipino: fierce in battle but always God-loving," he said.

For Cibac party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna, Pacquiao's split decision loss is a "loaded" and "for pure business reasons."

"The stakeholders and gambling lords in Las Vegas wanted Pacquiao to lose so that the rematch clause in the fight contract will take effect. A rematch would surely be watched by a lot of boxing fans and make the fight organizers earn a lot," he said in a text message.

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone likened Pacquiao's unexpected defeat to the runner up finish of Filipino-Mexican frontrunner Jessica Sanchez in the recent "American Idol" finals.

"Manny's loss can be likened to the loss of Jessica Sanchez. For us Filipinos, Manny is still the people's champion," he said.

Sanchez sang the "Star Spangled Banner" during the Pacquiao-Bradley match on Sunday. (Sunnex/Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/with reports from AP)

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