1. Timothy Bradley SD12 Manny Pacquiao - June 09, 2012
Manny Pacquiao's match with Timothy Bradley in June 2012 was overly blown as a robbery. Looking back at the fight years later, it was much closer than when it first appeared. It's a quintessential example of a bout being close but still with a clear victor and the uproar a boxing match can cause, even if it isn't warranted.
It was at a time when Pacquiao was at the zenith of his popularity and was still considered one of the best in the world pound-for-pound.
Bradley, as the underdog, established himself as the best fighter at junior welterweight, with only Amir Khan missing from his resume. The California fighter would move up to welterweight in pursuit of bigger fights and was one of the most well-liked fighters in the sport.
In his career that spanned four decades, Pacquiao was part of a few disputed decisions. In fact, in his previous match before Bradley, Pacquiao's third encounter with Marquez was extremely controversial, partly due to expectations that the eight-division champion had surpassed his foe after their second match.
Bradley's inexperience in huge event fights played a factor in his performance, along with Pacquiao's unorthodox, unique style that allowed him to throw punches from odd angles. It was in the middle rounds that Pacquiao found his rhythm outworking Bradley while landing the more eye-catching blows. When the fight was over, it felt like another standard title defense victory for Pacquiao. The prevailing thought was that Bradley gave a good account of himself but was edged by the more elite fighter.
The judges saw a different fight than the general public. Bradley received five of the final six rounds on two scorecards, earning him a split decision win and the WBO welterweight title. It was Pacquiao's first official loss in seven years.
The backlash to the decision by the general public and a majority of boxing media was highly publicized, much like the Whitaker-Chavez fight of 20 years earlier.
"Something like this is so outlandish, it's a death knell for the sport," said Pacquiao's promoter at the time, Bob Arum, to ESPN. "I have both guys, and I'll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it's ridiculous. You have these old f---- who don't know what the hell they're looking at. It's incompetence. Nobody who knows anything about boxing could have Bradley ahead in the fight."
Possibly not in his right frame of mind amid a large audience booing the decision and having just fought 12 rounds, Bradley seemed unsure if he had genuinely won after the fight.
"It was a good fight. Every round was pretty close," Bradley said after the match. "Pacquiao won the early rounds, I won the later rounds with my jab. I have to go home and see the tape to see who won."
A poll of media members was taken after the fight with their scorecards of the bout. An overwhelming majority had Pacquiao winning by a wide margin, but there were a few that scored the match in Bradley's favor.
The WBO, in an unprecedented move, appointed five judges to review and rescore the fight. All five had Pacquiao winning.