Bradley Goes to War, Has to Settle for a Draw

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

Timothy Bradley has the sculpted torso of a bodybuilder; looking at him, the reasonable expectation might be that his punches land with the force of a mule kick, that he is a knockout artist along the lines of a mini-Mike Tyson. But his most recent stoppage win was against aging Joel Casamayor in 2011, and to find a Bradley KO win before that, one has to go back a further four years, to 2007. Bradley is a lightning-fast technician, a skillful defensive boxer able to dart in and out, land combinations and be gone.

But within that torso beats the heart of a fighter, and so often when he would be best served employing what Lennox Lewis would call "boxology," he allows himself to be dragged into a brawl. That doesn’t always work to his advantage: he complained of lengthy concussion symptoms after his brutal win over Ruslan Provodnikov in 2013, and he looked a lot less pretty after his battle with Diego Chaves in Las Vegas on Saturday night. But it makes for entertainment for the fans. It doesn’t, however, always give Bradley the result he wants. Against Chaves, the judges split three ways in scoring the contest a draw, even though most ringsiders saw it as a wide – if not exactly comfortable – win for the American.

Seriously, what is it with Fight Night at the Cosmopolitan? The last time a major fight card was held at this beautiful property on the Las Vegas Strip, four months ago, Chaves and Brandon Rios engaged in a bizarre foul-fest that resulted in the Argentine being disqualified. This time around, an entertaining trio of bouts was marred by dubious scoring, in the opening contest of the broadcast and then again in the main event.

To be fair, it could be argued that some of the rounds of this welterweight but were tough to score, particularly over the second half of the fight, when the contest devolved into a scrappy affair that surely suited Chaves more than Bradley. Even so, however, the official judges’ scores – and particularly the 116-112 for Chaves on the card of the usually reliable Julie Lederman – left unofficial judges shaking their heads.

At the bout’s opening, Chaves (23-2-1, 19 KOs), launched punches in Bradley’s direction, looking to land anywhere and everywhere he could, while Bradley used his superior upper body movement to evade the worst of them while flashing fast strikes between his opponent’s bludgeoning blows. On two occasions in the second round, both men wound up punches at the same time, leading to heavy clashes of heads from which Bradley appeared to emerge the worse for wear. Shortly afterward, a swelling developed beneath his eye that would ultimately metastasize into a major growth and arguably influence the course of the contest.

The first four rounds were high caliber stuff, Chaves barreling forward and swinging punches with bad intentions as Bradley (31-1-1, 12 KOs) zipped in and out, sending sharp counters through the incoming artillery, and then electing to just stand and fight. It was typical Bradley: fighting the other guy’s fight, and beating him at it, even if it meant taking more punishment than he needed to.

By the fifth, however, as both men began to tire, it all became a little sloppy, and in the sixth, Bradley’s form started to fall apart a little as the fight turned more ragged. His cheek was by now swelling rapidly and his left eye was closing; by the eighth, it was hard to understand how he could possibly see out of it at all. Indeed, perhaps he couldn’t; and as he fell short repeatedly with right hands he launched from long range in the ninth, the thought occurred that maybe his depth perception was shot.

Perhaps in recognition of that fact, Bradley pulled back on his punches over the final quarter, circling and moving, looking to pick his shots. Chaves kept coming forward, working a jab and landing hard to Bradley’s body on several occasions, and taking two of the final three rounds on this reporter’s scorecard. But it seemed beyond doubt that his late-rounds charge had been too little, too late – until the official scores were read out.

“So did somebody just get it very wrong?” asked an inexperienced spectator. An accurate and inclusive answer would have taken too long to give. “Welcome to boxing,” seemed the only thing to say. Only boxing can excite and entertain us as much as it does, and then disappoint and disgust us almost immediately. This might not have been the ideal or desired end to the boxing year, but maybe it was an appropriate one.