Manny Pacquiao vs Bradley | Did PacMan's 'Stealing Rounds' Strategy Offend Judges?Written by Lee Cleveland
On Saturday, June 9th, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV, Manny Pacquiao appeared to have successfully retained his title against Timothy Bradley but the judges said otherwise.
And some seven weeks later, the fight's conclusion is still debatable and highly controversial.
Those who saw the bout witnessed a rather tame, inactive Manny Pacquiao for the first two minutes of most of the rounds morph into a ferocious, worker bee in the closing 45 to 60 seconds of each stanza.
Was that just coincidence?
Manny Pacquiao appeared to have incorporated the age old tactic of trying to "steal" rounds.
What's the "Stealing Rounds" Strategy?
Answer: A flurry of activity at the end of a round to make up for a lackluster round preceding the flurry in order to leave a lasting impression on judges and fans the flurrying fighter won the round.
The objective is to trick viewers into thinking a fighter, who may have given away the first two minutes of the round, won the round because he/she dominated the last 30 seconds. A fighter who employs this strategy hopes judges forget what happened in the round's first two minutes and make their determination largely on the activity that's "fresher" in their minds which, of course, is the last 30 to 60 seconds.
The strategy is often used by 1) out-of-shape or ill-prepared fighters who feel the need to conserve energy, 2) aging fighters who can no longer put in a full, productive 12 rounds and 3) defensive-minded or outgunned fighters who, for whatever reason, believe its in their best interest, from a tactical standpoint, to minimize engagement with his/her opponent for a full three minutes of every round.
How does this work?
Someone in the corner with a time clock usually yells "One Minute" or "Thirty Seconds" to alert the fighter it's time to 'turn it on.'
The concept of stealing rounds, although not created by Ali, was made popular by the legend when he was fighting - but still winning - well beyond his past-due date. It was later revitalized by a past-his-prime Sugar Ray Leonard.
It worked for Ali as he won some razor-thin decisions late in his career against the likes of Kenny Norton, Jimmy Young and Ernie Shavers.
Let it be known, to win a "close" round by mounting an attack at the end is entirely different than "giving away" the first 2 - 2 1/2 minutes of each round.
If the strategy is employed by a fighter who is actually fighting and doing well the first two minutes, he/she can use it to win the round. But for a fighter who is lackluster and virtually gives away the first 2-2 1/2 minutes of a round, the concept often fails.
If I know the difference, rest-assured most judges do as well.
Foreman vs Schultz
Aside from Manny vs Tim Bradley, Foreman vs Schultz is the most egregious example of a fighter trying to win a bout by fighting only 30-60 seconds of each round.
In 1994, then lineal heavyweight champion George Foreman clearly outboxed Axel Schultz in a bout that wasn't even close and, thankfully, the judges were not fooled by Schulz's strategy. The German would, literally, fight the last 15-45 seconds of each round after allowing Foreman to control the first 2-2 1/2 minutes.
Moreover, when Schultz unleashed his flurries in the last 30 seconds, many of his shots missed. However, because his shots were eye-catching and some landed, many viewers were tricked into thinking Schulz was pilling-up rounds, not giving Foreman for credit for 1) landing more shots and 2) being the aggressor and effective ring general the first 2-2/12 minutes of at least 9 of the 12 rounds.
Unfortunately, Foreman vs Schultz ended in controversy because the common, perhaps uneducated, fan was "tricked" into thinking Schultz was wining rounds when, in fact, he only won 20-45 seconds of each three minute round.
And that's certainly not enough to unseat a champion.
Video: Foreman vs Schultz Part I
Were Judges Offended by Pacquiao's Perceived Strategy?
After deep and thorough investigations, all three judges were cleared of any wrongdoing so there was no conspiracy to oust Pacquaio.
Perhaps Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach offended the judges' intelligence by thinking Manny could "steal" (in the literal sense) rounds by fighting the last 30 to 60 seconds of each three minute stanza?
After watching the bout again, this writer had Pacquiao winning 116-113 but, as a judge, I might be offended by a fighter who slacked off the first 2 minutes of each round and then turned on the heat in the round's closing moments in an effort to "trick me" into thinking he won the round.
And because I'd be offended, I just might take a closer look and give the guy who's actually trying to fight the entire three minutes the benefit of the doubt in any round I deemed close.
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.