LAS VEGAS Much of the boxing world was still reeling on Sunday as the smoke began to clear after Manny Pacquiao's shock defeat at the hands of American challenger Timothy Bradley the previous night.
There was hardly a person watching inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena who did not believe that Filipino Pacquiao had won the fight, promoter Bob Arum describing it best when he said the split decision was "crazy" and "unfathomable".
The faster and more powerful Pacquiao seemed to be in cruise control for at least nine of the 12 rounds, and Bradley himself made comments immediately afterwards suggesting he had not done enough to win.
"Can you believe that?" Arum fumed during the post-fight news conference, at one point describing the three judges as "The Three Blind Mice."
"I had it 10-2. After I got into the ring after the fight, I went over to Bradley and said 'You did very well.' He said, 'I tried hard, but I couldn't beat the guy.'
"This is crazy. You talk about killing boxing? All three scorecards you throw out. It's not good for the sport of boxing."
Judge Jerry Roth (115-113) awarded the fight to Pacquiao while C.J. Ross (115-113) and Duane Ford (115-113) gave it to the American, but the crowd erupted in boos after a contest which the Filipino had appeared to dominate.
Ross gave Bradley the final three rounds and five of the last six. Ford scored five of the last six for the American. Pacquiao, who has claimed world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, ended a run of 15 consecutive wins.
While Pacquiao was stunned after suffering his first defeat since he lost to Erik Morales in Las Vegas in March 2005, he took the decision with good grace and looked forward to a re-match on November 10 at a venue yet to be decided.
"Don't be discouraged about boxing," the Filipino said after his career record slipped to 54-4-2 with 38 knockouts. "There's always next time."
However his trainer, Freddie Roach, was totally dumbfounded.
"I think they (the judges) had their eyes closed," said Roach. "Something wasn't right because what everyone else saw and what they saw were two very different things.
"I didn't see that many close rounds. I thought we clearly won the fight. I am very proud of Manny. I thought that was one of the best fights he fought since the (Miguel) Cotto fight. I thought he boxed well."
Roach was then asked whether he felt Pacquiao had perhaps paid a 'payback' price after winning his previous fight, against Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez, on a highly a controversial majority decision.
"I'm not sure if our last fight had something to do with that," he replied. "That was a very close fight and maybe controversial but I thought Manny won that. Did they hold that against us? I'm not sure."
Arum scoffed at the suggestion, while adding that Saturday's decision was much more of a shock.
"It was close, everybody said it was close," Arum said of Pacquiao's win over Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena seven months ago. "This wasn't really a close fight."
For all the controversy, though, the November re-match between Pacquiao and Bradley is certain to whet the appetites of the fans much more than their initial encounter, which failed to attract a sellout crowd.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Las Vegas; Editing by Frank Pingue)