Timothy Bradley Jr picked up a good win with a strong performance tonight on HBO, but once again, a Bradley fight ended with some controversy, this time entirely due to the referee, who stopped the fight prematurely, not to award anyone the victory, but simply because he misheard the ten second claps as the final bell in round 12, with Bradley seemingly out on his feet after a monstrous right hand from Jessie Vargas.
Bradley ultimately won on scores of 116-112, 117-111, and 115-112, and the decision is deserved. BLH scored it 117-111 for Bradley. But Vargas was robbed of whatever remote chance he might have had of pulling off an epic rally, and that is entirely on referee Pat Russell.
"Very loud in that 12th round, and I thought I heard the bell, so the fight was over when that bell went off," Russell told Max Kellerman. "I made the call that I made based upon what I heard, that's all I can say. It's an honest call."
Surely, it was indeed an honest mistake. It's not like any theoretical string-pullers would have a whole lot to gain from Jessie Vargas losing this fight. If there were going to be some kind of shady screwjob, one would figure it would go against Bradley, the older fighter with the far lesser upside on paper.
What it is, however, is another case of boxing officiating getting something wrong, in yet another high-profile fight, and one that otherwise was entertaining and competitive.
"I feel great right now, man," Bradley (32-1-1, 12 KO) said. "I don't have to defend anything. He caught me with a good shot at the end. The ref thought he heard the bell. I was good enough, I could've grabbed hold of him. I was squeezing him so tight, it was like his mom holding him."
Bradley also said he's got no problem giving Vargas (26-1, 9 KO).
"Why not? We can do a rematch. I don't have a problem with that. Jessie came out, he fought hard. I felt like I was in better shape than he was, that's why I was able to take control of the fight."
When asked if he was confident of surviving those final seconds, Bradley was 100% certain he would have. "I could've continued, man. I survived Provodnikov. Come on."
Vargas, however, was confident that he could ahve finished. "All I needed was one shot. That's what I was looking for. It was just an honest mistake on the referee's part. We all acknowledge that it was an honest mistake. But those 10 seconds possibly cost me the fight."
Asked if he might try to start faster in a potential rematch, Vargas said, "We start off where we left off in that last round. Throw more punches, keep more active, that would be the thing there."