Controversy. Confusion. Officials getting as involved as the fighters themselves. This is starting to become a routine in the fights of Timothy Bradley Jr. Sometimes it costs him dearly. Sometimes it favors him.
For 11 rounds, 2 minutes 50 seconds, Bradley (32-1-1, 12 knockouts) was in control with a solid, balanced performance against Jessie Vargas (26-1-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday night at StubHub Center. By every judges' scorecard, he was in line for the victory and the interim World Boxing Organization welterweight title.
Then, Vargas landed a right hook that sent Bradley stumbling. At the same time, the 10-second warning sounded. Referee Pat Russell waved his hands. Vargas and the crowd thought Russell was calling the fight in his favor.
However, once Russell made it clear he simply thought the bell had sounded and the fight was over, the bout went to the scorecards, where Bradley was confirmed as the victor and the champion.
"I made the call based on what I heard," Russell said. "I thought I heard something."
Up to that point, Bradley had a narrow edge in a fight defined by big swings. Both stumbled at times, and Bradley bloodied Vargas' nose in the fifth round. Each fighter's left eye swelled midway through the fight.
Bradley said he felt he did not need to defend his victory against accusations that he got away with one.
"I thought I won the fight," Bradley said. "I would have finished. I knew where I was at finish. I felt like I was in better shape. In the second half, I was stronger and got on my jab."
Vargas did not feel the same way.
"The fight was still going on. All I needed was one shot," he said. "It was an honest mistake, but those last seven seconds cost me the fight."
Before the fight, Bradley said he would be comfortable fighting any way Vargas wanted to, saying he was versatile enough to go with any style. But from the opening bell, he dictated the fight's pace, starting with a flurry of combinations and then slowing things in the later rounds. But even as the fight slowed, Vargas struggled to keep up with Bradley.
Before Vargas and Bradley squared off, Oscar Valdez (16-0-0, 14 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Ruben Tamayo (23-6-4, 15 KOs) in 10 rounds.
Valdez began the bout with a 93% knockout rate and a reputation as one of the division's most promising prospects.
But any thoughts of an early knockout of the 26-year-old Tamayo evaporated as soon as Valdez hit the canvas in the first round after Tamayo landed a hard right jab.
Valdez said he did not think it was knockdown, but said he got tangled up over his own feet.
Halfway through the fight, Valdez connected on a shot to Tamayo's right eye, causing it to swell and bother him the rest of the fight. The second half of the fight was all Valdez, as Tamayo was limited to pawing jabs.
Valdez threw only 57 more punches overall, but connected on 42%, compared to 16% for Tamayo.
He also landed far more power punches, 207 to 60.