Controversy continues to dog the WBO welterweight title reign of Timothy Bradley as the Californian edged out Mexican hero Juan Manuel Marquez last night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Bradley, 31-0 (12), who won the belt by split decision against Manny Pacquiao last year and narrowly defended it against Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year, took two of the cards, 115-113, 116-112, while Marquez, 55-7-1 (40), was awarded the third, 115-113.
Aside from the single scorecard he captured, Marquez did win the battle to keep the pace of the contest down to a lower level, something that favored his 40 year old body, and likely made this a difficult bout to score.
Bradley, fresh off getting beaten up by Provodnikov, jettisoned his usual high volume, high pressure style and turned counter-puncher, which is a Marquez specialty, and that played a part in producing a fight with very little action.
There were signs of life during the rounds as each fighter enjoyed landing the odd sporadic hard shot but it was the naturally larger fighter Bradley that was able to take the punches better.
But it was likely a 12th round free for all that cemented it for the reigning champion as Bradley clocked Marquez with a bright left hand and the challenger was clearly shaken but managed to finish the fight on his feet.
Afterward, Marquez was clearly upset by the verdict and reportedly threatened retirement while Bradley appeared bemused by the awarding of one scorecard to Marquez.
Given the close nature of the bout, a rematch could be in the making. If not, and if Marquez does stay active, the Mexico City man could try for a belt at light welter while Bradley could be looking at a mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The undercard saw former world champion Omar Salido, 40-12-2 (27), capture the WBO featherweight strap by bashing up Orlando Cruz, 20-3-1 (10), with a vicious body assault before knocking the Puerto Rican out at 1:05 of the seventh frame.
Mexico's Salido previously wore the IBF and WBO crowns at 126 pounds and could be headed for a massive domestic tear-up with WBC feather champ Jhonny Gonzalez.