In one corner, there was Bones, the undefeated Professional Bull Riders 2008 Bull of the Year. In the other corner, there was J.B. Mauney, the 2009 world title race leader who was out to shatter Bones’ perfect record.
For the past two weeks, the showdown between Bones and Mauney has been one of the most highly touted matches in the PBR’s 16 seasons of pitting the world’s top riders against the toughest bulls on hooves.
It created a buzz among fans when Bones’ owner, Tom Teague, claimed that no cowboy wearing spurs could stay on his star bull for the 8-second count.
Mauney said he could conquer the beast, and Teague agreed to pay the superstar $20,000 if he could top Bones at this weekend’s PBR tour stop Oklahoma City.
The match capped Friday’s performance of a Built Ford Tough Series show at the Ford Center where the NBC cameras were rolling, and the crowd was popping.
After Mauney called for the gate to be opened, Bones exploded from the chutes and began spinning furiously to the right. But Mauney had taken a deep seat early in the ride and wasn’t about to let go.
Bones was strong-willed. He spun faster than a nitrous-fueled carnival ride, and made his usual toward-the-roof kicks.
Mauney made precision moves and handled the centrifugal force. And Bones eventually threw the North Carolina cowboy, but it was a split second after the 8-second buzzer had began to sound.
Mauney, who is 1-0 against Bones, said the bull was unusually strong.
“It’s a dogfight from the word go,” he said.
Teague said Mauney dominated his high-profile bull.
“He had his number,“ Teague said,. “There’s no question about it.”
Going into Friday’s match, Bones had defeated all comers. Statistically speaking, Bones had not been close to ridden in 13 outs, and his average buckoff time over his three-year career on the Ford Tough Series was 4.03 seconds. In fact, in his three outs this year alone, he was down to 3.73.
But perhaps more importantly, it was the quality of the riders who had been bucked off. Guilherme Marchi, the defending World Champion, had failed three times inside of five months, and two-time World Champion Justin McBride twice fell, as did former gold buckle winner Ednei Caminhas. The list also includes standouts such as Robson Palermo, Ross Coleman, Zack Brown and Brian Canter.
The match between Mauney and Bones was organized two weeks ago after Bones threw off Marchi in an NBC televised match in Winston-Salem, N.C. Had Marchi stayed on, he would have earned $20,000.
But Bones had Marchi off in 4.3 seconds, and Mauney said he wanted a chance. After all, he was the world title race leader and wanted to see if could go where no other rider had been.
Teague, who gave Mauney the opportunity to face Bones in Oklahoma City, said he came expecting to watch his bull prevail.
“I really didn’t think that he would” stay on Bones, Teague said in an interview minutes after the match. “But after about two jumps, I knew well that he had him. It was like a walk in the park for him. He really had it made.”
Teague praised Mauney for his exceptional riding abilities.
“He’s the World Champion as far as I’m concerned,” Teague said of Mauney, who has yet to win a gold buckle. “He’s going to (win) either this year or next year. He’s got the ability and there’s no question about it.”
Mauney, who lives in Mooresville, N.C., entered the Oklahoma City tour stop leading the world title race with 3,395.75 points. Austin Meier (Kinta, Okla.) was ranked second with 2,439 points
During the Round 1 performance, Mauney moved a small step closer to winning a world title by turning in a solid score of 84 on a Frontier Rodeo Co. bull named Black Powder. And that ride proved to a be a great warm-up for Mauney, who would face Bones about an hour later.
As he regrouped in the locker room, Mauney became more and more psychologically ready for the showdown
“I was getting pumped up,” Mauney said. “The adrenaline started pumping pretty good. I started sweating a little bit. And once they ran him in the chute, I put my rope on him and I was ready to go then. Then, they made me wait a little while, but that got me pumped up a little bit more.”
Then Mauney gave himself a pep talk.
“I told myself: Be bad!” Mauney said.
But Bones had the same thing in mind.
The bull spun to the right, pretty much most of the ride. Mauney said he expected Bones to turn the other way, which has been an habitual bucking pattern, but it never happened.
Though Bones spun only one direction, staying in sync was almost more than Mauney could handle.
“He was wanting to roll me to the outside the whole time, and I was fighting it the whole time,” Mauney said of Bones’ rapid-fire spinning. “When he rears, he puts a lot of bow in his back and then when he comes down, there’s a lot of whip to him.”
Judges said Mauney would have turned in a score of 93.5 had the ride been part of the BFTS competition.
Cody Lambert, the PBR’s longtime livestock director, said he would have marked Mauney a 94.
“J.B. never completely had him under control, but he wasn’t out of shape either,” Lambert said. “Bones was bucking so hard that you couldn’t get out of control and make the whistle.”
Marchi, who won the first round Friday at the Oklahoma City BFTS show, said he was impressed with Mauney’s ride.
“It was a little tough for him because the bull turned to the right [Mauney rides with his left hand down. -Eds.],” Marchi said. “But he was in very good position. I think that if he tried Bones again, he would ride him again.”
Throughout the past two weeks, many people predicted the outcome. One of them was 2004 PBR World Champion Mike Lee, who said he leaned toward Mauney.
“I just thought that he was going to ride him for some reason,” Lee said. “I had a feeling about it because J.B. just fits that bull. He’s loose and he doesn’t try to overpower bulls, and it worked out really good.”
Randy Bernard, the PBR’s chief executive officer, said the match generated the type of publicity that the sport needs.
“The match was exciting, and it was fun to see fans get so involved in it all week,” Bernard said. “We were having huge days with our unique visits on our Web site. The blogs were full of comments and the riders were talking about it and stock contactors were talking about it. Matches create superstars and this match got us back into that mode.”
It was the type of opportunity that motivated Mauney, 22, who has more than $1.3 million in PBR earnings, to be at the top of his game as he faced Bones on a major network broadcast.
“That’s what you live for - getting on bulls that have never been rode and trying to ride 'em,” Mauney said.
And he’s $20,000 better off for pursuing his passions.
— by Brett Hoffman
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