Pacquiao Loses, ESPN Feasts

By Marc Livitz on July 5, 2017
Pacquiao Loses, ESPN Feasts
The debatable win was the most watched fight on cable TV since 2006. (Dave Hunt/EPA)

If boxing is going to make a big move over to ESPN, more knowledgeable talent may be needed for actual fight night telecasts…

Manny Pacquiao’s loss to Jeff Horn is still front page news across many boxing circles. The inescapable truth which is being thrown at various naysayers who feel the unanimous decision victory for Horn was fair as well as just is becoming just as much fun to watch as the fight itself may have been. Boxing didn’t self inflict another black eye upon the sport as some have suggested, yet the fanfare to boost interest in a “free” fight featuring an all-time great looks to have fallen flat to many who watched it on Saturday evening.

The sound of Teddy Atlas essentially freaking out at the decision of the judges should be nothing new to those of us who look forward to “Friday Night Fights” when it’s in season on ESPN. The right crew was in place. Joe Tessitore did a fine job as always and hearing Tim Bradley, Jr. mistake two countries on opposite sides of the world was worth a chuckle as well.

In any case, the contest was the highest rated boxing telecast in 22 years, per ESPN’s published statistics. Furthermore and from the mouth of the Connecticut based sports giant, the debatable win for Jeff “The Hornet” Horn was the most watched night for the sport on cable TV since 2006. That’s not bad at all and perhaps the sport cleaned itself up a bit, save for the less than happy ending. If this is truly to be a marketable trend, then other talent may need to be brought in for actual fight night telecasts. As cited in a previous article, ESPN’s resident orator of sorts, Stephen A. Smith sat behind a commentator desk and told viewers that Pacquiao should essentially wipe the mat with Horn because the Australian challenger had fought a pantry full of tomato cans.

So many contests have been shown on cable television in the past eleven years. Think about that for just a moment. Of course, ESPN is part of basic cable and on most platforms, HBO and Showtime add ten to fifteen dollars extra, give or take to a monthly bill. Still, eleven years back would include the four fights between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez. Also included would be the entire “Super Six World Boxing Classic” and Kelly Pavlik’s triumph over Jermain Taylor. There’s too many to list and apologies are offered in advance for ones that aren’t listed here. If boxing is going to make a big move over to ESPN, then better and at the very least, more knowledgeable talent is needed at the helm.

Lastly, a bit of food for thought. Part of what made the loss for Pacquiao so difficult to accept was the bit of chatter that went on in Horn’s corner after the ninth round. He’d taken quite a pummeling from boxing’s only eight-division world champion. Jeff was implored by referee Mark Nelson to “show something” or the fight would be stopped. The 117-111 scorecard turned in by Waleska Roldan is what turns the collective stomachs of many fans. Perhaps Nelson’s “I’m here to protect you” advice was actually that of one, if not all of the judges. Better decisions are needed if the cable giant is to find reputable success.

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