Pacquiao Robbed—Now Nobody Is Safe
In the aftermath, Lou DiBella has described “a sport now on a respirator.” It was hard to disagree…
Someone told me that Bob Arum set this up to cash in on the rematch.
Someone told me that Bob Arum set this up to release the pressure on the Mayweather fight.
Someone told me it was payback for Marquez III.
Someone told me Vegas wanted to make some money on Pacquiao for a change.
Someone told me God has decided to test his newest disciple to see if he would make a prophet.
Someone told me that Ashton Kutcher just pulled the biggest Punk’d in the history of television.
I understand the scramble for reasoning but the bottom line is that the reason doesn’t matter. Boxing had two showpiece events this year, two battles to help us in the war against recession from the mainstream, competition with MMA and the embarrassment that is brawling at press conferences, failed drug tests, atrocious judging. The first, Mayweather-Cotto, was a roaring success. This debacle…
Right now the only thing that could make matters worse is if Pacquiao head-butts Bradley to the floor at a presser and snorts a line of coke off the bald dome he spent 36 minutes tattooing in the MGM Grand Las Vegas this Saturday night. What we saw beggars belief. In the aftermath, Lou DiBella has described “a sport now on a respirator.” It was hard to disagree. It was also hard to disagree with Teddy Atlas who pinned the blame on either corruption or incompetence with the onus on the former—“the criminals will be rewarded.”
It’s hard to care about boxing this morning. It’s hard to give a shit. This a result that will only be welcomed by drama queens and vultures and the people who believe that no pulicity is bad publicity. But I’m a boxing fan. I don’t watch boxing worrying about the numbers. I’d watch these fights if it still meant going to the local miner’s club and pitching in holding the spit-bucket. I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about money. I just want to watch the sport I love in the spirit of competition. Gee up the numbers? How about the ones that matter?
Pacquiao, the puncher in the fight without question, outlanded Bradley in 10 of the 12 rounds according to CompuBox. In the 10th, the two men were deemed to have landed the same number of punches. Once—once in the entire fight—did Bradley land more blows in a three-minute spell. Now personally, I don’t much care for the domination of CompuBox statistics in debate where close decisions are concerned. Far too often the numbers are considered a checkmate, the point which cannot be argued. People who take this approach to debatable decisions and debatable rounds would have been superb judges of the amateur code in the 1990s. In the professional sport how many punches a fighter lands is not the defining factor. Only in combination with damage done, affective aggression, defense and ring generalship does the number of punches a fighter lands reveal the winner of the round. That Pacquiao outlanded or equaled Bradley in every single round bar one needs to be taken on board but not seen as the defining factor. That he outlanded Bradley over the course of the fight by nearly 100 punches, 253-159, too, needs to be absorbed and then put to one side.
It’s a fight. Who hurt who?
In the first, a marginally debatable round scored for Pacquiao by judges Roth and Ross but for Bradley by judge Ford, “Desert Storm” did reasonably well catching Pacquiao on the gloves and the top of the head with a stepping jab and with at least one good body shot in addition to a pair of sharp counter left hooks. But none of these punches troubled Pacquiao in a meaningful way. For his part, Paquiao found the range for the straight left in the final seconds of the round, landing three of them in quick succession. Whilst Bradley wasn’t unduly troubled, Pacquiao had clearly landed the hardest punches of the round. Taken in tandem with Pacquiao’s superior volume of landed punches, the round is now in the bag for Pacquiao according to any sensible criteria. Even allowing for the fact that Bradley arguably achieved dominance in generalship for the opening one-hundred seconds of the fight, it’s hard to see the round go any other way.
Why, then, do I describe it as “marginally debatable”?
Let’s get it out of the way. It needs to be said in the body of any article, tweet or sentence spoken on officials these days. “Judges are only human.” With no direct evidence to the contrary, I have to concede this. Judges also have a very singular view of the action. They don’t have the benefit of multiple camera angles or instant replays. They score—ostensibly—what they see. The importance of the three straight lefts landed by Pacquiao in those closing seconds cannot be overstated. If you miss them, the round can reasonably be scored for Bradley. If you see them, it is a Pacquiao round. Top fighters work in increments of milliseconds and centimeters. By definition, so do judges. It is possible for a human being to be unsighted or miss key action through inattention.
That is why we have three judges, not one. The system worked. Roth and Ross scored the round correctly, protecting Ford to whom the courtesy of the benefit of the doubt can be extended without reservation.
Unfortunately, much worse was to come.
The second looked reasonably clear for Pacquiao with some confusion arguably created in Bradley’s favor at the midway point as he landed multiple body punches in a clinch. It was another round, however, in which he was outlanded according to CompuBox and again Pacquiao’s punches seemed to be the harder. Once more the judges were split, but this time in Bradley’s favor, Ross and Roth coming down on the side of Bradley, Ford seeing it for Pacquiao. The reasoning for scoring this round Bradley’s way are unclear. Whilst he threw more he also got hit more and hit harder.
He got hit more and hit harder.
Where does a round come from for a fighter in this situation? How do you win a round when you are so clearly on the receiving end? As a round, it was reasonably close but it was close and clear. In round two the system fails. Two judges get the round wrong, not one. This is when Atlas’ remarks regarding corruption or incompetence are thrown into sharp relief for the first time.
On my card and on Harold Lederman’s (HBO) Bradley was two down, but the judges had it even at 19-19. Pacquiao now strings three rounds together in which he cannot be seen as anything but a clear winner. Outlanding Bradley 21-15 in the third, he threw only slightly fewer punches and he landed two hurtful left hands to the head whilst absorbing two of Bradley’s best punches of the fight to his body. In the fourth, Bradley was hurt by a Pacquiao flurry and during a disorganized retreat he turned his ankle, actually breaking it according to some reports this morning. It is a shame that Bradley’s heart in continuing to try to take the fight to Paquiao despite this isn’t under discussion today, but as disgusting as it is to say, there are more important things for us to consider than Bradley’s warrior spirit.
The fifth round was key.
All three judges had it the same going into that round; 3-1 Pacquiao, 39-37. Assuming no knockdowns would occur in the fight, should Pacquiao have won the fifth round he would need only two more rounds out of the last seven to build an insurmountable lead. Boxing produces these swing rounds sometimes. The difference between 4-1 and 3-2 is bigger than the single point it represents. If, and I want to stress that word, if these judges were looking at their cards thinking about how to make things come out for Bradley it is very difficult for them to score that fifth round for him and come out with anything better than a draw.
Pacquiao put the hurt on Bradley at the end of the fourth but came out quite quietly at the beginning of five. Bradley, too, was reticent and landed nothing of note in the first minute, hitting Manny’s gloves and forearms with a selection of jabs and a right hand, probably taking the first minute of the round with two jabs to the body. A half-landed one-two at the top of the second minute brought Pacquiao back into the round and I felt he moved into the lead for the first time at 1:53, once again utilizing that hard straight behind his jab. Bradley, showing no arbitrary head movement whatsoever, was being timed as he tried to employ a reaction-based defense. Between 1:50 and 1:40 they hit each other’s gloves and then swapped jabs. A succession of misses by Pacquiao and Bradley’s landing on Manny’s gloves ran the clock down into the final minute. There is perhaps an argument here that Bradley’s volume punching, despite the fact that he was on the retreat throughout the round, may have brought him back into contention but it is important to note that he had not landed any punches of merit at all in that time. The argument appeared to be over, however, when Pacquiao rocked Bradley back on his heels with short left hand on forty seconds. Following this up with a jab, he bored forwards, forcing Bradley to the ropes in front of him before landing another left hand at which point Bradley rightly clinched. After being separated they fought up close for a few seconds with Pacquiao doing the meaningful punching. Bradley seemed momentarily hurt once more as they fought against the ropes at ten seconds. Untidy fighting was punctuated by a Pacquiao left hand in an otherwise rather meaningless exchange.
Judge Jerry Roth scored the round for Pacquiao. His part in our story ends now. I don’t particularly care for his 115-113 scorecard but he got the right winner, both in the fight and in round five.
Inexplicably, judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford had scored the round for Bradley.
Re-watching it, I thought perhaps it was a little closer than I had believed it to be (my notes for that round read simply, “Pacquiao, big“) but it is pretty clear. Bradley landed fewer punches, fewer hard punches and fought the round on the run. Almost nobody else, either at the arena or watching the broadcast, has been able to find this round for Bradley. Some samples:
“Let’s hope Ford and Ross are now in witness protection. I have watched boxing for over three decades and there has never been so shocking a result from the judges.”—The Washington Times
“That was absolutely horrible.”—ESPN
“Many reporters at ringside unofficially scored the bout in the 9-3 to 11-1 range. —The LA Times
“I’ve never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight. Who will take it seriously now?”—Bob Arum
Ross and Ford compounded this inexplicable error in rounds seven, nine and arguably round eleven, all of which one or the other scored to Bradley in spite of statistical and literal evidence to the contrary. Each has the new WBO welterweight champion dominating the second half of the fight almost completely, five rounds to one. In a final testimony to their total incompetence, they were unable to agree even upon which single round Pacquiao won between seven and twelve, Ross awarding him the ninth, Ford awarding him the eleventh.
During the HBO broadcast, Harold Lederman named Duane Ford “the judge who teaches other judges how to judge.” Choosing my words carefully now, I say that Ford, at best, is an idiot who is not fit for purpose. To be brutally frank if he were a sheepdog you would take him behind the barn and blow him away based upon this day on the farm. His 115-113 card in favor of Bradley cannot be defended on any level.
C.J. Ross produced the same score. Ross, in my opinion, was confirmed as inadequate even before this fight was made, her inexplicable habit of coming up with draws in fights that have clear winners—Holt vs. Tackie, Lara vs. Molina, Mares vs. Agbeko, Burgos vs. Cruz—confirming her as incapable even before her latest and greatest bungle.
Of course, we have had bad decisions before, many of them. Why the collective angst this time? I think it’s born of the understanding that if they can do it to Manny Pacquiao they can do it to anyone. Paquiao is a global superstar, one of the hallowed cash cows of the sport and the second best boxer anywhere on the planet, whatever dumb and dumber might think. If whoever can take the fight away from for whatever reason no pugilist on the planet is safe. The only way to win a fight is by knockout.
What can be done? It’s nothing that hasn’t been written before but first of all Ross and Ford need to be removed from their positions. They must not be allowed to judge another fight. When reading this, consider your own job. Consider its ultimate purpose. If you utterly failed at that ultimate purpose on the most important day of your professional career, clearly displaying incompetence of the highest level, would you be permitted to keep your job? It seems unlikely. The same rules should apply to boxing judges. Making sure that this or something like it happens is way beyond any writer and any website, however. But it’s not beyond you.
Above is the Nevada State Athletic commission email address. Click on it now and send them an e-mail. Don’t be abusive, don’t be corrosive. Just tell them how you feel about both the judges and the judging. Keep it short and not so sweet. If enough people were to do this, there will be results, I promise.
For my own part I simply said that I was finding it increasingly difficult to take it seriously as a sport. This is sad but true. WWE is named “sports-entertainment” and not “sports” because the outcome of each “contest” is determined beforehand, not because the competitors do not face real danger of injury. Can we say with any degree of certainty that boxing is not the same, or at least that there are similarities? Muhammad Ali. Sam Langford. Joe Louis. Sugar Ray Robinson. Pernell Whitaker. The sport that produced some of the most incredible athletes in history can now legitimately be compared to fake wrestling. If this sounds like hyperbole, consider that one of the arguments raging across the frantic boxing forums this morning runs along the lines of “was Pacquiao in on it?”
Once you’ve sent your email, commit yourself to missing Pacquiao-Bradley II. I will not be buying it and you shouldn’t either. It must fail at the box office. Everyone that buys this fight in some small way gives their blessing to the decision in the first one.
After that, what you need to do is pray that Ford and Ross are total fucking idiots.
Because if they’re not, they’re criminals.