The Haunting of Manny Pacquiao

By Jesse Donathan on March 13, 2019
The Haunting of Manny Pacquiao
What did we learn from Manny Pacquiao's knockout win over Lucas Matthysse? (Reuters)

No surer way exists to extinguish a passionate flame than the realization that the object of your worship may be corrupted…

Passion. It’s an emotion that comes naturally when you’re genuinely fascinated with any number of topics or hobbies. When it comes to combat sports, there are some wildly passionate fans who live and breathe their infatuation. It’s a part of their lives; great pleasure is derived in following the sports closely and rooting for their favorite athletes or teams. But there is a dark underbelly to the world of professional sports, a topic many fans do not like to acknowledge or even think about because it threatens to undermine the very sport for which these superfans are so passionate about.

Corruption, fight fixing, the role players directly involved in the fights or games themselves—on the take, dirty. The longer you watch these fights, the better understanding you have of what to expect and what to consider out of the ordinary. It’s a natural process in which intelligent human beings form opinions, which as they say, are oftentimes like assholes. Everybody has one and most of them stink.

In a masterfully executed depiction of the seedy underworld of fight fixing in boxing, the 2016 documentary “Dirty Games—The Dark Side of Sports” showcases investigative journalist Benjamin Best’s interview with former Leon Spinks boxing manager Charles Farrell who expertly explains the dark underworld of fight fixing in combat sports.

“You fix fights by colluding with the fighters, generally the loser. It’s almost always the loser,” explains Farrell. “Winners almost never know the fight is fixed.” According to Farrell:

“You fix fights to make betting money. You fix fights to get a fighter a championship. You fix fights to maneuver a fighter up the ranks toward a championship fight. You fix fights to win, in order, again, to position someone strategically. You fix fights to lose, in order to get paid and in order to make, you know, betting coups. The way you fix fights varies greatly. You fix fights by buying judges. That’s, you know, that’s one of the easy ways to do it. You fix fights by having the referee working for you, so that, if there’s any way that the ref can stop a fight in your guy’s favor, he does.”

What first sent my senses awry that something wasn’t right with Manny Pacquiao’s fights was his dismantling of Lucas Matthysse in mid-2018. Matthysse looked like a mildly mobile, slightly offensive punching bag out there. It was almost as if Matthysse was on cruise control, having shown up to get a few rounds in and make Pacquiao look good for the camera.

Pacquiao dropped Matthysse three times in the seventh round en route to winning by TKO. It was common knowledge that Pacquiao was a fighter in decline. In some circles, the word had it Mayweather had dodged Manny in Pacquiao’s most dangerous, prime years and only accepted the fight years later after noticing Pacquiao was slowing down.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who found the Pacquiao vs. Matthysse fight questionable. In a July 16, 2018 mlive.com article titled, “Was Manny Pacquiao’s Fight Rigged?” The Tylt writes:

“Manny Pacquiao defeated Lucas Matthysse in the seventh round of their welterweight world title bout. The Filipino fighter knocked down Matthysse three times to score the TKO, but many are questioning whether his victory was legit or not. With boxing struggling, it’s no surprise that Matthysse would go down easy to help Pacquiao get back on top.”

Searching for some more legitimate sources, it turns out the folks at ESPN were also under the impression Pacquiao’s best days were behind him and that he was an aging fighter in decline who managed to turn back the clock and seemingly prove everyone wrong one last time. According to a July 15, 2018 espn.com article titled “What we learned from Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse” author Nick Parkinson writes:

“Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs), 39, showed there is life in him yet. This win—his first knockout since stopping Miguel Cotto in November 2009—has silenced arguments that he is on the slide after losing to Jeff Horn a year ago. It was a return to winning ways after the controversial defeat on points to Australian Horn, and Pacquiao also picked up a secondary world title.”

The result caused controversy, something that has a knack of following the Filipino star from one fight to the next. In a July 2, 2017 article for the NY Post titled, “Stunned Pacquiao camp goes after judge: Was this fixed?” author News.com.au writes, “Manny Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has called for judge Waleska Roldan to be investigated after her controversial scoring in Jeff Horn’s unanimous decision victory over the Filipino great.”

Roach would go on to tell the NY Post, “That was hard, sometimes I think people need to be investigated,” obviously frustrated, Roach went on to say, “At least in America where you get odd scores like that with the judges, the head commissioner should ask at some point, ‘Why? Where? Show me how you came up with that score.’”

Freddie wasn’t done, going on to tell the NY Post in reference to referee Mark Nelson, ‘You have to think about him refereeing more fights or not, he’s maybe just not doing a good job.’” On a roll, he didn’t stop there, either. “That is a WBO concern, I think they should do something about it, but I don’t think they ever will.”

In a ring.tv article titled, “Bob Arum on Horn-Crawford, Pacquiao and how to fix bad judging,” author Michael Wood writes, “Arum being Arum, he was willing and able to speak from the heart on any number of topics. We discussed judging and the possibility (or not) that boxing’s powers that be finally wake up and act on the fact that too many weird and wild decisions sap credibility from the game.”

As Arum sees it, “You have to take out the appointment of judges from the hands of the executive directors of the commissions because that’s all wrapped in politics, and they rotate the judges, without regard to their ability necessarily.” On the subject of judges, Adalaide Byrd came up as an example of what Arum finds so frustrating about the many problems plaguing the sport. “They (NSAC) asked on what grounds were we objecting and we pointed out scorecards she had in the past and she’d been inconsistent and, in certain events, was incompetent and therefore we didn’t want her. And they said that’s not grounds to object to her. And I said, ‘What are the grounds? They said, “Whether she’s biased or crooked.’ That’s crazy! They just ignore you!”

The ghosts of Christmases past aren’t through with Pacquiao just yet either. Controversies surrounding many of Pacquiao’s fights go back as far as the Mayweather bout and likely beyond. According to a May 4, 2015 “For the Win” article at usatoday.com titled, “Conspiracy Theorist Think They Can Prove the Mayweather/Pacquiao Fight Was Fixed,” author Luke Kerr-Deen writes, “The judges’ decision was hardly a surprising one, and people everywhere agreed that Mayweather won the fight handily. But that didn’t stop people from spotting something strange regarding each boxer’s corner.

Kerr-Deen would go on to state:

“On the scorecard, Mayweather’s column is always on the left side and Pacquiao’s is on the right. It also lists Mayweather as being in the red corner and Pacquiao in the blue, but therein lies the problem: Mayweather actually fought out of the blue corner.


“It was clearly just a clerical error—as SportsJoe.ie points out, “a minuscule mistake on the scorecards by confusing which corner each fighter started out in”—but that didn’t stop people from claiming foul play. The judges, in the mind of conspiracy theorists, had actually scored all those rounds in favor of the red corner—which they thought was Pacquiao’s—and thus accidentally scored them for Mayweather instead.”

To this day, controversy has a way of finding Manny Pacquiao. ESPN’s Steve Kim writes in his January 19, 2019 espn.com article titled, “What we learned from Manny Pacquiao’s victory over Adrien Broner,” that Broner “was hurt badly in the 7th and 9th frames.” According to Kim, Broner was in “survival mode” by the time the judges rendered their “generous” 117-111, 116-112, 116-112 decision for the winner Manny Pacquiao. Kim would go on to state:

“No, the PacMan isn’t in his prime, and he’s no longer the dynamo he was from 2008 to around 2012, when he was rampaging through weight divisions in what was a historic run. He is still an incredibly difficult fighter to defeat, though.”

In a January 20, 2019 espn.com article titled “Manny Pacquiao routs Adrien Broner, says he wants shot at Floyd Mayweather,” ESPN senior writer Dan Rafael writes that:

“Pacquiao, a future Hall of Famer and an all-time great, won the 147-pound belt by dominant seventh-round knockout of Lucas Matthysse in July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, his first KO win in nine years. That victory set the stage for his return to the United States for the first time in 26 months to face Broner in what could have served as a warm-up for a rematch with Floyd Mayweather.”

Richard A.L. Williams writes in his January 20, 2019 independent.co.uk article titled “Adrien Broner post-fight interview: Boxer says ‘you know I beat that boy’ in bizarre, expletive-ridden tirade after loss to Manny Pacquiao,” that when Showtime host Jim Gray asked Broner what he thought about the fight, Broner responded,

“I beat him, everybody out there know I beat him. Everybody out there know I beat him, I controlled the fight, he was missing, I hit him plenty more times. I beat him.”

Williams would go on to write, “Gray informed Broner he averaged less than eight punches per round, prompting further claims of unfairness from the defeated boxer.” Broner would go on to say, “Let me talk something… I want to thank the whole hood who came out here. I love y’all. I did this for the hood, you know I beat that boy.”

Amazingly enough, Broner wasn’t finished and had plenty more to say after going twelve championship rounds with Manny Pacquiao, stating that,

“They trying to get that money again with Pacquiao and Floyd but it’s cool, I ain’t worried about it, I’m still that n***** man. I’m on top, Cincinnati stand up, westside. Two-five.”

A shot at fighting Floyd “Money” Mayweather is the ultimate goal here, which likely has a lot to do with the persistent claims of fight fixing throughout the boxing community. From both Pacquiao’s own camp and those outside his camp, many contend many of his fights are fixed both in his favor and/or against him. They do not call Mayweather “Money” for nothing, and a fight against Floyd is a guaranteed acceptable purse for even the most outmatched of opponents much less the casino, commissions, organized crime and everyone else involved.

According to a September 16, 2018 Forbes.com article titled, “Floyd Mayweather Vs. Manny Pacquiao 2 Tracker: Date, Location, Odds and Estimated Purse,” Brian Mazique writes, “Mayweather and Pacquiao could both be looking at another nine-figure payday.” The Forbes article would go on state that, “According to a check Mayweather posted after the first fight, his guaranteed purse was $100 million. It is believed he walked away making more than $150 million for the fight.”

With that kind of money on the line in a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch, a different picture starts to come into focus when putting the pieces together of Pacquiao’s career trajectory since his first frustrating encounter with Mayweather back in 2015, a fight that left many critical of Mayweather’s game plan which consisted of tying Pacquiao up throughout much of the fight, stifling the Filipino’s offensive arsenal and leaving many to ponder whether they had just watched a hugging fest or a fist fight.

Many in the combat sports media praised Mayweather’s performance as a brilliant defensive display, pointing towards CompuBox numbers which suggest Mayweather landed more punches as justification for the judges scoring the fight for Mayweather as being the correct outcome despite a game plan that looked centered around not engaging while simultaneously competing in a widely anticipated professional boxing match. I found it a frustrating turn of events and a disappointing outcome in what was a fight fans had been looking forward to for ages.

Mayweather himself is hardly a stranger to controversy, according to a December 5, 2017 cbssports.com article titled, “Floyd Mayweather admits to ‘carrying’ Conor McGregor during De La Hoya rant” Brian Campbell writes that:

“Despite the carnival feel and one-sided predictions throughout the build, the August boxing super fight between Floyd Mayweather and UFC champion Conor McGregor turned out to be an entertaining—and financially gluttonous—event for those involved. Still, there was a lingering feeling from some in the aftermath that the fight, pairing the greatest boxer of his era against a boxing novice, may not have been completely on the up and up.”

Campbell would go on to quote Mayweather as stating, “You know I carried McGregor. You know I made it look good for y’all.” According to Campbell, Mayweather claimed that that it was his strategy to “refrain from throwing punches in the first four rounds, knowing the tightly wound McGregor, 29, would wear himself out.”

A January 20, 2019 businessinsider.com article titled, “Manny Pacquiao rolled back the years to beat Adrien Broner in style, then challenged Floyd Mayweather to a rematch,” author Alan Dawson writes that:

“Broner was off-form, slow, and second-best throughout his WBA world welterweight championship bout against Pacquiao, and the Filipino fighter was able to dictate the fight with his strong left hand, solid combination punching, and intuitive movement.”

According to Dawson, “Broner attempted to nullify Pacquiao but his single-shot counter-punching strategy failed to limit his opponent’s aggression.”

Ryan Songalia, a reporter at Ring magazine, reported via his January 20, 219 Twitter post that:

“The reason to never, ever believe in Adrien Broner: tonight, he threw half as many punches as Manny Pacquiao (aged 40), landed less than half, and still thinks he won the fight. He will never learn it seems.”

Songalia would go on to add, “Adrien Broner’s corner did him no favors tonight, no sense of urgency. Broner came here to go the distance, showed no interest in winning the fight. Disappointing effort by him.”

Perhaps Broner and his corner had devised a strategy similar to Mayweather’s, where Broner planned to carry Pacquiao throughout the twelve rounds in order to allow the Filipino great to win in order to advance the greater agenda of securing a very financially lucrative fight for everyone involved against Floyd Mayweather?

It would certainly explain Broner’s lack of output, his claims to have done this for the hood, and the bizarre nature of his post-fight rant which immediately took any attention away from the fact Broner treated the Pacquiao fight like a glorified sparring session, fighting with little to no urgency at all throughout the championship fight.

No surer way exists to extinguish a passionate flame than the realization that the object of your worship may be corrupted, its true identity revealed to be something very different than you had originally anticipated. They say where there is smoke, there is fire. How many coincidences, inconsistencies and consistent patterns of oddities need to occur before these events are put under a microscope and the true nature of these unusual oddities and events are discovered?

When the sports entertainment industry and legitimacy of competition merge, the end result can be made for television whereby the seemingly endless controversial decisions that have plagued combat sports for decades—if not centuries—come into focus to the steadfast few paying close attention. Corruption… fighters, referees, judges, sanctioning bodies, and even associations, commissions, leagues and organizations themselves, are crooked from the top down. The politics of money collides with the sanctity of sporting competition itself, smashing passion and leaving only doubt and cynicism in its wake. Until the hands are pulled out of the cookie jar, we can unfortunately fully expect the racket to continue unimpeded until a hero arrives to make the wrong things right.

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  1. Esmael Jalil 06:18am, 03/14/2019

    Bullshit commentary.

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