By Jason Keidel
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With a weekend so fertile for sports, the number three rings loudly through the five boroughs and beyond. The Yankees took three from the Mets, I’ll Have Another didn’t win the Triple Crown, and an unknown trio may have ruined a sport.
Manny Pacquiao, perhaps the best boxer on Earth, whipped Timothy Bradley on Saturday night in Las Vegas. And everyone knew it, except the three people who judged the fight – a most unholy trinity who had the best seats in the house yet didn’t see the bout.
Inexplicably, Bradley was awarded a split-decision and a worthless, welterweight title belt. Even the lone judge who got it right somehow found five rounds in Bradley’s favor.
First, let’s strip the euphemisms from the decision, with “controversial” chief among them. Call it disgusting, grotesque, galling, or hideous.
Harold Lederman, who has been scoring fights since 1967, gave Pacquiao 11 of the 12 rounds.
ESPN boxing analyst Dan Rafael also gave Pacquiao all but one round.
Jim Lampley, the television face and voice of boxing for decades, said it was the worst decision he’s ever witnessed.
Larry Merchant, who has been calling bouts for HBO since 1978, said Pacquiao won handily.
USA Today conducted an informal poll of the boxing writers ringside, and all of them gave Pacquiao the fight. All of them.
Famed boxing trainer Teddy Atlas said, “If you’re an honest man, you know who won that fight. It’s an injustice.” He was being diplomatic. This was inane, if not insane.
Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, gave Pacquiao ten rounds.
Bradley’s own manager, Cameron Dunkin, gave his fighter just four rounds. Even Bradley, before he changed his cadence once the tainted crown rested on his shaved head, told Arum, “I tried, but I couldn’t beat the guy.”
I won’t drown you with boxing bromides and statistics. Google can cover that. But a most telling metric in pugilism is, of course, punches landed. According to CompuBox, Pacquiao landed 253 total punches to Bradley’s 153. Pacquiao landed 190 power shots. Bradley landed 108. How do you win a fight when you land fewer total punches and about half the power shots of your opponent?
The wretched decision doubles as a time warp to Frankie Carbo, when a certain Sicilian fraternity ruled boxing with a murderous fist. Raging Bull wasn’t fiction; fighters fell when they weren’t hurt and judges were paid based on betting trends.
It was a boxing buffet for conspiracy theorists. Indeed, I’ve been asked many times if the fight were fixed. I doubt it very much.
Boxing should not be corrupt anymore. Carbo and his Murder, Inc. brethren are dead, and the Mafia has been marginalized, particularly when it comes to boxing. Don King, who once acted like an honorary member of the Mafia, is irrelevant.
No, boxing is worse than corrupt. It is inept. When the fix is in you find, fine, fire, and perhaps imprison those on the take. But when an entire sport is incompetent, when it ruins its life, drops the Golden Egg of a final megafight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., it’s hard to find hope.
The only reason boxing matters anymore is because of smaller men like Pacquiao and Mayweather and smaller men only box because no other sport needs 140-pound men. And rather than facilitate that fight, quite legally and morally, it immorally aborts the bout that would find its final place on the front page.
What can fix this? Nothing. Because the damage from this decision is irreparable. Pacquiao has to fight Bradley again when he shouldn’t, and a whole lot can happen in during boxing’s glacial movements. And Pacquiao will need a rifle in the ring, because nothing short of killing Bradley will get him a win. And no one cares about the sport enough to clean it up. And by the time the final two titans of the sport can sign a contract, they will either be too old, or one will (legitimately) lose, or the fans will refuse to watch two old men jam to the oldies, or all the above.
Many Pacquiao, who was humble in defeat, is not the only one who pays. We, who have worshipped this sport since before Pacman was born, also suffer. I’ve adored boxing since my old man took me to see Roberto Duran in the old Felt Forum in 1979, when both boxing and Manhattan were great, before the former became neutralized and the latter sterilized. Oddly, both die at the hands of those charged to preserve them.
Timothy Bradley is a good man who came from the part of Palm Springs they left off the brochures, where drugs and gangs were within reach of his gifted hands. He chose a more honorable path, and a noble life. Bradley is very good fighter who earned every fight he’s won, except this one.
Did Pacman absolutely get robbed? Vent away in the comments below…