By Jason Pribila: Finally a major fight created buzz on sports television, talk radio, and even water coolers days after the fight. Unfortunately, as is often the case with boxing, the discussion was for all the wrong reasons. Corruption, travesty, and incompetence remained at the forefront of the all too familiar “boxing is a joke” discussion. The official result claimed that an undefeated American fighter upset an All-Time great and international icon, but the name “Timothy Bradley” remained as anonymous as it was when this fight was booked.
While some may claim that all publicity is good publicity, and that this controversy will eventually lead to big business. I say that this robbery could not come at a worse time for American boxing, and I for one am done defending a sport that no longer deserves to be defended.
The truth is that everyone who made money on Saturday night will continue to make money, while those who opened their wallets walk away feeling buyers’ remorse. Their blind allegiance, time, patience, and intelligence have been insulted before, during, and after the official scores were read.
While several writers did an amazing job describing this latest controversy for those who have long since opted to fill their gas tanks rather than increase their cable bills, this writer has struggled to find the “winners” to fill half of his column.
4. Guillermo Rigondeaux: One of the most decorated amateurs of all time has arrived as a professional. A far cry from his November 2010 snoozer at Cowboys Stadium, on the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard, Rigondeaux dismantled a very good boxer in Teon Kennedy. The slick Cuban made each of his punches count, as Kennedy hit the canvas nearly as many times (5) as his gloves hit Rigondeauz (13). With countryman Yuriorkis Gamboa serving a self-imposed hiatus, it is now Rigondeaux who could be on the marquee in attractive fights against attractive opponents like Abner Mares or Nonito Donaire. Of course, these will be fights that Top Rank will allow to marinade until about 2015.
3. Randall Bailey: Although many felt that Bailey was at his best years ago and at a division south, he still possessed a booming right hand that kept him as a high-risk / low reward list of opponents. Bailey took step aside money in the past to allow his stable mate, Andre Berto to face Jan Zaveck for the IBF crown. On Saturday, Bailey got his chance to fight for the vacant title against the unproven Mike Jones. Bailey did his best impression of George Foreman for over nine rounds until a straight right dropped Jones at the end of round ten. Jones survived and seemed to have his legs beneath him for most of the eleventh until a vicious Bailey uppercut abruptly ended the fight. Congrats to Bailey for winning a title and ensuring himself of being the second most sought after titlist in the division not named Paulie Malignaggi.
2. Timothy Bradley: No one could blame Bradley for the judges’ incompetence. The undefeated fighter carried the promotion, and did everything physically possible to get himself in the best shape to challenge the second best fighter in the world. I have been critical of Bradley in the past, but I will give him credit for trying to win until the final bell. Following the fight it was revealed that Bradley fought with a fractured foot. Kudos to him for showing the toughness everyone knew he had. No one would have blamed him for bowing out due to injury, especially after losing many, if not all of the opening nine frames.
1. Manny Pacquiao: Many questioned if Pacquiao had been slipping after his recent performances against Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez. On Saturday, Pacquiao responded by dominating a young, hungry fighter. Even while dominating weight drained fighters like Cotto and Margarito, Pacquiao got trapped against the ropes and absorbed punishment. On this night, Pacquiao seemed to be in complete control of everything except the official scorers.
While he may regret taking his foot off the gas late in the fight, he will only be seen as the loser in the record books. Much like when Mosley defeated De La Hoya, or when Winky Wright dominated Felix Trinidad; beating the man does not make you the man. When the dust settles Pacquiao will still be able to control who he fights next. His name will remain on the left side of the marquee, and he does not need an alphabet title or a rematch to further enhance his legacy.
5. “Manny Being Manny”: Even if Pacquiao could be excused for wanting to watch his beloved Boston Celtics rather than focusing on his job, which was to headline a pay per view; the further delay caused by him stretching his calves was disrespectful to his opponent and all the fans that paid for tickets and pay per view. Pacquiao has put karaoke singing, Congress, and now basketball ahead of his prize fights , and this may or may not have finally worked against him on the score cards.
4. Peltz Boxing: Saturday Night was supposed to be a crowning moment for the Hall of Fame Promoter. His two prized pupils were in position to win their first major titles on the sport’s biggest stage. In the opener, underdog Teon Kennedy failed to ever get into a rhythm and was out-classed by Rigondeaux. Bad quickly got worse when Mike Jones was violently stopped by Bailey. While there is no shame in getting caught by a known power puncher, it was Jones lack of activity to disarm Bailey that led to his demise. Fortunately for Jones and Kennedy, they have a promoter who won’t abandon them after a loss, but the rebuilding project will most likely take place in small ballrooms; far away from the television cameras that long ignored them as they climbed the ranks.
3. Top Rank Inc. / Bob Arum: While many laughed off the decision to delay the main event until the NBA playoffs concluded, I felt that this was yet another example of disrespecting the hands that feed the sport. Fans in the arena and at home had to sit through long stretches of down time in order to satisfy the audience of another sport.
The stale casino setting has been criticized for years. Fight fans have been conditioned to get to their seats in time for the main event. By assuring that the main event would not start until after the basketball game ended again translated poorly on television.
Not only does this speak volumes about how the Top Rank brass felt about the undercard that they assembled, but I fail to see who this benefited. Were there any Celtics fans who felt like paying $60 after their hearts were broken during a franchise-altering defeat? Heat fans? They probably shut it down before the basketball game was over.
Sure Arum was out-spoken about the robbery that took place, which will inevitably fall on deaf ears. However,, commenting that he will make a lot of money on the rematch echoed loud and clear.
2, Boxing fans: There simply is not a more dedicated and loyal fan base in sports. How else do you explain pay per views exceeding $1 million buys, even though they are often put on the defensive every time a fight other than Mayweather vs Pacquiao is made. We open our wallets and ice boxes with the hopes we are about to see something great that will not only justify our loyalty, but also give us the ammunition to tell naysayers, “I told you so.”
Instead we wake up on Sunday morning with messages like: “What a joke”, “Fixed”, “This is why boxing is dead”, and my favorite, “Get a Life”.
I, like many, remain loyal to a fault. Defend the sport to those few who are still listening, while scouring the boxing schedule for the next fight that will hopefully erase the sour taste left in our mouths.
However, after this latest debacle, I am forced to ask, “For who….for what?”
We are used to being treated poorly by cable networks. Many of us tune into Friday Night fights on ESPN2 only to have to sit through bowling, billiards, college baseball, and everything else that the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” allows to conclude before switching over to “live” boxing. We could shrug that off because it is on “free” television. However, this latest pay per view spoke volumes about what the powers that be feel about our time and patience.
Because of a poor decision to allow an NBA game to take precedence over an evening of boxing, we were left with dead air while sacrificing a Saturday Night and space on our DVRs.
We were forced to sit through 20 minutes of filler time between the first and second bouts. Bailey-Jones went 11 rounds, so we only had to wait 10 minutes until Jorge Arce was in the ring. After a disappointing end to an exciting two rounds, fight fans had to wait 45 minutes before Bradley’s ring walk and almost an hour before the opening bell.
The main event started at 12:10am. It’s no wonder why newspaper editors on the East Coast long since eliminated boxing from their budgets.
Even though the main event was void of any head-butts, cheap shots, or MMA-like take-downs, the judges’ score cards ensured that we would once again wake up feeling embarrassed.
1. Nevada State Athletic Commission: The NSAC gets the top billing because they were responsible for assigning three judges who handed in scorecards that made a mockery of what fight fans had just witnessed. Duane Ford and CJ Ross each scored the bout 115-113 for Bradley, while Jerry Roth gave Pacquiao the nod by the same score. I feel Ross and Ford should be suspended indefinitely, and Roth should also be punished because his scorecard was in the same ballpark as the other two. Ford receives top honors for incompetence for going on record and stating that he felt, “Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson.”
Ford’s idea of a boxing lesson differed from ringside observers, the promoter, and Bradley himself. ESPN.com conducted a poll and 87% of over 60,000 people felt Pacquiao won the fight, including 91% of those polled in Bradley’s home state.
Arum has since stated that he will not push for a rematch until there is an investigation into the scoring of the bout. Commission executive director, Keith Kizer, went on record saying that he would not “second guess” the officials.
Arum hinted that he would take Pacquiao’s next fight to Texas, home of a commission even more notorious for poor scoring and a corruptuption. However, if nothing else, at least arena’s in the Lone Star State are filled with fight fans.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PribsBoxing.
June 12, 2012