Ferdie Pacheco, NBC's "Fight Doctor," plays a dual role for the network; he helps arrange the boxing matches and then he announces them.
This conflict of interest-- the guy who's paid to make the matches might not be objective in analyzing their worth -- has ABC and CBS crying foul. And what you get is the familiar traces of network sniping, which often can be more fun to watch than their programming.
"NBC has overstepped, in my opinion," said Jim Spence, senior vice president for ABC Sports. "For Ferdie Pacheco to be matchmaking and then do color on the same fight, that isn't right."
Peter Tortorici, vice president for program planning and development at CBS Sports, said, "(Pacheco) can't be objective when he's involved in the process from A to Z. We are a business of perception, and the mere appearance of a conflict must be avoided.
"We'd be crazy not to ask Gil (Clancy, CBS' boxing analyst) what he thinks, but he doesn't make the deals. Mort Sharnik's the guy who says, 'It should be this.' We don't want to compromise the telecast."
Pacheco: "The answer to all that is exactly what we've been doing for five years. I've never pulled any punches calling a fight. If it's a bad match, I say that it's a bad match. I'll continue to work both jobs at NBC as long as they want me to and I don't (care) what anyone else says."
Ken Schanzer, executive vice president for NBC Sports, said the critics ignore two things -- that Pacheco is only a fight consultant who can be overruled, and that other networks similarly use on-air talent to arrange basketball or boxing matches.
"Ferdie's not a matchmaker. He only tells us whether a fight is worth doing," Schanzer said. "I suspect we may be a little more open than other people at other networks in our relationship with Ferdie Pacheco.
"The proof is in the form of what is on the air. By and large, Ferdie is not reticent about criticizing boxing and the boxing establishment. I don't think the record in any way, shape or form shows that he's not honest on the air. He's not sheepish about criticizing any of the matches."
Pacheco, in fact, consistently appears forthright in his fight analysis and usually books good matches. But while he and Schanzer dismiss the criticisms, their competitors' points are valid.
Like an adoring parent with a child, Pacheco sometimes might have trouble seeing the matches he's made for what they are. And even though this isn't life's most critical issue -- as Pacheco says, "It's sports, not World War III" -- it seems little to ask that all network sports departments separate their broadcast journalists from the actual making of the events they're covering. Pacheco, during Monday's Larry Holmes-Carl Williams heavyweight title fight, put on one of his worst performances ever. Along with Marv Albert, to a lesser extent, he had us convinced that Williams was winning the fight and that Holmes desperately needed a knockout to salvage the crown.
Granted, Williams probably outpunched Holmes, but as Pacheco well knows, scoring in title fights usually is heavily weighted in the champion's favor. Two judges had Holmes taking 11 of 15 rounds, meaning Williams was the one who needed the late knockout to win.
Credit Pacheco for making the fight, which most observers saw as a mismatch (I thought Williams might get knocked down during the weigh-in). And NBC's production work on the interminable Marvis Frazier-James Tillis preliminary was wonderful, especially the postfight chronicle of between- the-round corner comments. Yes, it's back. Like The Blob, that fictional film creature that kept devouring folks and growing in bloblike fashion with each forward roll, NBC's "SportsWorld Music Videos" makes an unwanted return visit Saturday. Take the kids out of the house.
Highlighting the show will be a sports version of "We Are the World" as sung by several well-known athletes. Mario Andretti and Martina Navratilova, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Peggy Fleming, Muhammad Ali and Chris Evert Lloyd performing on the same stage.