Over 24 hours after Timothy Bradley’s victory over Manny Pacquiao, the controversy over the judges’ split decision in Bradley’s favor isn’t going away.
A lot of people seem to think the fix was in and are shocked, shocked to learn that the sport might not be on the up-and-up.
Pacquiao, who hadn’t lost in seven years, landed more power punches than Bradley and more jabs and yet was unable to finish off Bradley, who suffered a broken foot in the bout. In the midst of the controversy, one thing is certain: Everyone was looking straight at Bob Arum, whose Top Rank Promotions represented both boxers. Lennox Lewis summed it up on Twitter: “Pac won the fight. Bradley won the decision. [Arum] won another payday. Boxing lost its integrity and the fans lost confidence.”
Boxing uses a highly subjective, highly human scoring system and changing it would prevent these kinds of surreal results. (Judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford had Bradley winning 115-113; Judge Jerry Roth had Pacquiao winning by the same score.) But how would you change the scoring? With instant replay? It seems unlikely that anything in the sport is going to change and, let’s face it, what happens inside the ring is only a small part of the sport. From Grantland’s Rafe Bartholomew:
Are the powers that be and their backstage plots real? Your guess is as good as mine, but imagining them is one of the secondary joys of boxing fandom. Trying to understand the promoters' motives and anticipate their next moves is almost as much fun as watching Pacquiao overwhelm an opponent or Marquez pick apart a fighter one sharp counter at a time.
I think that's why, when Bob Arum stood behind a podium and faced the press after Saturday's fight, he was given a surprisingly warm reception. These were, after all, the same cynics who had just been muttering about how Arum was probably to blame for the Bradley decision. But boxing writers and hard-core fans understand that the game behind the scenes is as important as the sport inside the ring, and it was hard not to admire the way Arum played the moment at the press conference.
“I've never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight,” were the first words out of Arum's mouth. He defused the anger in the room by calling the Bradley decision one of the worst he's ever seen, comparing it to other controversial decisions like Pacquiao-Marquez III. Arum said that this result was far worse — “unfathomable” — and admitted that as angry as he was in the moment, he stood to “make a lot of money off the rematch.” He mixed righteous indignation and candid talk about business with a Yiddish-peppered rant about how old, incompetent judges make everyone feel like schmucks, “and nobody likes to feel like a schmuck.” The room was laughing at his sarcasm, even though moments before, many of the people who were now enjoying Arum's irascible charm had been kvetching about how he must have masterminded the entire debacle. And that's really the beauty of Bob Arum, the man who famously once told reporters, “Yesterday I was lying; today I'm telling the truth.” Twice a year, it seems like Arum is involved with something that makes everyone who cares about boxing feel like a schmuck, and every single schmuck among us just keeps coming back for more.
One of these days a rematch will be announced and, conveniently, it will help to tamp down talk about when Pacquiao might fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“That’s how we love this boxing,” Pacquiao said. “In your heart you know I was winning the fight. But it’s okay. It’s part of the game.”