The spectre of controversy seems to be always be around in Sin City on fight night. Last night that spectre made its' presence known loud and clear.
Last night at the MGM Grand Manny Pacquiao, one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, lost his WBO Welterweight title to Timothy Bradley in a very controversial split decision. The words 'very controversial' are the kindest that can be used to describe the decision.
Judge Jerry Roth had the fight 115-113 for Pacquiao. Judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford had the fight 115-113 for Bradley. Personally I had the fight 117-111 for Pacquiao.
It was evident from the beginning of the bout that Pacquiao was the superior fighter. He was faster, landed more punches, and timed his punches beautifully. It was also evident that Pacquiao's punches had more power to them compared to Bradley. Give credit to Bradley though, he was hurt both by Pacquiao's punches and by injuries to both his feet during the fight, but he was never knocked down and fought to win the whole time. Bradley didn't try to boast either after the fight. He even told HBO analyst Max Kellerman that he was going to watch the fight on film to see if he actually won it.
The questions that have arisen from this mess are what's disturbing. First there are the betting odds shifting as the fight date got closer. Then there was the revelation that ESPN's Teddy Atlas stated about Pacquiao's business relationship with his promoter Bob Arum. Atlas stated that Pacquiao's contract with Arum's Top Rank Promotions is almost up and that there are rumblings of Pacquiao not resigning with Arum. In Atlas's own words when situations like this arise in boxing "funny things happen."
Funny things seem to be happening a lot lately when it comes to Bob Arum.
This decision is the second major robbery that I can think of at the top of my head this year involving an Arum promoted fighter.
The first one involved 'undefeated' lightweight fighter Brandon Rios April 14. Rios fought Richard Abril that night for the vacated WBA Lightweight title. Rios held the belt until he was stripped of it due to not making weight before his fight with John Murray. Rios again failed to make weight for this fight so the title could only be won by Abril. Throughout the fight it was evident that Abril was dominating Rios with his defense and his reach advantage. By the end of the fight nearly every boxing analyst including the broadcasters had the fight easily for Abril.
Rios was instead awarded the split decision.
Almost immediately after the initial disgust left everyone it was suspected that decision was part of a plan to keep a potential fight between Rios and Juan Manuel Marquez alive. That fight would bring Top Rank and by extension Arum a lot of money.
Now that spectre has risen again with this fight. This fight made Top Rank a lot of money and Arum wins either way since he promotes both Pacquiao and Bradley. Despite the LOUD outcry about a possible boycott of a rematch, that fight will make a lot of money too.
The most disturbing part of the aftermath is that there is a rematch clause with a locked in date of November 10 in the contract. Judging from what both fighters said, they would take that rematch.Even as Arum has feigned outrage at the decision and 'demanded' an investigation into the scoring of the fight from the Nevada Attorney General, the rematch will happen. That would mean that the dream fight boxing fans want between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather would not happen this year.
The dream Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has been in negotiations for years with little progress. Many view Arum as the main roadblock to that fight. It is believed that Arum's bitterness towards Mayweather after he left Top Rank (along with Mayweather's insistence that he have the lion's share of the potential purse) are the only issues stopping one of the biggest paydays in boxing history from happening.
Arum has been viewed for a long time by boxing fans the same way they view promoter Don King. King has long been accused of killing the heavyweight division along with ripping off boxers like the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. To boxing fans, Arum is only concerned with making money from fights and last night's fight did nothing to change that perception.
This is what is truly killing boxing. It isn't the quality of the fights, but the money interests and the politics of the sports that is pushing fair weather fans away and is causing die hard fans to grow even more cynical.
There is time to fix this. Many are now looking at Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions to become the saviors of the sport.
I hope they can be.