The first time Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley met in June 2012 it was clear to most everyone except two of the three official judges that Pacquiao did more than enough to retain his welterweight championship. Most fight scribes who viewed the bout, an arena full of people at the MGM Grand as well as a worldwide television viewing audience perceived Pacquiao as the clear winner.
However, when the official scores of the judges were announced as a split decision in favor of Bradley it was a moment of incredulity. Was there a mistake? How could that be? One could practically hear the boos and hisses all the way from Pacquiao’s home country of the Philippines. Judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross called Bradley the winner by identical scores of 115-113 or 7-5 in rounds, while judge Jerry Roth saw it 115-113 for Pacquiao. Most did not see the fight as that close. Many very respected folks in the boxing industry gave Bradley only two or three rounds of the fight.
So yesterday, as Pacquiao, his trainer Freddie Roach and his promoter Bob Arum all participated in a conference call with a group of boxing reporters and writers the subject of judging and judges was broached. It was interesting to hear that all three downplayed the significance of the upcoming judging panel.
One of boxing’s biggest problems in this day and age is the decisions that are rendered by the official judges. Their perceptions often differ greatly from the ringside announcers, reporters, writers and the viewing public. Eleven days ago, Danny Garcia was deemed the winner in his title fight against challenger Mauricio Herrera – even though an overwhelming majority viewing from ringside and elsewhere scored the fight for Herrera.
When asked about the judging and the judges from the first Pacquiao – Bradley bout you could hear the exasperation in Bob Arum’s voice. But in a way, you could also hear defeat.
“That decision was two years ago. You’re not going to change the decision,” explained Arum. “You just go on with your life. I mean it was what it was. You just move on. Whatever it was – it was. Duane Ford is no longer judging. C.J. Ross retired in disgrace after another crazy decision.”
The organizers of the April 12 rematch have submitted a list of officials they would deem acceptable and non-acceptable selections for the bout. Sadly, unacceptable names are still part of the equation. Nevertheless, Arum was optimistic this process was the manner by which an acceptable outcome can be achieved if the fight goes to the cards. Arum should be mindful not to outsmart himself as Marvin Hagler and the Petronelli brothers did when they jettisoned judge Harry Gibbs in advance of the Leonard – Hagler bout in 1987. In a fight also promoted by Arum, the Petronellis instead wanted and accepted judge Jose Juan (JoJo) Guerra, who handed in a ridiculous score of 10-2 in rounds favoring Leonard. Scoring from home, Harry Gibbs later said he scored the bout 8-4 in rounds for Hagler.
Whatever sliver of credibility the sport of boxing may have left is being squandered by repeated controversial decisions. The problem doesn’t so much seem to be corruption – but incompetence. Many of the disputed decisions have been investigated rather thoroughly with no discovery of wrongdoing. Many of the same judges that hand in questionable scorecards continue to be assigned to major bouts time and again. More than anything, the issue seems to be the blind leading the blind all the way through the halls of state athletic commissions and various regulatory alphabet organizations.
In all likelihood, the Pacquiao – Bradley rematch will end up in another twelve round decision. Both fighters are evenly matched and possess an above average ability to take a punch, so a knockout for either man is not probable. Pacquiao has not scored a knockout since 2009; Bradley since 2011. In this day and age, knockouts seem fewer and farther between in major championship bouts, which means the judges are all the more important when it’s time to render an outcome.
“We don’t go into fights looking for knockouts. We plan to beat him [Bradley] every round,” said Freddie Roach when asked about judging on yesterday’s call. “If the knockout comes it comes. One bad decision doesn’t change everything in life and it doesn’t change our game plan. We’re not going to make any adjustments for who the judges are or anything like that as that’s really out of our control.”
In the nearly two years since the first Bradley bout, the affable Pacquiao has been asked over and over by scribes from the Philippines to France whether he is upset with the injustice that was heaped upon him by the judges in the first Bradley fight.
“I’m not angry,” Pacquiao repeated yesterday in what has become his standard answer. “I’m not thinking about the judges. What I want to do is focus in the ring and focus on the strategy we practice in the gym.”
Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
Pick up a copy of T.K.'s new book, The Fight Racket: Inside the World of Professional Boxing
Follow T.K. on Twitter
Friend T.K. on Facebook
Find out more about T.K. at about.me