"I'll make a lot of money off the rematch, but this was outrageous." - boxing promoter Bob Arum on the judges' decision in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, June 9, 2012
People are reacting to the supposedly unjust decision which awarded underdog Timothy Bradley a split decision victory over WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao as if they've never seen a fixed boxing match before.
Don't these people - including the writers and talking heads on ESPN - know their boxing history? Boxing was corrupt, is corrupt, and will continue to be corrupt until the sport finally dies.
The reason for this is due to the ease in which a boxing match can be fixed. Much like tennis (which has had its share of gambling/fixing scandals of late), when only two people are competing - even if its in front of a live pay-per-view audience - you only need to control one person to rig the fight. A potential fixer has several tools at his disposal to get to a boxer, but the primary motivator is likely greed.
Fighters fight because there is money attached to the bout. No one would take such punishment for fun.
Of course, back in the day (meaning, perhaps, as long ago as yesterday), crooked promoters who control the boxing industry could also sway a boxer's decision to fix a fight with the promise of future opportunities. Think back (way back to the late 1940s) to the famed fixed fight between "The Raging Bull" Jake LaMotta and Billy Fox. LaMotta intentionally lost the bout in order to get a coveted title fight (this true story is depicted in the Martin Scorsese movie Raging Bull). Had LaMotta not done as instructed, he may have never been the middleweight champion of the world because Frankie Carbo, the mobster controlling boxing, would not have allowed it. Do a mobster a favor, and he does one for you.
Besides the rare exception of Rocky Marciano (a good Italian lad who was likely protected by the mafia) who went undefeated and retired as heavyweight champion with a 49-0 record, most championship fighters lose. Them's the breaks, as they say. Yet when Pacquiao lost to Bradley, shock erupted throughout the boxing world. But Pacquiao couldn't stay on top forever. How long were boxing fans going to wait for Floyd Mayweather to get out of prison and make the long-awaited match between himself and Pacquiao?
Instead, the new champion Bradley - who already hyped a rematch with Pacquiao prior to fighting him by printing up false flyers/posters along with an oversized ticket for their soon-to-be second fight - has inserted himself into Mayweather's role and created an instant demand for a second bout with Pacquiao. How easy of a sell will this fight be? How much will both fighters - the one "given" the title, and the one "robbed" of it - ultimately earn for their roles in these matches?
While promoter Bob Arum may be publicly up-in-arms about the decision against his meal ticket Pacquiao, as the quote above shows, he knows this rematch will be money in the bank. Like his former rival promoter Don King, Arum knows how to sell a fight.
King, has history has proven, wasn't below manipulating fighters for his own gain. He also may have fixed fights for not just his own profit, or his boxers' profit, but for ABC & HBO's profit as well. While this will be documented in full detail in my upcoming book, suffice it to say that King was no angel, and he may have used corrupt judges to fix fights in order to make more entertaining presentations for the likes of ABC.
Could that have been what happened between Pacquiao and Bradley? As this article on Grantland pointed out, Pacquiao and Bradley are both Arum fighters (Mayweather is not). A rematch further lines everyone's pockets - and that's no conspiracy theory.
Unable to get one fighter to take a dive, fixing a fight through the use of the judges isn't unheard of. It's trickier to accomplish, but certainly it's possible. Especially when one controversial outcome creates instant hype for an ensuing rematch. In the case of this fight, if Bradley should have won (which he did apparently), it triggered an automatic rematch clause creating bout #2 between the fighters in November. Amazingly, that's just what transpired.
Arum reportedly demands an investigation and will not promote a rematch until that occurs. Will it happen? Could it even uncover any wrongdoing? What evidence could be found, short of a corrupted judge spilling the beans? It remains to be seen, but the WBO is apparently wiling to heed Arum's call and investigate...if just for "clarity."
It's interesting to note that according to this post by RJ Bell at Pregame.com, Vegas lost on the fight and BetOnline.com claimed it lost more on this fight than on any other in its history. Meanwhile, another online offshore sports book reportedly offered 100-1 odds on Bradley prior to the 12th round, and 200-1 on him before the decision was announced. Sports books aren't dumb. The fight they saw and the result they expected was in Pacquiao's favor.
Boxing fans need to realize that this controversial outcome is but one of a thousand, and that boxing is rife with fixes - be it one opponent intentionally "carrying" another or one fighter taking a dive or a corrupt judge/referee altering a decision - none of which are ancient history.
UPDATE: The WBO's review panel of five judges watched a replay of the fight. Their ruling? Pacquiao won. In fact, all five ruled that Pacquiao beat Bradley with the closest score among these judges being 115-113, matching the scoring of the one judge on fight night who believed Pacquiao won.
But--and this is the kicker--the WBO cannot overturn the result of the fight.
So why bother review it in the first place? Got me. However--and this should come as no surprise--Manny Pacquiao now wants a rematch with Bradley to settle the argument over who truly holds the WBO welterweight title.
Bob Arum must be happy about that.
UPDATE #2: The Nevada state attorney general has announced that she found "nothing illegal" in the result of this bout. According to this report, the referee, two Nevada Gaming Control Board officials and the state Athletic Commission Director were all interviewed in this investigation. Who apparently wasn't? The two judges who made the questionable ruling in the fight.
The attorney general wrote, "Displeasure with the subjective decisions of sporting officials is not a sufficient basis for this office to initiate a criminal investigation. There do not appear to be any facts or evidence to indicate that a criminal violation occurred."