This is what I was thinking in the final roundsof the Pacquio-Bradley fightm as Manny Pacquiao slowed down a bit—either out of pity, weariness or plain boredom —and still seemed well on his way to a victory over Timothy Bradley:
Pacquiao was both dominant and lacking spark, if that's possible.
He landed the power shots, no doubt; he controlled the fight and though Bradley was game, Bradley clearly was uninterested in tasting too much Pacquiao leather after the fourth or fifth round and got much less aggressive.
Pacquiao won that fight— I had it 9 rounds to 3 for Manny—but four or five years ago, Pacquiao would've chased down Bradley and then put him down. Oh well, he's 33, so you can't expect Manny to destroy everybody any more.
He won the fight. Easy enough.
Then the unfathomable decision was announced, and all hell broke loose.
Judge Jerry Roth had it in a close call for Pacquiao (and even that seemed bizarre,);
And two judges—C.J. Ross and Duane Ford—gave the close-call to Bradley, which delivered him the split-decision victory.
Terrible, terrible decision. The worst one I've ever seen... and I was ringside at the joke in San Antonio when the judges ruled Pernell Whitaker's dismantling of Julio Cesar Chavez was actually a draw.
This one was worse because it put a fraudulent "L" on Pacquiao's record and gave Bradley an unearned victory—not Bradley's fault, but still worse than JCC stealing away with a draw.
This one was worse, also, because boxing's precarious state of play.
The sport has been sagging for decades, and now Pacquiao's just about the only thing driving the engine (along with Floyd Mayweather, in a lesser way), and if you put Pacquiao in jeopardy, the whole thing is shaky beyond belief.
Teddy Atlas is one of the smartest, most credible guys in the sport, and he immediately called boxing "a corrupt sport;" I understand why that would be the emotion, because corruption is the simplest answer for something so obviously wrong.
Could this have been fixed? I can't say it's impossible. You never know. Things like that have certainly happened.
Boxing deserves the accusations, no doubt. I've seen the machinations up close as a boxing writer for the LA Times, and I can tell you that it can get pretty slip-shod even at the highest levels.
But to the corruption point: I don't quite see the cash angle here, and at some point, you have to find the money angle to prove corruption.
If you're arguing the fight was fixed for Bradley to set up a rich rematch with Pacquiao... OK, that might happen. But would the powers in the sport really agree to do that and enrage thousands of boxing fans along the way?
You lose 50 or 50,000 fans with a crooked decision in a sport that has lost them in droves for decades... Does that make sense? No.
Bradley's camp doesn't have enough juice to set this up. And Pacquiao can make mega-money whoever he fights—the sport didn't need any fraud rematch to make him more marketable and make his fights more profitable.
Pacquiao, if the fans believe in the credibility of the outcome, is a cash machine whoever he fights. Big "if" now, however.
So what's the angle? Some on Twitter say it's a set up by promoter Bob Arum to make the younger Bradley the new face of boxing (and ease the aging Pacquiao off the stage after 1 or 2 more big fights), but no, it doesn't work that way.
You don't become a mega-star in this sport by the whim of a promoter or a few judges. You become a star if you're a star, the way Pacquiao's a star; and Bradley isn't a star. He's a solid fighter with a big heart, but he doesn't have star power and won't get it.
Maybe this does make the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight slightly easier to make, which is another accusation about this "fix." But that's only by a few degrees—Manny will have less pull in any negotiations, which could set this up.
But that fight is now diminished by a Pacquiao loss, too. If Pacquiao has to fight the rematch with Bradley to re-establish his luster, then that's yet another six-month delay (or more) for the possibility of Pacquiao-Mayweather... and what if Pacquiao loses legitimately in the rematch?
Pacquiao's skills are eroding and if it becomes obvious, that diminishes the Mayweather fight, too.
Mayweather's skills are eroding, too. If the sport is corruptly trying to force this fight, the corruptors just put it in jeopardy, too, by putting an "L" on Pacquiao's ledger.
And I know some are saying, well, Bob Arum can put "new star" Bradley in with Mayweather, if he can get Mayweather's camp to agree.
Folks, that's not a big fight; it's just not. Maybe there's a dollar or two added to the purse of such a fight now that Bradley has won a ridiculous victory... but that's not enough to counter the loss of credibility for this sport.
That's the problem: If you can't trust the outcome, you can't go back to the sport, and the sport needs us all to keep coming back.
I think this is more about incompetence than anything else—Whitaker-Chavez was about protecting Chavez, the cash cow; this was about incompetence, because Vegas would have every reason to protect the Pacquiao cash cow and screwed it up, even when he was the far better fighter.
Those two judges were incompetent, period. As incompetent as any ref or official or judge has ever been in a recent major sports event.
And that's almost worse than corruption, because the Nevada Commission picked them for this spotlight, because Ford is a very well respected judge, and because if the commission and those judges couldn't get this right, then I can't trust any of them, ever again.
And I repeat: If you can't trust the outcome, how can you keep going back to the sport?