In the last year boxing has supposedly died more times than Kenny does during an average season of South Park.
First we had the non-event that was David Haye’s heavyweight unification battle with Wladimir Klitschko and the death of pay-per-view boxing on Sky. This was followed up by highly contentious defeats for Juan Manuel Marquez at the hands of Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan at the hands of Lamont Peterson.
In February we had the Haye-Dereck Chisora scuffle in Munich and calls for both men to face lifetime bans from the sport. Now, after a brief uplifting glow cultivated by Carl Froch’s fight with Lucian Bute, boxing is supposedly back in the gutter again.
First things first, I do not believe that Manny Pacquiao was in any way robbed or short changed by the ringside judges viewing his fight with Timothy Bradley on Saturday night.
Yet there are lessons to be learnt.
There is a disease that surrounds the sport of boxing, particularly in major fights, where big name or ‘money’ fighters are given greater credit for their work and moments of dominance than their opponent.
I’m not sure if boxing broadcasters and fight journalists realise just how crucial their role is in defining the perceptions of the average fan. Had broadcasters on both sides of the Atlantic labelled Pacquiao-Bradley as worthy of a close decision, few would have batted an eye.
In the UK, my personal beef with Jim Watt’s style of commentary is well documented, but there are commentators and pundits all over the world that will see their own preconceptions and thoughts reflected in the opinions of thousands of fight fans. Add to this the highly subjective nature of boxing and you have a recipe for these sort of arguments.
What is less easy to understand is the self-righteous indignation of fight fans who view the events of Saturday as those of a permanently profligate son or errant lover. They don’t turn their back on the sport but still feed the anti-boxing fire. Casual fans and the anti-boxing community only have to tap into the hysteria to paint the sport negatively.
Where the Pacquiao-Bradley fight was unique was that the Filipino fighter dominated to such an extent through the early stages that by the start of round seven, many presumed that the fight was already over. With Bradley possessing such a low percentage of knockout victories on his resume the final six sessions were seemingly a formality and even Pacquiao himself appeared to recognise this.
Pacquiao’s corner pleaded with the champion to fight more of the rounds instead of following the Sugar Ray Leonard template for success against Marvin Hagler in 1987 and fighting only the final 30 seconds of each session. The Pac-Man either couldn’t or wouldn’t do so and the desire to cruise down the home straight cost him dear. Perhaps his recent lopsided points wins over Sugar Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito convinced him that the seeds of domination planted in the minds of the judges across the first half of the fight would enable him to drift comfortably into the winner’s enclosure.
This happens regularly in these major prizefights in but whereas judges are rarely persuaded to do anything else but continue with a particular mode of scoring- the three ringside experts on Saturday scored the fight as they saw it and punished Pacquiao’s increasingly inferior work rate through the second half of the fight.
In terms of actual damage, Pacquiao’s career legacy will be unaffected by this decision. As Lennox Lewis rightly pointed out before the night started: “fighters define belts; belts do not define fighters.” One defeat here, Pacquiao’s fourth out of 60, will live in the shade of the Filipino’s landmark eight world titles at different weights.
If you wish to look at decisions that have damaged a legacy, Juan Manuel Marquez, on the other hand, will forever be remembered as the man unable to topple the Filipino across three fights rather than his own stellar resume. Now ask which decision was unfair.
Timothy Bradley should not take a rematch, certainly not for fight reasons. Financially he could earn north of $10 million but from a boxing perspective he will surely find this perceived luck to come back to bite him on the scorecards in November.
Perhaps Pacquiao, who delayed the start of the fight to watch the end of the NBA Eastern Conference play-off final, will use the perceived injustice to refocus for the umpteenth time on his boxing, however his acceptance of what befell him on Saturday should perhaps be a clue to how we should view such judgements.
In such a highly subjective, emotive sport, if that is what comes out of this controversy then the aggro surrounding Pacquiao-Bradley I will have been worthwhile.
Get more great boxing analysis over at Boxing Fancast.