By Juan C. Ayllon
Timothy Bradley (left) fires a right as Manny Pacquiao covers (photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank, copyright 2012)
LAS VEGAS, June 9, 2012 – This was reality TV gone amuck. We just witnessed boxing’s international rock star get mugged in what was supposed to be a stay-busy fight setting up a showdown with Pound-for-Pound bad boy Floyd Mayweather (who’s currently serving jail time for domestic abuse) that could command purses in excess of $100 million. And it wasn’t some muscle-bound pug that did it, but three pencil-pushers in suits.
World Boxing Organization Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, came, he landed the harder blows, he vanquished – or so we thought. HBO’s talking heads – Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, and Emanuel Steward – concurred with their unofficial judge, Harold Lederman in calling it a virtual shutout. We all did. Hence, when ring announcer Michael Buffer intoned the words, “and NEW WBO WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION…” we were stunned, then angry. If I were Pacquiao, a congressman and eight division champion hailing from the Philippines, I’d launch an investigation.
It’s little mystery. Humans are hardwired with a strong distaste for disorientation, fueling questions like, “where are we going,” “what are you doing,” and “what’s that?” We cannot stand cognitive dissonance; we need to know how we get from point A to point B.
Pascal, a successful restaurateur in the movie, The Big Night, underscores this when he tells the owner of a failing establishment, “A guy works all day. He don’t want to look at his plate and ask, ‘What the [expletive] is this?’ He wants to look at his plate, see a steak, and say ‘I like steak!’”
As family, guests and I watched from our living room, we were no doubt distracted by the deep dish pizza, drinks and laughter. Still, we felt we had a good handle on the action inside the sweaty ring at the MGM Grand: Pacquiao came out battering, dominating and hurting Bradley.
Sure, he was more elusive and boxed better in the second half of their fight, but the Pac-Man was walking through him like a pizza cutter through butter crust.
No doubt, HBO’s crew colored it brighter for the house fighter; one of our guests saw the fight closer than Lederman, who’d scored it 119-109 for Pacquiao. Maybe a smidge closer, I thought. Perhaps I should have done as I had earlier: During a preliminary fight, I switched my sound system to turntable mode and indulged the warm sound of a vinyl record playing while watching the video feed. Some boxing aficionados claim that muting the TV prevents being influenced by commentator bias. Maybe so, but that wouldn’t have made a difference tonight.
A guest of ours, Dwain, who’d grown up in Chicago, liked to talk about the Mafia. They were still a powerful but well-cloaked presence, he maintained.
And so as we basked in the afterglow of another dominant Pacquiao win, wondering how he’d do now against Mayweather, Buffer read the judges’ tallies: Jerry Roth scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao, CJ Ross had it 115 to 113 for Bradley, and Duane Ford sealed it, calling it 115-113 for Bradley. The unthinkable just happened: Pacquiao, 33, slipped to 54 wins (38 by knockout), four losses and two draws, while Bradley, 28, upped his perfect record to 29-0 with 12 knockouts.
“What?” I shouted. “No way!” We were unanimous in our condemnation. I could hear Pascal’s voice shouting, “What the [expletive] is this?”
“It’s the mob,” Dwain said.
I didn’t buy it, yet, questions lingered. Did tantalizing odds and untold millions of dollars lead to manipulation by the mob or others with clout? Were the judges over-compensating against undue influence by the deafening shouts of “MANNY, MANNY, MANNY!” from the pro-Pacquiao crowd? Were they determined not to render another verdict like his highly controversial win over nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez in November? Was this a cosmic comeuppance? Or, did they truly see Bradley doing enough clever boxing to pull off the upset?
In their defense, interpreting a boxing match is a subjective activity governed by rules and regulations. According to Boxing@Suite101.com, scoring of a professional boxing match is based on the criteria of clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense. Yet, some favor aggressiveness and harder punching, while others prefer more refined defensive skills, footwork and volume of punches landed.
Clearly the judges scoring this fight fell into the latter camp.
Regardless, it just didn’t seem right. Writing for HBO, Kieran Mulvaney noted that in the post-fight press conference, promoter Bob Arum said, “I have never been ashamed as much to be associated with the sport of boxing as I am tonight.”
Say what you may, in these financially trying times, the last thing people want is to plunk down fifty bucks ($65 for high definition) and say after the show, “What just happened?” Win, lose or draw, they want something they understand, something they like. Not this.