HBO reairs the controversial split-decision from the Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley Jr. boxing match on Saturday, June 16, at 10pm ET/PT.
The controversy surrounding the split-decision upset victory for Timothy Bradley Jr. over superstar Manny Pacquiao on Saturday is not “a death knell for the sport,” as promoter Bob Arum stated. No, the sport has been suffering death by a thousand cuts for decades. One bad decision alone can’t sour the sweet science, but the sport has been stewing in its own stench for years.
If anything, the absurdity of this match’s outcome helped the sport generate some headlines in the social and mainstream media. Controversy sells rematches and trilogies. Of course Arum knows this. Bradley seemed to know it before the fight.
Boxing fans wise enough to save their money and not buy the fight can witness Pacquiao’s mugging on Saturday, June 16, at 10pm ET/PT when HBO reairs the fight. Viewers can then vote for the winner as they saw it on Facebook.com/HBOBoxing.
Just about everyone — boxing writers, CompuBox statistics, TV network analysts and commentators, and people with at least one functioning eye — had the decision easily going to Pacquiao. But one ringside judge scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao and the other two scored it 115-113 for Bradley.
After the fight, no one was more vocal about the outcome than Arum. I think he doth protest too much:
”Something like this is so outlandish, it’s a death knell for the sport,” he said. “This is f—— nuts. I have both guys, and I’ll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it’s ridiculous. You have these old f—- who don’t know what the hell they’re looking at. It’s incompetence. Nobody who knows anything about boxing could have Bradley ahead in the fight.”
“We’ll make a lot of money on the rematch, but this is (expletive) nuts. People don’t even know what they’re watching anymore. They’re trying to kill boxing,” the 80-year-old Arum said. “I don’t think anything was happening here except these people don’t know how to score. They really don’t.”
Only in boxing could “incompetent” judges get to work major prizefights. And if boxing is really dead, then Arum won’t make a dime off a rematch (which might just get scrapped because of that fact).
Boxing is such a niche sport now that it needs to resort to ridiculousness just to get a few moments in the public eye. And if Jersey Shore has taught us anything, it’s that bad and ridiculous sells. The fight game’s biggest names have been relegated to pay-per-view, sandwiched in the schedule between stuff like Coed Party Girls: South Beach Sexfest and Ghetto Fights 8: Hood Whips & Riots. Sure, you can find fights on ESPN or NBC Sports Network, but they’re hardly marquee matches and only die-hards will watch them. Even premium networks like HBO and Showtime are really reaching at times to put on quality cards.
Everyone involved in boxing is culpable for its decline: the fighters, the promoters, the alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies who recognize too many fighters as champions, the TV networks and pay-per-view industries, the state athletic commissions, the hotels and casinos. They all need their slice of the pie. (And yes, I do my share of promoting boxing in the magazine that pays me.)
No more proof is needed for how messed up boxing is than the fact that the people involved can’t even agree enough to assemble the only fight that casual fans as well as boxing fanatics want to see and would pay big money: Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. The fighters have found just about every excuse not to make it happen. This fight would make everybody involved so wealthy that they could just all retire and declare the end of boxing. I’d love to see someone from the WBC stand up and say, “We’re going to put on Pacquiao vs. Mayweather for all the marbles. Everyone must buy the pay-per-view. Then we’ll all just go away and boxing will be over.” I’d pay at least $54.99 to see that. But that’s not going to happen. (I’m suspecting that Pacquiao-Mayweather is being intentionally delayed just so they can bide their time against weaker opponents and then fight each other in a huge cash grab after they’re well past their primes.)
Not that I find anything redeeming about MMA as a sport — it’s essentially one guy knocking another guy down and punching him repeatedly in the face — at least it’s got a structured competition and business model that makes sense, and legitimate champions and contenders who actually do fight each other on occasion. It’s got a healthy pay-per-view business but also understands the importance of putting events on basic cable or broadcast TV to expose the sport and its stars to potential new fans.
Ultimately, boxing fans will have to decide when they’ve had enough of paying $55 to watch garbage. I’m incredibly annoyed by sports fans who complain that their team sucks and the tickets cost too much, yet they pay the price and go to the games anyway. Same could be said for boxing viewers. Vote with your remote control and your wallet. Don’t buy Pacquiao-Bradley 2, or Pacquiao-Marquez 4, or Mayweather-Cotto 7 or whatever they’re trying to sell you that’s not Pacquiao-Mayweather. The revenues will dry up and maybe the fighters and promoters and TV networks will stop playing boxing fans for suckers.
Or maybe boxing fans are just too punch drunk to save boxing from itself.
Photo: Gene Blevins/ZUMA Press/Newscom