By now, you’ve heard about the ridiculous split decision Saturday night that gave Timothy Bradley Jr. the victory over prohibitive favorite and obvious winner Manny Pacquaio. If you didn’t watch the fight, you probably didn’t and don’t care but this judgment was more egregious than you can possibly imagine; it would have been like ruling in favor of Homer Simpson over Drederick Tatum. (And no, I did not actually pay $64.99 for the fight; I obviously streamed it for $free.99.)
Was the match fixed? It almost had to be; the only other plausible explanation is that Duane Ford and CJ Ross–the two judges who ruled in favor of Bradley–do not have eyes. Pacquaio landed more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds, landing 253 punches to Bradley’s 159. ESPN.com and HBO’s Howard Lederman had Pacquaio winning 119-109; the AP had Pacquaio winning 117-111 while the NY Daily News had Pacquaio winning 116-112.
You might compare it to pro wrestling but this was far worse; one of pro wrestling’s most endearing features is the element of surprise–while predetermined, outcomes in the WWE are a closely guarded secret. A late line shift in the hours before Saturday’s fight implies that there were smart money bettors who knew what was up. A tweet before the match:
Late money on this boxing match, Pac was -432 at 2pm it closed -397 at pinny. Lots of late money on Bradley. Take that fwiw.
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) June 10, 2012
Given how convincingly Pacquaio outmatched Bradley physically, what reasons aside from “This fight is totally rigged OMG free money” could have caused that line to move so drastically in the final hours? Why would sportsbooks ever take bets on boxing when this can happen at one of the biggest fights of the year? The director of the venerable Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook agrees. Per the AP:
Jay Kornegay, director of the sportsbook at the Las Vegas Hilton, was so displeased with the outcome that he said via his Twitter account that his casino should stop accepting wagers on boxing. “I know it won’t happen but I feel this should be the last boxing match we’ll ever book @LVSuperBook. #ridiculous,” Kornegay tweeted.
The next obvious question: if the match was fixed, was Pacquaio in on it? He’d almost have to be, or how could they protect against his knocking Bradley out? Even at the time, the structure of the match felt odd. Starting in the third round, the question was not if Pacquaio would ultimately win the fight but how soon he would knock Bradley out.
That round, two-and-a-half minutes went by without much incident. Then, Pacquaio morphed into Tazmanian Devil tornadic fury mode as only he can for 30 seconds, and Bradley would get saved by the bell right as he was on the cusp of being knocked the fuck out. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. It felt as though Pacquaio was consciously channeling this energy, turning it on and off at will to toy with his opponent.
Despite getting Bradley to the Mortal Kombat “FINISH HIM!” stance at what seemed like the end of every round, Pacquaio never unleashed the death sentence. And, in a sport that is notorious for its incompetent and/or corrupt judges, this is what happens when you fail to account for that variance.
In the immediate aftermath of getting screwed, Pacquaio was oddly serene–I get MUCH more upset than he was when I lose a game of beer pong. Meanwhile, he had just learned that a match he trained months for was unjustly awarded to the man that everybody had just watched him maim. Here’s the interview:
“I respect the judges. I cannot blame them. It’s part of the game,” Pacquaio said. “I give thanks to the Lord. I do my best but my best wasn’t good enough.”
“Do you think you won the fight?” Max Kellerman asked.
He was certain that he had won but his temperament was as though had just undergone a minor annoyance, like busting on 16 opposite 10 in blackjack. The only way to really get Pacquaio riled up is to suggest that gays have the right to marry.
This would be at least a little less shady if Bob Arum, the promoter for both Bradley and Pacquaio, had not been investigated by the FBI for match fixing in the past. (Arum was never charged but his office was raided after a 20-month investigation. The lesson, as always, is to be able to afford and pay for good lawyers and keep someone in your inner circle that you can scapegoat.)
For his part, Arum has publicly been irate over the judges’ decision. Per Yahoo’s Kevin Iole:
“I want to investigate whether there was any undue influence, whether the (Nevada Athletic Commission) gave any particular instruction and how they came to this conclusion,” said Arum, who at the post-fight news conference was adamant the result was a mistake but not the result of any chicanery. “But the whole sport is in an uproar. People are going crazy.
“If this was a subjective view that each of [the judges] honestly held, OK. I would still disagree, but then we’re off the hook in terms of there being no conspiracy. But there needs to be an independent investigation because it strains credulity that an event everybody saw as so one-sided one way all three judges saw it as close. It strains credulity.”
But if he DID fix the match and wanted to throw people off the scent, isn’t that exactly what he’d say? His reputation precedes him and it’s impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt. Fixing the match not only sets up another payday for Arum and Pacquaio in the form of a buzzworthy rematch; they could have conceivably made untold millions betting on the result with a 4:1 payout. While Saturday night’s result could be the result of abject incompetence as opposed to wholesale corruption, would it really shock anybody if we found out in a few years that the match was fixed?
Either way, please do not spend $64.99 on the rematch. Arum can posture all he wants now, demanding an investigation while threatening to withhold the rematch. But you know it’s happening–don’t give that man your money. If you must see what’s going to happen, stream it.