When the final bell rang on Saturday night to end the fight between defending champ Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, most in and out of the arena were sure that Manny Pacquiao had won the fight.
One thing that makes boxing unique as opposed to other sports is the score of the match, and therefore the winner, is not announced until the match is over. Unless a knockout occurs, where one fighter is unable to continue, the victor is decided by judges who look at multiple criteria to determine who wins.
Immediately after the results were announced, the reactions of the competitors were as expected. The winner, Timothy Bradley, was jubilant. The loser, Pacquiao looked confused and dejected. What wasn’t common was the reaction of the announcers, who all seemed to have called the fight in the favor of Pacquiao – the loser.
Boxing reporter and analyst Dan Rafael for ESPN called it “one of the most outrageous decisions [he’s] ever seen.” Rafael later went on to say that Jim Lampley, a sportscaster who commentated on the fight for HBO, said this decision was the single worst decision he’d seen in 30 years.
Although many people scored the fight close, experts say that experienced judges should not have made that decision after watching the same fight as the audience, but they did. In this situation, many commentators began to hint at the possibility that corruption had something to do with the decision. Back door deals are possible in a sport such as boxing, especially when the match is ultimately in the hands of the judges.
Coaches in various professional sporting leagues often get in trouble when they accuse the referees or judges of preferential treatment. While this does happen in sports, accusations are usually baseless unless there is a motive. Assuming they aren’t in someone’s pocket, why would a ref or judge call a game one-way or the other?
Many believe that the match was called in Bradley’s favor because of the rematch clause that was in the two fighters’ contracts. The clause stated that if Pacquiao were defeated in the fight, Bradley would be obligated to fight him in a rematch later this year. But if Pacquiao won, there would be no round two. In essence, calling in the way they did would be good for the sport of boxing in that there would be an electrifying rematch on the horizon – a redemption story that would make the sport relevant in the nation’s eyes.
Behind this controversy is also the saga of Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, who have become rivals outside the ring while planning their meeting on the inside. Often thought of as the two best fighters who have yet to fight each other, Pacquiao and Mayweather, would certainly captivate audiences. But with Pacquiao’s recent loss, the fate of that match is uncertain.
Boxing is a sport that is enjoyed because of the hype around what is said outside the ring versus what happens in it. We, the audience, are mystified by the training, the tension, and the drama that happens in between the punches of boxing. No matter your opinion on the Pacquiao V. Bradley controversy, it certainly adds to the drama of the sport.