Split Decision: Breaking Down the Pacquiao Fix


Human Error

In every sport requiring referees or judges, results are inevitably subject to human error. As a result, a boxer should never leave a fight in the judges’ hands. On Saturday, Manny Pacquiao learned that lesson the hard way.

While the names Duane Ford and C.J. Ross will likely be cursed within the Filipino boxing community, their actions importantly illustrated that judges and viewers are not always watching the same fight.

I’ll explain.

When scoring a contest, the presiding judges do not rely on Compubox (which had Pacquiao outlanding Bradley in 10 of 12 rounds for a 253-159 total), nor do they receive a statistical summary after each round. Instead, they simply observe the combatants and judge in accordance with their qualifications.

And that’s probably the appropriate method.

After all, Compubox statistics rely upon the operators’ personal judgment and interpretation of punches landed. In that sense, the program is also subject to human error.

Thus, it becomes a matter of deference. Whether you side with the judges or Compubox, both authorities are inevitably subject to personal bias.  As a result, we may never know the extent to which outside factors (including Pacquiao’s excessive pre-fight theatrics, lack of aggression, and/or Bradley’s late-round adjustments) may have influenced the judges’ final scorecards.

Pacquaio and Bradley get face to face during the weigh-in.

HBO vs. Reality

Throughout the contest, HBO seemed committed to selling a storyline in which Manny Pacquiao was perfect. Through 10 rounds, HBO’s Harold Lederman scored the contest 100-90 Pacquiao. The ongoing narrative of Pacquiao’s total domination was engaging, but unrealistic. In fact, it largely contributed to the controversy and fallout of the final decision.

Upon re-watching the contest, it should be evident to most viewers that Bradley almost certainly won round 7, as well as rounds 10 and 12.

Naturally, this is not to suggest that the involved judges should be immune from criticism. After all, awarding Bradley rounds 7, 10 and 12 would still result in a Pacquiao victory. Nonetheless, it must be noted that Harold Lederman and the HBO crew are not members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, nor should they be considered supreme authorities on its judging methods.

Boxing Regulation

Both boxing and mixed martial arts are closely regulated in the state of Nevada. Upholding the integrity of both sports is paramount to the NSAC and its judges. At present time, there is no indication that the NSAC or its judges can be (or have been) paid to influence any contest of any profile. While the idea of a fixed fight is always intriguing, it’s rarely based in reality.

Ultimately, we may never know what motivated Duane Ford and C.J. Ross to seemingly rob Manny Pacquiao of the WBO welterweight title. But regardless of the interpretations and theories, one thing remains abundantly clear. The sport of boxing hasn’t generated this kind of public debate or attention in years.

And if no press is bad press, maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.




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