They should hold the rematch in Area 51, roughly 140 miles away from Sin City, where Manny Pacquiao dropped a peculiar split decision to Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand last night via scores of 115-113, 113-115, and 115-113.
Not only was the decision as smelly as Newark Bay, but it allows conspiracy theorists all over cyberspace to perpetuate their crackpot theories. According to the tinfoil hat crew, Bob Arum rigged Pacquiao-Marquez III because Pacquiao is his meal ticket, and, seven months later, he rigged Bradley-Pacquiao, too, because…because…oh, hell, does pure evil need a reason? In between those two stings, he had time to manipulate the Brandon Rios-Richard Abril fight because Rios is such an important commodity that hardly anyone showed up to see “Bam Bam” fight the Cuban clutchmaster at the Mandalay Bay.
For the “Arum is Aleister Crowley” contingent, the Top Rank honcho simply did not work up enough ire at rebel judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford. Never mind the fact that Arum, now 81 years old, is in his dotage, and that he has seen just about everything over the course of 46 years in boxing. Just how much oomph is Arum supposed to have at this stage? As for warmly congratulating Bradley after the fight, that is only some sort of shock or revelation to those who hold the dim view of Arum as some inhuman flesh peddler.
As for the fight itself, Pacquiao, who slips to 54-4-2(38), seemed to have a relatively easy time of it early and then decided to cruise late. Although boxing pawnbrokers routinely reward fighters who coast in the ring, professional judges, theoretically, at least, want to see a little effort. Pacquiao, who turned it up against Juan Manuel Marquez over the last third of the fight last year, felt no great urgency to do the same against Bradley. After a nondescript first round, Pacquiao, 33, began zeroing in with his straight left, driving Bradley back repeatedly. Pacquiao was the aggressor throughout the first half of the fight and seemed to land the harder, cleaner shots. In the seventh, Pacquaio whacked Bradley, 28, around the ring with glee, only to see Bradley the get the nod from all three judges.
Showing the kind of grit that allowed him to rise from a spectacular first-round knockdown against Kendall Holt in 2009, Bradley, on gimpy feet, fought back hard and landed his share of cuffing hooks late in the fight. In addition, when Pacquiao eased off, Bradley took advantage of the lull in action to flurry, often ineffectively, but the judges, apparently, felt otherwise. It almost seemed as if Bradley earned points just for not being steamrolled.
Whatever the clincher was for Bradley, now 29-0 (12), it was not readily apparent, but, like those paranormal researchers on television who insist a grainy blotch in an out-of-focus still is some sort of demonic apparition, a case can be made for almost anything in boxing. You would have to search long and hard to tab Bradley the winner last night, but if you believe in ghosts, well, here are two pointy ears and what appears to be a sliver of fang or an ectoplasmic cock.
Scoring a fight is subjective, of course, but not nearly as subjective as some would like you to believe in order to cultivate an air of arcane knowledge far beyond the reach of mere mortals. The Roger Bacons of boxing, beakers and pots boiling over with alchemical lava, are always going to guard their esoteric secrets with illogical fervor. For the rest of us, for whom a boxing match is not an occasion for existential affirmation, it is cold comfort to know that we have no idea what we are talking about.
As has been noted here repeatedly, consumers are an afterthought in contemporary boxing. There was a time when the only way for anyone to make money in the fight racket was for an event to appeal to the paying customer. Networks, promoters, and fighters no longer have to worry about that thanks to the development of technologically-driven ancillary revenue over the last 25 years—which has managed the extraordinary feat of producing more money with fewer patrons—and the fact that television suits routinely consult Magic 8-balls to make decisions. More and more, however, we are seeing the pseudo-regulatory apparatus of boxing itself–judges, referees, commission heads—sticking it to the fans. Keith Kizer, for example, does not appear to give a damn about consumers, bettors, or fighters.
Whatever happened in Las Vegas last night seemed, at the very least, curious. Answers are rare in boxing, but they almost always come down to two choices: incompetence or corruption. But maybe we ought to add a third option to that shortlist. How about contempt? Genuine and gratuitous—the kind of contempt you can find in every moldy corner of boxing. Contempt, sure, that ought to do it.