Bunce on Boxing: Conspiracy theorists rest easy. Judges are not fixers, just humans
Don King said: 'In boxing you don't get what you deserve, but what you negotiate'
Tuesday 12 June 2012
Calm down, it's just a split decision. Another fight, another controversy and another day defending the sport. It has never been easy covering boxing for a living, when I know that most people in the business tell lies, the fighters are cowards on the safe side of the ropes and the sport's critics believe it is all one big fix.
I wrote a book a couple of years ago; a work of fiction set in the modern boxing world called The Fixer. It has nothing to do with fixed fights or fixing fights and if anything it explains just how old-fashioned and straightforward the boxing business is. It is a business best explained by Don King, who said: "In boxing, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate."
The latest dark night for the sport unfolded, like so many before, under the glare of the world's media in Las Vegas when Manny Pacquiao, the world's second highest grossing fighter, lost a split decision to Tim Bradley, who is a nice guy with an image problem; he doesn't have one. It was not the worst decision in Las Vegas and it was not as bad as the sickening decision in favour of Brandon Rios when he met Richard Abril for the WBA lightweight title in April. Sadly, nobody cares too much about Abril, who incidentally was restored by the WBA to his position of "interim" champion two days after the disgraceful verdict.
There is a connection between the two fights but the connection appears to ruin any conspiracy of fraudulent or criminal behaviour; it adds to the growing mountain of statistics that seem to suggest that inconsistencies or bad days account for the sport's "fixed" outcomes. In the Abril fight, a judge called Jerry Roth, who is 71, voted in favour of Rios by a large margin and Roth was back at ringside on Saturday and cast the only vote for Pacquiao. The conspiracy theorists take another kicking when, after a little bit more delving, it emerges that Roth voted against Pacquiao in the second instalment of his tight and controversial fights with Juan Manuel Marquez. The decision in the Pacquiao and Marquez fight was bad and that means that Roth got it right then, right on Saturday but wrong in the Abril fight.
So let's have a look at some facts and statistics that most people will not be aware of. On Saturday night, there were 17 professional boxing shows in a total of 13 countries, 73 fights, involving 146 boxers and as many as 150 referees, judges and supervisors. There are thousands of fights and shows each year involving as many as a thousand qualified and registered officials.
It is amazing that in a business that many observers – and colleagues of mine in the media – believe is crooked that nobody comes forward holding an envelope stuffed with cash. Is it such a closed and tricky business that not one man or woman has decided to break their silence, stand up and say: "I was promised 10 grand to vote for Joe Bloggs"?
The last men to go to prison for fight-fixing served their time on Alcatraz. There are lunatics in the sport who have arrived with bribes for bums to take dives in low-key fights, and over the last 25 years the FBI has pursued these clowns with ease.
They are isolated nuts, operating in rural extremes on shows that often fall outside the accepted governing bodies. These incidents are the equivalent of a scandal at Dulwich Hamlet FC, trust me.
There will be calls for an international panel of roving judges and that would be nice and relatively easy to put in place. There will also be calls for an age limit for the men and women who sit in judgement and there will be demands that more ex-fighters become judges. All are great ideas and will help with the sport's image. However, my Roth research shows that a good judge can get it right, then wrong, and then right and that is why there will be bad decisions; the judges are only human.
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