Steve Bunce on Boxing: The Pacman show wasn't a fix. It was a dreadful verdict

 

There was no fix in Las Vegas on Saturday night when Manny Pacquiao beat Juan Manuel Marquez to keep alive the dream encounter with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

A fight next May was planned between the two and each expected to be compensated with as much as $50m, set pay-per-view records and create a billion dollars of business for the casino city. No fix was necessary at the MGM on Saturday night because years of talk and hope have left most people in boxing blinkered by a communal desire to see the fight happen.

I have never experienced anything quite like it in a quarter-century at ringside. Marquez was denied a victory because he was the invisible man in the ring and during the months of intense build-up. He had, so the logic went, no chance at 144lb (10st 4lb) of finally beating Pacquiao after failing to get the verdict in two debatable fights at substantially lower weights. It was the Pacman show but the truth is that he was bad, very bad in the ring with dreadful timing and a lack of the savagery that has made him the joint biggest financial attraction in the sport alongside Mayweather.

I fully expect people involved with the fight to start coming forward to admit what everybody inside the MGM and watching live on television already knows: Marquez was robbed. So far just Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, has come close to telling the truth.

Amir Khan, who trains alongside Pacquiao at Roach's gym, did say during the Primetime broadcast that he thought Marquez had won, and that was before the verdict was announced. A late reveal about an injury or personal problems will be dismissed with a cynical smile because every single report endorsed the theory that Pacquiao was in the best form of his life and that Marquez, at 38, never had a hope.

It was probably hard to be a judge on Saturday night having been told that the fight was a mismatch and that the Mayweather fight was nearly made; perhaps there is a case for judges in big fights to be banned from reading about the fight they are sitting in judgment of.

Marquez accepted the verdict with a shrug but I expect him to file a complaint and I would be stunned if the media-savvy boxing commission in Las Vegas fail to order a review. The opinion of three judges, Pacquiao's entourage, some high-rollers and a few friendly journalists from across the globe will be drowned out by the howls of outrage. This was just wrong.

There is no need in modern boxing at this level to fix fights and in the past 50 years just a couple of people have been accused and convicted. This was not a fixed fight but it was a truly dreadful verdict. In 1966 something similar happened when the unbeaten young Olympic heavyweight champion, Joe Frazier, was heading for a showdown with another unbeaten Olympic champion, Muhammad Ali, at the time the heavyweight champion of the world.

Frazier was unbeaten in 11 with 11 knockouts when he met Oscar Bonavena at Madison Square Garden. Ali had taken his roadshow overseas and the country was turning against him. Frazier was being groomed to take back the title but nobody told Bonavena and he dropped Smokin' Joe twice and beat him on points in every way. However, the three judges scored it narrowly in Frazier's favour and the rest is history. I can't, with the same degree of certainty, say that the fix was not in on that hot night.

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