By: James Thoo
“… during the 67 years of boxing in my life I have never seen such a theft as the one perpetrated against Manny… I am embarrassed”
- Don Jose Sulaiman (World Boxing Council President)
By now it is pretty clear the news of what happened in the world of boxing over the weekend: Pound for pound king, and probably the most popular and famous boxer on the planet, Manny Pacquiao finally lost for the first time since he dropped a points decision to Eric Morales in 2005, to new Welterweight champion Timothy Bradley. It marked the end of a roller-coaster run for Pacquiao who cut a swath through weight divisions and top quality opponents for the past 7 years, decimating all from Oscar De La Hoya to Ricky Hatton, to Miguel Cotto, to Shane Mosley.
So what happened?
Well, let’s have a look at the numbers.
Pacquiao landed: 253/751 (33.7%)
[Power punches: 190/493 (38.5%)]
Bradley landed: 159/839 (19%)
[Power punches: 108/390 (27.7%)]
It’s no secret that there is corruption in the sport of boxing. It’s one of the myriad reasons that the sport is losing ground every day to MMA. And the outcome on Sunday was merely the latest in a run of down right atrocious decisions that have been scored with the kind of accuracy a drunk shows a urinal. Pacquiao’s last fight with Marquez was similar. Peterson’s decision over Amir Khan. Paul Williams over Erislandry Lara. Just to name a few. Decisions have been around this last couple of years. But why? Why would the establishment, or promotional companies fix a fight against its most popular fighter?
Well, because what was ultimately bad for boxing… was very, very good for business.
Loss of focus
Manny Pacquiao is coming to the end of his career. For the past 10 years or so he has been a cash generation machine. He has made the kind of money that would make rap stars blush. We’re talking tens of millions of dollars. So much so that he has been able to fulfill all of his ridiculous fantasies ranging from putting out an acoustic album; opening a chain of restaurants; starring in a movie; having is own sitcom; where he played himself; his own clothing line; his own live concerts; a key role in the national government…
And the last one is the problem. Because by all accounts, his focus began to shift away from boxing and towards other things. In the wake of marital problems stemming (allegedly) from extra-marital affairs (although, allegedly like OJ allegedly killed that chick) he has also started to move further into becoming a spiritual and religious leader. Ok, so two problems. Because now boxing is no longer the only thing on his mind. He’s looking at doing other things.
Throw into the mix that although Pacquiao’s improvement as a boxer and the development of his precise and technical skills have been evident; it has been clear to all who studied him and the sport that his success was more predicated upon his phenomenal physical gifts than his fine craft. And Pacquiao is no longer young.
So what that means is that we now have a boxing mega star at the end of his career, with physical regressions in his ability (see the Mosley and Marquez fights) who intends to leave the sport to pursue other goals shortly.
Which do you think is a more compelling fighter to watch?
A. The new champion who took over after the previous retired
B. The new champion who won a hard fought battle against the previous great, who had been until this point absolutely unstoppable.
Scenario A is a hell of a lot harder to market. And since Pacquiao is at the end of his career, that means no more money for his promotional company (Top Rank). So they need to manufacture someone new for the public to root for, to be interested in, to want to buy pay-per-view fights.
“Pacman won the fight. I don’t know if these judges were the same judges as the last fight (Marquez) but they need to find a new job”
- Floyd Mayweather Sr.
“I don’t think that the fight was close. Pacquiao won by at least 5 rounds”
- Juan Manuel Marquez
Selling a rematch
Again, let’s look at two scenarios:
A. The best fighter in the world wins a comfortable decision
B. The young up and comer wins a contentious and highly unjust decision over the sport’s most beloved proponent
Again, it’s pretty clear which is the most marketable fight. Weeks before the fight actually happened, a confident Tim Bradley was already touting a rematch to the fight that he claimed Pacquiao would seek to pursue once he lost. However, he – at that point – had no idea what was going to unfold when they actually did fight. In fact, after it was over Bradley confided (before the result was revealed) that he had tried his best but just couldn’t beat Pacquiao.
If you watch the highlights from Bradley’s points decision win over Kendall Holt to win his first major title, you’ll see Bradley cry when he wins because he knows the magnitude of his victory. This put him on the sport’s map and ensured that he would be able to make copious amounts of money for the foreseeable future. Fast forward to last weekend and his win over Manny Pacquiao and you will see Bradley half-heartedly accept the belt that is draped over his body. And this fight changed his life. He will make millions and millions of dollars now in everything from endorsements to future fights. So why no overblown emotion? Because he knew he didn’t earn it. He didn’t even win.
Of course, this is all conjecture and I have absolutely no facts to back this theory up. But it makes a pretty compelling argument in my mind and I mean… we all saw the fight, right?
Final score: Split decision for Timothy Bradley (115-113 for Bradley x 2, 115-113 for Pacquiao x 1)
Click here to view more photos from the bout.
Click here for more on Manny Pacquiao.