The running joke in mixed martial arts (MMA) is "never leave it in the hands of the judges." Whether it's Leonard Garcia using his spastic flailing to hypnotize the three most important men cage-side or Martin Kampmann getting screwed, it's safe to say that very few people in the sport of MMA trust the judges.
In boxing, though, it's even worse.
When Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley stepped into the ring last night (Sat., June 9, 2012), the talent disparity was obvious from the beginning. While Bradley had heart for miles and a solid chin, he simply couldn't handle the speed and power of "Pacman," eating countless straight left hands and failing to exert the kind of pressure needed to slow down the Filipino juggernaut. While it could be argued that Manny gave away the last three rounds through inactivity, finding more than one round he lost beforehand would be an exercise in futility.
Nobody told that to the judges, though.
While Jerry Roth, who moronically scored the recent Brandon Rios vs. Richard Abril fight 116-112 for Rios, scored it a too-close 115-113 for Pacquiao, the other two had the same score for Bradley.
I wish I could say I was surprised that terrible judging happened. Honestly, though, the only thing that surprises me is that it went against Pacquiao.
Complete and utter idiocy on the part of the judges (and the referees, for that matter), sadly, isn't news at all. In fact, it seems worse now than ever before. In the past two years alone, in fact, we've had such travesties as:
Erislandy Lara vs. Paul Williams: After getting utterly annihilated in one shot by Sergio Martinez in 2010, all eyes were on 6'2" Paul "The Punisher" Williams, who had previously acquired a reputation as the most avoided man in boxing. Cuban amateur standout Erislandy Lara seemed the perfect way to bounce back, as he had recently been lucky to get away with a draw against Carlos Molina.
Things didn't go according to script.
Lara didn't just beat Williams, he dominated him. His big overhand left seemed utterly incapable of missing "Tall Paul's" jaw, and despite his opponent throwing over five hundred more punches than him, Lara wound up landing more blows. It was so bad that the announcers were calling for Williams to retire.
The judges were apparently playing Angry Birds at the time, however, and gave Williams the majority decision. To get an idea of how bad this decision was, the three judges were indefinitely suspended afterwards.
Gabriel Campillo vs. Tavoris Cloud: Promoted by Don King, light-heavyweight Cloud earned a reputation as a fearsome puncher, breaking a career-long three-decision streak by finishing Yusef Mack, and damn sure looked it in the first round of Spanish unlucky bastard Campillo. A huge right hand crumpled Campillo, and while he got back up, he went down a second time.
Channeling Juan Manuel Marquez in his first fight with Pacquiao, Campillo came out into the second round with a vengeance and never looked back, completely outboxing Cloud over the remaining eleven rounds. Despite his lack of power, there was absolutely no question that Campillo had owned the popular Cloud.
Judges found one, however, robbing Campillo of yet another win by split decision.
Carlos Molina vs. James Kirkland: While Molina had turned heads with his draw against Erislandy Lara and his dominant victory over Kermit Cintron, the power and tenacity of the resurgent Kirkland were thought more than enough to put him down.
Molina wasn't having it. From the get-go, his old-school boxing style had Kirkland befuddled, landing unanswered blows constantly while nullifying "Mandingo Warrior's" heavy hands with clever movement and well-timed clinches.
When Kirkland decided to stop trying to box and started trying to brawl, though, he began getting to Molina, and in the tenth round, finally put him on the canvas at the bell. Hearing the bell, one of Molina's cornermen came into the ring, only to be shooed out by referee Jon Schorle. After giving Molina an eight-count, Schorle inexplicably disqualified Molina because of his cornerman's accidental entrance.
Worst of all? One of the judges had it for Kirkland through ten.
Richard Abril vs. Brandon Rios: I have seen bad decisions. I have seen TERRIBLE decisions.
I have never seen a decision as bad as this one.
Brandon Rios had nothing for Richard Abril. He was outlanded by an outlandish margin, had no power behind his attack, and was completely outclassed in every aspect of boxing.
Every aspect, that is, except for marketability.
There's been a promotional push to make Rios, ordinarily an exciting fighter, a star. Abril's style could best be described as fan-unfriendly. When it came time to pick the winner, I really shouldn't have expected anything else.
The worst part about tonight's affair is that a fix seems the most likely explanation. Pacquiao is near the end of his career, and without the rematch against Bradley, could have called it quits. The rematch should sell very well. Bradley is a physically impressive American boxer.
All these are good reasons for the judges to give it to Bradley. I just can't find a good reason that can be found in the ring.
Judges are not held accountable for their scores. People like Don King, who was instrumental in The Ring scandal that nearly sank the magazine, are allowed to operate freely. Incompetent referees like Jon Schorle and Russell Mora (who let Fernando Montiel continue fighting against Nonito Donaire even after having a mild seizure on the canvas after a gargantuan left hook) are still given big fight assignments.
Money talks. We all know that. We just want it to keep its nose out of the purest form of competition there is. Sadly, that doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon.