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When Will It End?
By Orlando Rios, Jr. (May 19, 2004) 
Photo © Chris Farina
Well, they’ve done it again. For the 4th time in almost a year, we had another close controversial decision on our hands a couple of weeks ago. The Manny Pacquiao VS Juan Manuel Marquez featherweight title bout looked to be over almost before it started. After being dropped 3 times in the opening round and suffering a broken nose, Marquez was able to settle down and get himself back into the fight, dishing out some big time shots in rounds 5 and 6. Going into the championship rounds (10-12), Marquez had all, but evened up the fight. Judge Burt Clements had the bout 85-84 for Pacquiao, Judge Guy Jutras had it 85-83 for Marquez, and Judge John Stewart had it 86-82 for Pacquiao. I had my scorecard in line with HBO’s Harold Lederman at 115-110 for Pacquiao, but as soon as Michael Buffer announced that Manny had taken the first scorecard 115-110, I knew the fight had been a split decision at worst. When Buffer announced Jutra’s scorecard of 115-110 for Marquez I have to admit some disbelief. How two judges seeing the same fight can have such a wide discrepancy in their scorecards is beyond me. The last judge, Bill Clements scored the bout 113-113, but the most interesting stat of the night was the fact that Clements didn't score the 1st round 10-6 for Pacquiao, which is what the other two judges had done. And what also bothered me the most was the unusual, almost casual response from the HBO crew, which only several months earlier was crying conspiracy in the De La Hoya Vs Mosley fight.

And the smoking gun to me, as if you needed one in boxing, was the explanation by Harold Lederman of the 10-7 score, saying that some judges will score it 10-7 instead of 10-6 to keep the fight close! If that isn’t the smoking gun to just how corrupt boxing is then I don’t know what else to say. When I interviewed former IBF Bantamweight Champion, Orlando Canizales, he mentioned that judges tended to score fights close in favor for rematches and to ensure that they get a phone call to judge future bouts.

Lederman and Canizales saying that judges will score bouts to make fights closer and more interesting might be an open secret in the boxing world, but that doesn’t make it right. If judges are taught to be biased in their scoring, or paid off or bought, then what is the point of having judges in the first place? If it is such an open secret that boxing matches are fixed for rematches or scored closer to make fights more interesting, would it then be safe to say that boxing has entered into the entertainment business now more than ever?

There are times when boxing matches and their outcomes almost seem to resemble those of wrestling, the only real difference being that you won’t see Bernard Hopkins enter the ring and hit Oscar De La Hoya with a chair while the referee is distracted. But it has pretty much come down to that. Judges seem to be just part of the scenery, playing no real interest in the outcome of the fight because the powers at be, already have everything planned out. John Leguizamo’s HBO film, Undefeated explored similar situations, with the main character, Lex Vargas at movie’s end, being asked to lose his title belt to a young up and coming undefeated fighter in favor for a trilogy and $75 million.

And last, but not least, what really bugs me are those sport writers and boxing analysts saying that the fight ended the only way it could properly end, in a draw. Yeah, tell that to Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. How fights can even end in draws in the first place is beyond me. In every contest, there is a winner, and a loser, and at this fights end, Manny Pacquiao to me, had pulled out a huge win, and was in line to possibly go after Erik Morales. The fight brought to mind another great boxing movie, Play it to the Bone, when Woody Harrelson’s character Vince, was robbed in a title fight with a draw saying, “You know what happens in a draw? The champ remains the champ.”

Well, Marquez kept his belt, and Manny Pacquiao gets nothing. Then again, maybe that is how the powers at be wanted it? After all, Judge Clements after the fight admitted that he screwed up in the scoring of the fight by giving Pacquiao a 10-7 1st round instead of 10-6, which would have given Pacquiao the victory. Maybe its poetic justice and maybe it’s just something else. Joyce Carol Oates once said, “Boxing has become America's tragic theater.” Never has this been more evident than in the recent year with the close controversial decisions that continue to rock the boxing world. When, if ever, will it end?
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