By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Another big fight. Another big disaster.
And while nearly two weeks have passed since the Bradley-Pacquiao decision that many labored far and wide to call a “robbery” – though to be honest, I only had it 7-5 for Manny and thought the Marquez III call was far worse – precious little has been done to ensure it won’t happen again next time.
Yes, in spite of promoters being ashamed, writers being indignant and Congressmen taking it upon themselves to try and sanitize a perpetually sordid sport, I haven’t seen anything of particular merit suggested since a clearly crestfallen Jim Lampley signed off from the MGM Grand.
In fact, the more days pass… the more it seems no one really cares much anymore.
The WBO has said it can’t reverse the result, playing the “good and honest judges” card when referring to Duane Ford and CJ Ross, whose 115-113 nods to the new champion sparked the firestorm.
Bob Arum has moved far enough past slack-jawed fight-night disgust to label the PPV numbers a success, and pick new and different fights with Golden Boy over late-summer calendar conflicts.
And Pacquiao himself is going on vacation with the no longer traumatized wife and kids, who’ll no doubt be happy to help heal by spending the $26 million he was guaranteed to rake in – win, lose or draw.
Not exactly the follow-up momentum needed to stem a relevance hemorrhage that’s made SportsCenter a “boxing-free” zone, unless it’s pithily accompanied by “another black eye for...”
But with past as prologue, it’s pretty much par for the course.
Regardless of the pursuit – big-time sports or otherwise – an event that’s widely viewed as a catastrophe to the common good almost always prompts chatter on how best to avoid a reprisal.
A contentious election yields a wave of voting reform. A speedway accident yields a wave of new in-car safety measures. And an environmental crisis yields a wave of tighter regulations.
Boxing, it seems… is only a little bit different.
While the sweet science can contend with any activity when it comes to post-apocalyptic righteous indignation, it differs in the practical sense because all too few of the aftermath ideas ever seem to have staying power to last past the end of the next news cycle.
All too quickly, today’s calls for Congressional review, national oversight and fine-tooth combed decisions become tomorrow’s promotional scheduling catfight, debate over summertime jail quarters and teary memoriam for a drug-addled ex-champion.
And somehow, the barely relevant beat goes on.
Further and further from the coveted mainstream.
In the mean time, though everyone involved is keenly aware of the lingering problems, the opinion-shaping sidelines are perpetually long on fault-finding keyboard jockeys – and woefully short on those willing to proffer long-term cures for the soul-sapping ills.
Into that breach, I humbly step with this nugget.
To offset the chances of three more judges turning in three more scorecards that turn Harold Lederman’s stomach while turning the sport on its ear, here’s a suggestion that takes the pencils and pads out of their hands – and gives them to folks far more accustomed to widespread criticism.
Yes, you guessed it… the media.
Rather than state commissions picking and choosing trios of moonlighting district attorneys and insurance executives to decide the course of super-fight history, how about a panel of five media members – chosen at random from press row – to turn in the night’s official scores?
It makes good sense in all sorts of ways. Most of the elite writers who cover the sport have been doing it for a lot of years, which means they’ve probably seen as many fights – large, small and otherwise – as all but a sliver of the sales managers and small-time CEOs with the cushy ringside stools.
Because they wouldn’t be named in advance or known to either camp, it’d be much more difficult to concoct the conspiracy theories that sometimes follow bad verdicts. So they wouldn’t be swept up in the “the promoter must’ve got to them” nonsense that follows the most egregious fights.
And if worse came to worse, with five scorecards instead of three, there’s simply more margin for error.
Need more evidence?
Look no further than the media poll widely circulated in the aftermath of Bradley-Pacquiao.
No fewer than 50 of 53 writers had Pacquiao decisively ahead – with all but four of the 50 Manny supporters seeing the margin at four points or greater, and seven of 50 giving Tim no more than a round.
Quibble about the margins if you’d like… but in their collective eyes, the right guy won.
While you’re at it, think back on all the other bad decisions of both recent and long-term vintage and recall how often the media consensus had it correct. In fact, it’s much harder to recall a fight where the public said “You know what, the judges got nailed and the media was way off.”
Here’s a hint, it doesn’t happen that way, folks.
The writers get it right.
So with that reality in mind, here’s a plea to the powers-that-be – because I know you’re all devoted readers of mine – from a midweek columnist with a 100,000-mile car and 27 years left on his mortgage.
Instead of simply prolonging the problems with Band-Aid solutions like temporary judge suspensions – or taking away the sport’s signature suspense with unnecessary fixes like open scoring – take a bolder step by leaving the sport’s fate in the hands of those with a vested interest in its health.
Take a look around… you could hardly do much worse.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 2-0
Overall picks record: 318-106 (75.0 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.