By Keith Idec
Bob Arum is 80, but the famously opinionated promoter made it clear in the wake of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley debacle that some judges simply are too old to continue scoring fights.
Duane Ford, 74, and Jerry Roth, 71, were the targets of Arum’s acerbic post-fight rant because Ford scored Bradley a 115-113 winner and Roth credited Pacquiao with just a 115-113 victory in a fight an overwhelming majority of fans and media thought Pacquiao won convincingly.
Harold Lederman, an unofficial judge for HBO Sports since March 1986, thought Pacquiao completely controlled the fight and scored it 119-109 for the Filipino superstar. While Lederman, 72, clearly disagreed with what Ford, Roth and C.J. Ross saw June 9 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, he also disagrees with Arum’s assessment of aged judges.
“Age has nothing to do with it, as long as you can concentrate on what you’re watching,” Lederman said. “I don’t think Duane Ford is too old and don’t think Jerry Roth is too old. I don’t think their age factors in.”
Lederman and Arum agree, however, that the Nevada State Athletic Commission should change the process by which it selects judges for fights in Las Vegas.
The NSAC typically submits a list of judges and referees to promoters about a month before a fight in Las Vegas. Though the NSAC is under no legal obligation to do so, promoters’ input is considered and often times judges and/or referees are removed from the pool provided by the NSAC if a promoter strongly objects. Three judges and one referee were removed from consideration at the request of Arum’s Top Rank Inc. before NSAC executive director Keith Kizer assigned Ford, Ross, Roth and referee Robert Byrd to the Pacquiao-Bradley bout, which Bradley won by a widely disputed split decision.
The judges used in Las Vegas usually are all Nevada residents, which is what Lederman, of Orangeburg, N.Y., finds troublesome.
“The Nevada State Athletic Commission has got to get their act together and open up judging in high-profile fights,” said Lederman, who judged well over 100 world title fights from 1967-2001. “They need to use the three best judges they can get, no matter they live. … Nevada’s using their own people so they can keep the money for their own people, and it’s not right.
“Instead of using the best judges, like they do in football for the Super Bowl or in baseball for the World Series, they use officials based on where they live and what sanctioning body they belong to. That’s wrong. They have to stop that. You have to get the best people.”
It is worth noting that since absorbing similar criticism from Arum and others in the aftermath of Pacquiao-Bradley, the NSAC has decided to use at least one non-Nevada resident in Las Vegas’ next high-profile fight. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sunday that Tom Miller, of Mineral Ridge, Ohio, will join Las Vegas’ Adalaide Byrd and Reno’s Burt Clements as judges for the Amir Khan-Danny Garcia junior welterweight fight July 14 at Mandalay Bay.
Lederman, who’ll sit ringside for Khan-Garcia, just hopes they get it right, because the last thing boxing needs is more controversial scoring.
“Nobody wants to see a bad decision,” Lederman said. “It certainly upsets the fighters’ lives. Now Manny Pacquiao is going to have to take a rematch [against Bradley] and probably get a lot less money in a rematch than he did last Saturday night. If he got the decision, he might be fighting Floyd Mayweather or somebody else for a lot more money. It isn’t fair.
“People do tend to remember bad decisions. They forget the good decisions and they remember bad decisions forever. In boxing, we strive to get the best possible decisions we can get. I think the way to do it is use the best possible judges you can get. That’s where Nevada screwed this up. They didn’t pick the three best judges. They picked three Nevada judges, and it’s just not fair. It’s not fair to the fighters, it’s not fair to the judges and it’s not fair to the general public.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.