Boxing tarnished after controversial decision

What a shame.

Immediately after the final bell rang in the WBO Welterweight Championship between champion Manny Pacquiao and challenger Timothy Bradley on June 9, chatter broke out among fans and media about whom Pacquiao should face next after his apparent one-sided rout over Bradley.

Then, legendary PA announcer Michael Buffer received the three scorecards from the ringside judges and broke the surreal news.

Bradley has won 115-113.

The result sparked worldwide outrage. It provoked uncharacteristic rants by ringside columnists and confused boxing’s most respected experts like HBO’s Harold Lederman and ESPN’s Dan Rafael. Virtually every single celebrity with a Twitter account — from Miley Cyrus to Oscar de la Hoya to UFC president Dana White — griped and brought even more damage to the fight’s publicity.

Throw in the towel. Boxing is dead at this point.

I can go on and on about how disgraceful the Pacquiao-Bradley decision was, but it’s actually been a reflection of how much the sport has suffered recently and sadly, it was the final straw for even longtime boxing fans.

In a nine-month span, the decisions of four other major fights (three promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing Promotions) have led to controversy: Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s knockout win over Victor Ortiz last September — which many felt was unsportsmanlike, Chad Dawson’s incorrectly-called technical knockout over Bernard Hopkins in their first light heavyweight bout last October (later overturned), Pacquiao’s highly questionable split-decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in November and a Brandon Rios lightweight split-decision win over Richard Abril that created an uproar and prompted Abril to appeal.

That doesn’t seem like a very sound track record, especially for a sport that’s trying to escape its “fixed” history and hanging on its last threads of popularity.

Almost everyone involved in boxing can be blamed for the sport’s problems — fighters, promoters, state athletic commissions, judges, referees you name it. It’s exactly why we haven’t seen the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather dream fight yet.

If boxing is to rise again, it needs a unified governing body. Most diehard boxing fans will never admit it, but this is what mixed martial arts has over the dying sport in the form of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The UFC directly caters to fans. It is organized into eight basic weight classes, creates undisputed world championships, makes sure the best of each class fights one another and holds all parties listed in the above paragraph more accountable. Another huge difference is fan favorites are found even in the undercards, and since Zuffa — UFC’s parent corporation — bought many of MMA’s lower promotion companies, prospect fighters are immediately noticed and spring-boarded right into the biggest stages.

It explains why the UFC is hands down the fastest-growing sports organization the world. It explains why many fight fans already made the jump from boxing to MMA. It’s a working formula for a combat sport.

Boxing’s only hope was left in the hands of Pacquiao and Mayweather, but because of the Pacquiao-Bradley incident and since Mayweather is reportedly facing career-threatening conditions in jail for his 90-day domestic violence conviction, there’s almost no way it can rebound at this point.

Anyone need a crash course on the UFC?


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