I woke up on Saturday morning assuming I’d spend much of the next week talking about the need to provide more competent reffing and judging in MMA. Okay, I’m being a bit facetious, since I don’t wake up in the morning and think “what will I blog about in reference to my sports interests/secondary pursuits?” Only losers do that. Losers like you.
Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. Saturday night came and all Hell broke loose with Pacquiao/Bradley, which will likely dominate all combat sports coverage this week.
For those still interested in MMA’s own problems and issues, Mike Chiapetta has that covered over at MMAfighting. Give it a read. Quite a few boxing aficionados and people involved more directly in boxing have made the comment to me that this doesn’t just signal the end of boxing and tip fans towards MMA, it knocks the scale off the fulcrum. But MMA has its own problems, and it’s for the most part these very same judges. More on that later.
But first, more fallout from Saturday.
Bob Arum is doing what he can to make sure he’s not included in any conspiracy theories by demanding an investigation into the judging. It would certainly be apt given the severity of the situation and will likely show up on the docket for Thursday’s meeting of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, barring insurmountable ineptitude. Then again, this is NSAC we’re talking about here. The last time there was judging this bad in boxing the judges were immediately suspended. But that was in New Jersey, which has the historically more competent and reputable Athletic Commission (the same one that also literally wrote the rules for MMA).
Arum also said that the case for Pacquiao is so convincing that there isn’t likely to be a rematch until an investigation is conducted (same article as above). So much for Bradley and his people hyping that November 10th date, which he actually started doing before the fight even started in anticipation of losing a contested decision against a distracted Pacquiao. What’s that they say about best laid plans?
And for those of you who haven’t separated your shoulders from throwing your hands up in the air over the course of the last two days, judge Duane Ford, who gave the fight to Bradley, gave an equally absurd defense of his scoring to Kevin Iole:
“If this were ‘American Idol’, without a doubt, Manny Pacquiao would have won. But it was not. I gave an honest opinion. I had Pacquiao up 4-2, I think, at the end of six rounds. I thought he hurt Bradley a couple of times early in the fight. But when the bell rang to end that round, it was over and what happens in one round doesn’t carry over to the next round. They’re separate units. In the second half of the fight, Pacquiao picked off a lot of punches to the head, but Bradley landed some hard body shots. That hurt Pacquiao. I don’t mean it hurt him in the sense of it physically hurting him, but in terms of scoring and piling up points. Bradley did an excellent job standing his ground as a boxer. Remember, it’s a boxing match and Bradley demonstrated his ability to box expertly.”
It needs to be pointed out, again, that CompuStrike stats show that Bradley was literally outpunched in all but one round in terms of both volume and power. So what Ford is basically saying is that he isolated some moments Bradley had and chose to ignore everything else, which is certainly possible but also betrays a certain level of ineptness.
Taking this argument further, Bradley was not the more aggressive fighter. Nor was he the better ring general; Pacquiao dictated the course and direction of that entire fight. Nice enough guys have made the argument (which I won’t link to because I don’t want to embarrass them) that Bradley might have won on defense for blocking some of Manny’s shots. Which is to say that he should be given rounds for not getting his ass kicked more than he already was.
Oh, but then there’s this, again, from Ford:
“In pro boxing, you look for damage, and if the punches are equal and the damage is equal, you are looking for effective aggression, and that does not necessarily mean the guy going forward,” Ford said. “Effective aggression can be a guy going back. And then you look at ring generalship, and that’s all about control.”
…wow. Well, there you go.
I’m not trying to be dismissively cynical when I say that it’s bad everywhere you look. I just say that to accentuate the point that this is a problem in all of combat sports.
It’s not just something where we should just shrug and say “well, them’s the breaks,” because there are very specific peoples, places, and organizations one can point to and say that there needs to be reform and education. NSAC and its executive director Keith Kizer, for starters, and also Florida as shown on Friday’s UFC on FX 3 card.
There are also common denominators in both sports, particularly when it comes to judging, which in MMA often employs the same boxing judges who don’t seem to be able to accurately and consistently judge their own sport.
For MMA it might actually be easier, in that some of it could be remedied by tweaking the defined scoring criteria and evaluating the application of the ten-point must system. For example, arguments could be made that going with strict 10-9s may not be the right way to go in a sport with fewer and longer rounds. In boxing, however, it seems to be a more complicated issue of widespread incompetence.
I don’t have any answers, but those in positions to make changes have to start asking questions.