By Trigo Egbegi
My attention has been unduly drawn to the unending reaction of a sizeable percentage of the public in the aftermath of last weekend’s encounter in Las Vegas between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
In more ways than one, it confirms the event as one meriting a higher rating than the long chain of dreary matches that tend to give the sport a black eye. Boxing has long conceded its place of honour in a roll-call that has football, tennis, basketball and golf among the front-runners.
These are today’s choice disciplines which attract running media attention with the events they stage. This is what that Las Vegas night of November 12 is partially harvesting.
Pacquiao Vs Marquez III is generating so much attention for all the wrong reasons, though. Here’s a title fight that had been allotted near-zero reckoning in the weeks/days leading to this rare presentation from the once-matchless Bob Arum and his Top Rank outfit. But with the Filipino cyclone quoted a lop-sided 7-1 odds-on favorite, not much was expected of the Mexican challenger to implant a different impression.
This is the event that has compelled many, worldwide, to make a U-turn, overnight, from being the worshippers of a man whose spectacular three-year rampage through five weight classifications anchoring (temporarily) at 154 pounds, to becoming his strongest critics on account of his inability to turn his latest opposition into putty. At the end of 12 rounds it was Pacman who looked the worse for wear.
What paying ringside spectators in Las Vegas, as well millions via Tv, worldwide, was a close, uncompromising exhibition that showed the relentless, forward marching Pacquiao to be no more than a mere mortal despite his awesome reputation. A ridiculous four-point advantage returned by an inattentive ringside judge was the sore point of an otherwise reflective majority decision in favour of the Filipino.
I just can’t understand how such a ruling handed down by officiating ringside officials would spark off a protest that has since gravitated to the point pro boxing is seen and branded as a sport subject to nothing other than manipulation and injustice. To these persons, boxing is a sport where a competitor’s best effort in the ring cannot earn him victory in a fair fight; a game in which even a genuine human error on the part of an officiating official is freely interpreted as one done in the service of an interest group.
Such has been the volume of flak hurled the way of Bob Arum who, many insist, was the brain behind the manipulation of the scoring meant to secure and safe-guard his own meal ticket for the future. Of the above, I can vouch our respected fight promoters is innocent.
In criticizing ringside judges for their rulings, I expect that followers of the game should consider the complex technical nature of the job which makes scoring subjective – simply demanding that the judge scores a round as he sees it from his sitting position and angle. Thus, it is not always to be expected all three ringside officials must return exactly same score. Pacquiao Vs Marquez of November 12 was such a close affair featuring repetitive rounds not easy to separate.
The Bob Arum I know is not exactly the saint some say he is – the reason he is freely addressed in many quarters as the Snake, and Apostle of Apartheid, recalling the days this American lawyer served a link man when South Africa was a barrier in the path of humanity. Many have not forgiven him till date.
Yet, I had expected that detractors of the sport would vilify boxing strictly from the angle of the many visible militating factors that make it bad and ugly. For instance, the upcoming bout of December 3 in New York between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Magarito is a potential disaster waiting to happen.
Again it is the same Arum who is promoting the so-called middleweight title fight featuring a man so badly beaten in his last outing. Against Pacquaio, Magarito was pounded and abused for 12 rounds, in the process suffering serious tear and dislocation to the eye socket which required major surgery to correct.
This time it is the New York State Athletic Commission that stands in the way, by insisting that the Mexican fighter go through its own thorough medicals before clearance is granted. Watch out for the Top Rank boss to relocate the event elsewhere in the same US.
In criticizing boxing, I would expect that detractors cry out loud against such other major negating factors as the inevitability of brain injuries to boxers; Split and splinter titles that abound; Finished former champions who won’t leave the scene, but remain to suffer embarrassment; Mismatches; The live-for-today mentality of promoters and boxers who are not covered by insurance for tomorrow; and, the presence of incompetent referees and judges who have contributed to many a ring tragedy.
For all the hoopla over the scoring, Pacquiao Vs Marquez ranks as one event that has lifted the boxing sport in recent times. It has turned out to be an exception to the mismatch syndrome that may have lifted the Filipino legend far beyond and above his true rating. In three fights and 36 rounds Marquez has provided the most competitive stand against a man who has ploughed through and mowed down 14 opponents, some of who should not have been allowed into the arena and take such debilitating abuse.
In addition, a Pacquiao Vs. Marquez IV will be a welcome candidate in the modern-day classics series, even if that means further delaying the eagerly awaited Pacquiao Vs. Floyd Mayweather encounter. Indeed, a fourth meeting stands to be ranked alongside the great ones like Ali Vs Frazier, Robinson Vs. Zale, Pep Vs. Saddler, and Holyfield Vs Riddick Bowe.