Was Marquez Robbed?

I have seen Manny Pacquiao fight on probably five occasions. Each time, he has ben overwhelming–probably the most impressive boxer I have ever seen. So, even though I knew he had fought two close bouts with Juan Manuel Marquez, at least one of which Marquez was widely believed to have won, I didn’t expect him to have much trouble in last night’s rematch. I was surprised when my son related that one of Minnesota’s top professional fighters had told him he thought Marquez had a good chance.

As it turned out, the boxer was right: Marquez fought a terrific fight, and the decision in Pacquiao’s favor–two judges scored it his way, while the third had it a draw–has been widely condemned. So I asked my son, who watched the bout, to comment on the fight and on the judges’ decision:

Last night’s fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez was a tremendous example of boxing at its finest. The fight pitted the tenacious Pacman against the lightning quick Marquez. It was the third time the two fighters had met, with the first contest ending in a draw (a bout which many observers thought Marquez had won) and Pacquiao winning a decision in the second. Just as in the two previous fights, last night’s bout featured exciting flurries, numerous momentum changes and many shockingly close rounds.

While fights like these, of the razor close variety, are often boxing’s finest moments, lately they have come to highlight a serious problem: often the most hotly contested fights aren’t that close on the judge’s scorecards when they are announced after the fight. And not surprisingly, the favored fighter with the higher earning potential almost always comes out on top. While other sports have taken measures to ensure the integrity of their contests, boxing seems to be trending in the other direction. Unfortunately, it appears Marquez had little chance of winning a decision last night regardless of the performance he put on in the ring.

When the fight ended, most ringside observers believed Marquez had done enough to win the fight, as he had clearly frustrated Pacquiao and had controlled the pace for the majority of the rounds. While Pacquiao had made a strong push in the second half, the consensus was that he would be lucky to walk away with a draw. The fighters’ body language seemed to suggest this as well, as Marquez celebrated while Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach looked distraught. When the cards were read, to the dismay of the crowd, one judge had scored the bout 114-114 (a draw, which seemed within the realm of possibility to me), while the other two had scored the bout 115-113 Pacquiao and 116-112 (that’s 8 rounds to 4) for Pacquiao. Worse, the judge who scored the fight 116-112 for Pacquiao, Glenn Trowbridge, had Pacquiao leading 8 rounds to 3 heading into the final round. Somehow, Trowbridge gave the 12th round to Marquez, despite the fact that Marquez’s own corner had advised him to fight passively and not engage Pacquiao as they believed he was way ahead on the scorecards and could only lose by being knocked out. It’s clear Trowbridge was not watching the same fight the rest of the world was watching.

Or is it possible Trowbridge gave Marquez the 12th round as an attempt to look more objective when he realized he was going to be awarding Pacquiao a 117-111 victory in a fight that, if anything, appeared to lean toward JMM? Is it possible an unbiased judge could have seen the fight for Pacquiao? Yes. Is it possible an unbiased judge could have seen the fight so differently from both other judges and millions of fans? I think people are having a hard time believing that. With a mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather looming, a fight that could generate as much as 500 million dollars in revenue, this decision looks even more suspicious. Did boxing sell out last night to protect the Mayweather/Pacman fight that many believe could generate more interest than any fight in the last 20 years? Unfortunately, I believe so.

I do not think that Glenn Trowbridge or any of the other judges were “bought off” by Bob Arum, the promoter; I simply think that sometimes there is an unwritten understanding that unless a certain fighter is completely destroyed or knocked out, he will get the benefit of the doubt in a decision.  I think as the revenue earning potential of the top fighters has increased exponentially, oftentimes judges feel the pressure to comply with their scorecards.  If Pacquiao loses a split decision last night, would a judge want to be one of the three people that cost the boxing world and Las Vegas the enormous potential of a superfight between Pacman and Mayweather on a close split decision?  I think sometimes boxing judges choose to go along with the script, instead of objectively scoring a fight.  Boxing had better be careful, or soon even boxing fans will be wondering whether they are watching legitimate competition.

Feel free to comment with your own observations on the fight and the state of boxing.

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