Manny Pacquiao was robbed in his fight against Timothy Bradley last night on HBO pay-per-view as Bradley took an indefensible split decision. Given boxing's history of bizarre — and even downright corrupt — decisions, it didn't exactly take long for the conspiracy theories to start flying.
The conspiracy theories ranged from people sharing pictures of posters for Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2 — proof, they said, that the rematch was already "planned" — to people saying Floyd Mayweather paid off the judges so he wouldn't have to face Manny, to more intricate situations involving contracts and money.
Some of those theories are easy to dismiss. For example, the poster that was being tweeted was actually part of Bradley's pre-fight press conference shtick as he brought that and a giant "ticket" to the rematch to show his confidence that he would win. Since a rematch clause was in place, Bradley was just trying to "send the message" that a rematch would happen because he was going to win.
And Floyd influencing the judges is laughable at best.
But when you start getting into talks of contracts and who is signed where and for how long, things get a little more interesting.
First, give this video by ESPN's Teddy Atlas a watch:
From the video (thanks to Bad Left Hook for transcribing):
"I'm not sure if it's accurate that Pacquiao was about to leave one of the kingpins of the sport, Bob Arum. His contract was running out. But I think it was. And when that happens, sometimes funny things happen. But the bottom line is, if you're an honest man, if you're a competent person that knows what he's watching, Pacquiao won that fight. Only one man won that fight. And, you know, he doesn't get the decision. It's an injustice to the sport, injustice to the fighters, injustice to the fanbase. It's one of the fallacies. It's one of the problems with the sport of boxing right now is that the wrong guy wins sometimes."
"I think I touched on it a moment ago, the possibility that he might not be signing up with the power broker, Bob Arum. I mean, look, the worst thing you can say about the sport is it's either corruption or incompetence. If it's incompetence, that should be corrected. That the judges that control the destiny of these fighters, fighters that leave a part of themselves in the ring quite often when they leave the ring, like Frazier and Ali did in those great, epic fights. There's less of themselves when they leave that ring. That's a great responsibility, to make sure you get it right as judges. And a lot of times, unfortunately, the judges, they just don't get it right. They don't know what they're watching. In this case again, they don't know what they're watching, at the very best. Which is a sad thing to say, that at the best they didn't know what they were watching, and at the worst they were influenced by other outside forces."
The generally understood situation with Manny's contract is that it was redone to extend through all of 2012 and will expire in 2013. So the idea that Arum, feeling he might be on the verge of losing Pacquiao, influenced the judges to score for Bradley, thus raising Bradley's value while hurting Pacquiao's, has a little bit more meat to it than most "the fix was in!" theories.
Of course, the real issue could very well have simply been that judges aren't given monitors to watch the action and were only able to see the fight from their one, stationary viewpoint.
Conspiracy theory, outdated methods of viewing fights while judging, incompetence: there's not really any way to look at this that shouldn't demand an NSAC investigation, one that we'll likely never get.