The stunning, controversial decision last night in which three Nevada judges  saw the fight between Manny Pacquaio and Timothy Bradley differently than just about everyone else who saw it — including all the major news services n their round by round coverage and virtually every boxing great who has weighed in on it — obviously raises questions and feeds conspiracy theories that are already sprouting on the internet and elsewhere.  But as emotionally satisfying as it may be to believe that judges Duane Ford, CJ Ross, and Jerry Ross were engaged in a grand, mob-funded conspiracy against Pacquiao, the reality is there is likely an explanation that falls short of pure corruption.  What might that be?

First, it’s interesting that even the judge who had it for Pacquiao, Jerry Roth, had it 115-113 when all the news services and major round-by-round reports had it not nearly that close.  LA Times Round by Round had Pacquiao winning 117-111. Fox Sports  Round by Round had Pacquiao winning 119-110. Both Las Vegas Review-Journal cards and The Associated Press scored the fight in favor of Pacquiao, all 117-111.

Second, it’s interesting that one of the judges who had it 115-113 for Bradley was the dean of Nevada judges, Duane Ford. This s the guy who trains the other judges and is regarded as the ultimate authority.

Third, it’s interesting that a)  the Nevada commission even put the third judge, CJ Ross, on the fight since she has far less experience than either of the other two judges — and b) her card was 115-113 Bradley, same as top judge Ford.

So — setting aside for the moment the idea that it’s a grand conspiracy, what might have happened to cause all three judges to see it differently than just about everyone else — and to see it very similarly to one another?

Here is the theory:  Pacquiao’s last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez was a controversial split decision victory after which the Nevada judges who scored the fight were taken to task much as they are being criticized now (although this is worse, to be sure).

What does a state athletic commission do in a situation like that?

Is it reasonable to assume that the state commission reviewed the tapes of Pacquiao-Marquez, and that there was communication from the commission to the judges (not just the judges of that fight, but all the judges) about issues arising out of the way that fight was scored?  For example, might there have been discussions about the application of the judging criteria?  Might there have been new guidance about how to judge “effective aggression” and “ring generalship” — guidance that in effect would weigh against Pacquiao in his next fight?

It is reasonable to look at the selection of CJ Ross and wonder, why her?  Why not a more experienced judge?  Unless there was a thought process that she, perhaps precisely because she is less experienced and more pliant, could be relied upon to implement whatever new guidance had been given about judging criteria–guidance that in all probability would have been given to judges by the senior judge Duane Ford, who was also judging the fight and who came out with the same score — 115-113 Bradley — that Ross did.

So under this theory, the Neavada Commission, stung by criticism after the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, tried to clean up its act by refining its judging criteria in some fashion that, perhaps unintentionally, ended up favoring Timothy Bradley.  Was there an over-compensation after the Marquez fight, for example — a compensation against the fact that Pacquiao was busier than Marquez and may have been judged to be overly rewarded for that?

The main problem with this theory, frankly, is that even if all this is true — it’s still very hard to look at the fight and discern what the judges saw that would cause them to award the fight to Bradley, or even call it close.  But they did all see it within a reasonably narrow range of outcomes, and if it’s not a grande conspiracy, then that would suggest that they were all working from the same set of freshly re-stated criteria, interpreting those criteria in a way that was similar to one another and different from the way the rest of the boxing word was interpreting them.


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