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Friday, October 24, 2014

How and why I think Bob Arum fixed the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight

Corruption has been a part of boxing as long as the sport has been around. Whether it was the mob telling one fighter to take a dive in the 5th, or a promoter paying off the judges to score the bout in favor of his boxer, the fix has been in for years. Last Saturday in Las Vegas, there is no doubt the fix was in.

There was not one person who saw the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight and thought Bradley won. Nobody is debating who won it. There isn’t some magical judging system in boxing that the common man doesn’t understand that resulted in two judges scoring the fight in favor of Bradley while nobody else even thought he was close. Pacquiao won the fight decisively, and even Bradley wasn’t convinced he’d won.

It seems clear the fight was fixed so that a decision would favor Bradley. Let’s go over how and why that happened by examining each character involved and their motivations.

Bob Arum, Top Rank: Arum has been involved with boxing since the ’60s and is one of the two biggest promoters in the sport (Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy is the other). He represents many of the top fighters, but his prized fighter is Manny Pacquiao.

Since Pacquiao became a megastar after beating Oscar De La Hoya in 2008 and Ricky Hatton in 2009, Bob Arum has handled the Filipino’s fight schedule carefully. And by carefully, we mean he arranged it so that it benefited him the most.

Five of Pacquiao’s last six opponents have been fighters also promoted by Bob Arum. The only one who wasn’t — Shane Mosley — cut ties with Golden Boy and surrendered an ownership stake in the company just so he could take the Pacquiao fight. Considering he signed to terms dictated by Top Rank, you may as well make it six of the last six. That means Arum has cleaned up on all sides of the revenue (gate, pay-per-view) without splitting it with another company, similar to a real estate agent representing both the buyer and the seller.

What’s the point? Ever since Pacquiao became a cash cow who is popular worldwide, packs stadiums, and delivers a million pay-per-view buys, Arum hogged him. Arum knew he had one of the only superstars in boxing (Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the other), and he wouldn’t share his biggest asset with anyone. He could arrange fights against guys like Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley — both of whom had no chance of beating Pacquiao — and clean up on the earnings just because Pac Man has such a huge fan base. Arum knew that Pacquiao’s fans would pay to watch him box a middle school child, so he capitalized on it.

Arum has been raking in the dough the past few years thanks to Pacquiao, but he knew the only thing that could kill his golden goose was retirement, and that has been creeping up.

Thanks to a combination of his age (33), new religious interests, and a career in politics, Pacquiao has been talking about retirement lately. Knowing that Pacquiao only has a few fights left — if that — Arum had to work quickly to develop his next star. He needed to use Pacquiao’s popularity to vault a new fighter into the mainstream. Timothy Bradley became that guy.

I think Arum paid off the judges to score the fight in favor of Bradley so that a rematch could take place.

It’s in Arum’s interest to have a controversy because it a) makes Bradley well known and b) creates more interest in a rematch between the two. Remember that Arum promotes both fighters, so he’ll be raking in the money with a rematch.

While he’s sitting there bashing the judges, Arum is privately happy with the outcome. How does he lose here?

And don’t tell me that the loss hurts Manny Pacquiao’s chances of fighting Floyd Mayweather. One, the fight was never going to happen anyway (Arum has been one of the biggest impediments since he and Mayweather hate each other). Two, the public demand for the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight hasn’t diminished. It can still happen if Arum wants it to, but he doesn’t.

Arum was running out of opponents for Pacquiao, and he was running out of time to milk his superstar — why not create a rematch? It’s rather brilliant, if you think about it.

Manny Pacquiao: One of the two superstars in boxing. Only he and Floyd Mayweather Jr. can generate worldwide buzz and pay-per-view buys for fights. His weakness is that he’s bad with money. He has an entourage of hundreds and pays them all handsomely. He also has had tons of tax problems in the United States, was sued by his former money managers for not paying their fees, and he filed a countersuit against them alleging that they messed up his taxes. ESPN’s Dan Rafael even reported last week that Pacquiao has taken seven-figure advances from Bob Arum prior to fights to pay off all his debts (h/t BSO):

Besides the womanizing, there was smoking, drinking, heavy gambling — which caused him to take seven-figure advances before recent fights from Top Rank promoter Bob Arum in order to pay his debts — and partying nights away while trying to also balance boxing and his political career.

So Pacquiao needed money from Arum, and thus was indebted to him. What if Arum told him that for the Bradley fight, Manny could look great, but the judges would rule against him, setting up a rematch that would produce tons of money and get Manny his championship belts back? That doesn’t sound like a bad scenario for Manny, does it?

The public saw the fight and knows Pac Man beat Bradley, so he has sympathy on his side. He also already had 3 career losses, so it’s not like he had a perfect record to protect like Mayweather, and his spot in the pound-for-pound rankings and Boxing Hall of Fame is unchanged. What’s to lose? Both he and Arum make tons of money this way, and it’s not like Pacquiao’s image or credibility takes a hit — he looks like a good guy and victim in all of this.

Timothy Bradley: Although undefeated, he was virtually unknown prior to this fight. After beating Devon Alexander in January 2011, he had an offer to fight Amir Khan for over a million dollars but turned it down — twice. He also left his promoter after the Alexander fight. Now why would he do that? Maybe because he was promised a shot at Manny Pacquiao and the millions that come with it.

Bradley signed with Top Rank last September and fought against Joel Casamayor (another Top Rank fighter) on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in November. And guess what? His next fight was against Pac Man. Bradley was in it to make millions on Pacquiao’s coattails. Winning was just a bonus.

Don’t think he knew what was up? As The Big Lead pointed out, on May 29 — 11 days before Saturday’s fight — Bradley tweeted a picture of the poster promoting a November rematch against Pacquiao.

Shady much? You bet.

Everyone’s motivation in this entire situation is the same thing: money. It’s the reason why Arum only has Pacquiao fight Top Rank fighters, it’s why Manny’s had problems, and it’s why Bradley left his promoter and turned down other fights. Everyone is hungry for money. And I believe some judges were too.

Is this a conspiracy theory? Maybe. I just know that Manny Pacquiao beat Timothy Bradley easily yet was screwed on a decision, and everyone kept talking about rematch immediately afterward.

Have a better explanation? I’d like to hear it.



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