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    Judges stand accused

    Jun 14, 2012

    Amid the controversy surrounding the split decision American Timothy Bradley received in his showdown with Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight championship, at least three investigations will be underway to determine if fraud and corruption tainted the scoring of the fight.

    Three judges stand as the “respondents”: Judges C.J. Ross, Duane Ford and Jerry Roth. Ross and Ford both scored the fight for Bradley at 115-113 while Roth tabbed it for Pacquiao at 115-113. Roth is included in the investigation because not a few believe that the score he gave was way too close. Boxing experts are almost unanimous in saying that Pacquiao won the fight by a large margin. This deadline-beater scored the fight 117-111 for Pacquiao.

    The three entities who are set to conduct separate probes are the World Boxing Organization (WBO), the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.

    The WBO has formed a five-man panel that will review the video of the fight and evaluate the scores of the judges. However, under the WBO’s “Regulations of World Championship Contests” guidelines, there is no provision that empowers the organization to alter the result of a championship fight. Section 18 of the guidelines states that, “if the championship contest results in a highly controversial decision, the World Championship Committee may, in its discretion, recommend a direct return fight.”

    As can be deduced, in cases of controversial results, the WBO can only order an immediate rematch. According to WBO President Francisco Valcarcel, the organization can only go this far. But a directive from the WBO for Pacquiao and Bradley to meet again is actually useless, considering that Bradley already has a contractual obligation to meet Pacquiao in a return bout.

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    The commission, which regulates all contests of unarmed combat (i.e., boxing, mixed martial arts) within the state of Nevada, is the one clothed with authority to alter the result of a fight.  Each state in the United States usually has a boxing commission that is authorized to hear an appeal and consequently change the result of a fight if the said appeal turns out to be meritorious.

    Last year, after Bernard Hopkins was supposedly knocked out by Chad Dawson in the second round their World Boxing Council (WBC) light heavyweight title fight, the California State Athletic Commission ruled that Hopkins actually dislocated his shoulder and was not floored by a punch. The commission changed the result from a second-round technical knockout win for Dawson to a no contest.

    Former World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) super lightweight champion Amir Khan has recently filed a protest before the Washington D.C. Boxing Commission asking it to change the result of his December 2011 fight with Lamont Peterson. Khan lost a highly debatable split decision to Peterson and claimed in his protest that the latter may have taken performance-enhancing substances during the fight. Like the WBO, the IBF has stated that it has no power to change the result of a fight and is leaving the matter to the boxing commission involved.

    Unlike the Hopkins-Dawson and Khan-Peterson fights which involved a misinterpretation of the rules and banned substances, the controversy in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight is restricted to the scores the judges gave. The presumption of regularity in the performance of duties favors the judges. This means that unless evidence showing that fraud and corruption influenced the scoring of the fight is produced, the presumption of regularity in the scoring of the fight shall be sustained.

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    It is most likely for this reason that promoter Bob Arum sought the assistance of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office – an independent body that can conduct a full-blown, fact-finding investigation. This means that this office can go beyond the issue of the scores in the scorecards and dig deeper into the matter, i.e., the character and background of every personality involved in the match and not just the judges.

    The possibility of the NSAC and the Attorney General’s office banging heads with conflicting findings over this issue is not entirely remote. It will be interesting to see what will happen if the NSAC upholds the scores of the judges and the Attorney General’s Office finds evidence linking one or all of the judges to fraudulent or corrupt acts. No amount of pressure from the attorney general can change the fight’s result unless the Nevada commission relents.

    On the other hand, the Attorney General’s Office may not have the power to change the result of the match, but it can recommend the filing of criminal charges if the conspiracy theories are substantiated by evidence. 

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