I’ve always wondered how corruption in boxing would work when it came to the judges. Does the promoter pay the judge a lump sum of money to “give” their fighter the fight? Is it a manger? Maybe the sanctioning bodies to build up a fighter that they like? Is it a combination of them all? Back in the 20’s, 30’s, 70’s, maybe up until the 90’s, it could have perhaps been anyone. Any organized crime group with the money could have done it. I could understand it back then, and it was easy. It was nearly impossible to trace. But in the year 2013, with horrible judging still plaguing the sport, now perhaps more than ever, is it conceivable to actually believe that a boxing judge could still get paid off without getting caught?
The question is one that may never get answered. With the right people involved, anything is possible. Boxing, unlike most sports, isn’t run by a particular body. It isn’t like the NHL, NFL, NBA, or MLB. Yes, there are commissions in each state however it isn’t the type of regulatory oversight that the sport needs. If a bad decision is given out by a judge there is no investigation. There is no punishment or action taken against that judge. Nothing happens. Are they watched? Are their bank accounts monitored? Is someone in charge of watching who they are interacting with when they are not judging fights? I don’t know the answer but my intuition is obviously doubting it. It’s possible that they are getting extra money to give fights to certain fighters. Especially at the lower levels. But when we talk about fights like Pacquiao-Bradley, De La Hoya-Trinidad, Mayweather-Canelo, and most recently Chavez Jr-Vera, fights were odd scoring made people scratch their heads, fights on a high level where corruption would seem unlikely, we have to wonder what else it could be.
Humans are humans. We aren’t animals bred to think and do a certain way. We have feelings, emotions, and no matter what anyone tries to believe, we like certain people more than we do other people. So being a boxing judge plays no different part in this. In 2012, one of the biggest robberies in the history of the sport happened as Manny Pacquiao lost a huge controversial decision to Timothy Bradley. The joke was, the judges were not Celtics fans and were therefore upset that Pacquiao made them wait so long before entering the ring while waiting for the Celtics game to be over. I know, it’s funny. But is it that far off? Judges are people. They get pissed, the don’t like certain things that fighter’s do, and in a close round, which happens a lot today in boxing, they will not hesitate to give it to the fighter that they “like” better. It’s not that far-fetched to think that in controversial decision, maybe other factors came in to play?
Let’s talk about CJ Ross, the judge that gave Canelo an absurd 114-114 decision against Mayweather, and the judge that scored 115-113 to Bradley in a fight that Pacquiao totally dominated in. She’s a woman. Well, Mayweather was in jail for being accused of beating a woman. Pacquiao had just come out and said that he was cheating on his wife and had gambling issues before his fight with Bradley. CJ Ross doesn’t live in a den. She’s not bound in a prison cell when she’s not judging fights. She has internet, she sees boxing articles, and she knows what’s going on. Is it totally absurd to say that she didn’t like the way Mayweather and Pacquiao portrayed themselves outside of the ring so when the time came to judge their fights she gave “close” rounds to the person that she “liked” better? Maybe she didn’t like the way Mayweather acted outside of boxing. Is it crazy to think about? Not really. And this could be the case in any judge’s perspective.
But ok, for role play I’ll let the last two paragraphs be false. Let’s say that there is no way that a judge can take a payoff these days, and that they do not have feelings because they have been trained to be unbiased robots. There’s another issue that comes into play. Angles and perception of how the fight is being played out. I’ve seen a car accident before, I’ve told the cops the story. I also heard the guy across the street, who saw the same accident, tell the cops an entirely different story. Now, I’m thinking, is this guy drunk? That’s not how it happened. He saw the same thing I saw. Well, maybe we did see two different things. Perception is everything in boxing. And when three different judges, from three different angles, are watching the same exact thing, well sometimes things might not add up. One judge sees a punch that the other doesn’t. One judge sees a fighter backing up the other sees him running. One judge sees a punch that lands and hurts while the other sees that the punch barely grazed him. And yes, they are all watching the same exact thing. Is it possible that the entire system of judging is just something that has been flawed from the very start? And that in modern day technology, with media websites, twitter, Facebook, and everything else, that now it is very recognizable and easier to create a huge buzz about it than it was 30 years ago? Even ten years ago?
I don’t have the answers. The real problem is can it be changed? Right now the answer is no. There have been various proposals to help revamp the judging system. Each one has its flaws making it more of an annoyance to put in the work to change everything for the little effect it would have. As long as the judging is based on someone’s perception of the fight there will always be a conflicting matter. I believe that fights can be fixed however that it happens on a lower level more than it does the higher level. I don’t believe fights like De La Hoya-Trinidad, Hopkins-Taylor, and so many more of those close round fights were fixed fights. At the same time, I’m not sure whether or not to believe fights like Pacquiao-Bradley and Mayweather-Canelo were plagued with judges being paid off. I really don’t know how to explain a 114-114 draw for Mayweather-Canelo or a 115-113 Bradley victory. Maybe it is a mixture of everything I pointed out in this article. What I do know, is that the Chavez Jr-Vera fight wasn’t the first and will definitely not be the last. Something needs to change. I’d start with giving judges a clear guideline on how to judge a round along with perhaps making them watch from a television instead of ringside. It’s a small start. Whatever the changes, it needs to be done sooner than later or these horrible decisions are just going to keep coming.