Whodunit? Conspiracy theories in Pacquiao-Bradley decision

Posted at 06/12/2012 3:42 AM | Updated as of 06/12/2012 4:17 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Was the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley bout fixed?

Conspiracy theories surrounding Pacquiao's controversial split-decision loss to Bradley in their World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight in Las Vegas over the weekend are continuing to gather momentum, with many accusing the boxers' promoter, Top Rank boss Bob Arum, as the alleged culprit.

Described as the worst robbery in the sport in 2 decades, Pacquiao's loss left many boxing analysts and journalists looking for answers.

Grantland editor Rafe Bartholomew, in an article published Monday, described one rumor that spread among journalists who covered the bout.

He explained that Top Rank makes more money if Pacquiao -- Arum's most bankable asset -- fights a fellow boxer promoted by Top Rank.

"If Top Rank were to stage a fight in conjunction with Golden Boy or another major promoter, the company's earnings would essentially be cut in half," Bartholomew explained.

This is the reason why the Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. superfight has not been -- and perhaps will never be made.

Pacquiao, through the years, has beaten everyone that Top Rank has thrown with care at his feet.

"According to the conspiracy theory, Pacquiao's loss to Bradley solved the problem of finding Manny a November opponent. Instead of force-feeding the public a fourth Marquez fight, Top Rank can stage the Pacquiao-Bradley rematch, and they can reasonably expect the fight to generate greater profits than the first one, since Bradley's public profile will grow and boxing fans will be keen to watch Pacquiao attempt to set the record straight with a knockout," Bartholomew said.

Contract ending

He said veteran boxing trainer and analyst Teddy Atlas also mentioned Pacquiao's contract with Top Rank ending in 2013, which opens a door for the Filipino boxing superstar to either retire or look for greener pastures with another promoter.

"This would allow Pacquiao to negotiate his own promotional deals like Mayweather does. By doing so, Pacquiao would presumably be able to claim a much fatter slice of the earnings pie from his fights," Bartholomew said.

"According to this tributary of the conspiracy theory, Saturday night may have been Top Rank's way of sending a message to Pacquiao: If you choose to leave next year, you might be doing so with two fresh losses on your record, and Mayweather might decide he no longer has to prove that he can beat you," he added.

Bartholomew noted that while he and most journalists saw Pacquiao beat his opponent, Top Rank's pay-per-view replay that had Brian Kenny calling the fight was skewed in favor of Bradley.

Bradley's rematch brag before fight

Sports website thebiglead.com, meanwhile, raised the red flag over a Bradley's tweet 2 weeks before the fight that bragged of a November 10 rematch between him and Pacquiao.

"Gonna be so nice we gonna do it twice," Bradley said on the social media site, with his tweet accompanied by a rematch poster. 

Bradley also displayed a rematch ticket during their weigh-in before the fight. He later told reporters that the rematch promo materials were produced by his promoters -- Top Rank and Arum.

All about the money?

David Mayo of MLive.com, meanwhile, said Arum was the winner in the controversial fight decision.

"It's the oldest big-fight tale in boxing. The champ loses the first fight. The result is reversed in the rematch. The third fight is on the up-and-up. Three paydays for one matchup between two fighters who share a common promoter," he said.

Mayo said Pacquiao's loss will force the Filipino to fight Bradley at least once more to try avenge his loss.

"It dims the Mayweather matchup, a fight Arum never really wanted anyway. It stems Pacquiao's retirement talk for a while. And hey, if Pacquiao happens to lose the rematch, Bradley is a new superstar of boxing, and Arum promotes him," he added.

"By keeping the biggest fights as in-house productions, when a Top Rank superstar loses, it only builds a new star within the company. It's Arum's standard business model and it works, time and again," Mayo said.

Forbes' Patrick Rishe said he won't blame anyone if he or she suspects foul play behind the decision of fight judges C.J. Ross and Jerry Roth to score scored the bout as a 115-113 win for Bradley.

"It’s these sorts of results that make skeptics of us all.  Make us wonder if someone within the sport thought they could drum up greater interest in a Pacquiao-Bradley rematch if Pacquiao lost the first bout," he said.

Grantland's Jay Caspian Kang said boxing's problem is that an allegedly conspiracy to rig the results of the fight has become "the more logical explanation" to explain the judges' decision to have Bradley win.

"To argue that the only two people who watched the fight who thought Bradley won also happened to be sitting in the judge's chairs is far less reasonable than concluding that a thoroughly corrupt sport had another corrupt moment. And the sad part is that even if every conspiracy theorist is wrong, and even if Ross and Roth acted alone, and even if Bob Arum was actually really angry and not just putting out a plausible alibi, that truth will never breach the consensus," he said.

Betting angle

Examiner.com's Marv Dumon, meanwhile, revealed that bets suddenly poured in for the heavy underdog Bradley just hours leading up to the June 9 fight.

"In a span of just a few hours, the fight's odds shifted to below 4-1 in favor of Pacquiao due to heavy pro-Bradley wagers.  In a statement made to Fox Sports on Sunday, R.J. Bell of PreGame.com acknowledged that there was (significant) 'line movement and late action on Bradley, [who] closed -397,'"  he said.

"As a result of Saturday night's head-scratching split decision, bookmakers around the world lost millions of dollars.  In contrast, bettors for the underdog Bradley saw a 400 percent return on their capital over a 12 round, 45-minute period," he added.

Dumon said BetOnline.ag suffered its biggest financial loss on a fight in the company's 21-year history because a week before the fight, most bettors were waging on a Pacquiao victory.

"When a bookie is 'sided,' it loses a lot of money when one fighter (in this case, Tim Bradley) wins. Like an economic mirror effect, the last-minute bettors for Bradley won stacks of cash on Saturday," he explained. 

Canadian sports analyst Haralabos Voulgaris mentioned on Twitter the late surge of bets on Bradley. "Late money on this boxing match, Pac was -432 at 2pm it closed -397 at pinny. Lots of late money on Bradley."

"Eagerly awaiting Italian [soccer's] response to this boxing match. Can't imagine they'll take the demotion to 2nd most corrupt sport lightly," he added.

Dumon mentioned the possibility of a gambling syndicate possibly influencing the outcome of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight.

"Suspicions have arisen now," he said.

He said that while it's possible that the ringside judges made an honest mistake in awarding the victory to Bradley, the judges should explain their decision in an official forum to restore the sport's credibility.

One of the judges, Roth, has defended his scorecard and claimed that "Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson."

 "I thought Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson," he told writer Steve Carp. "I thought a lot of the rounds were close. Pacquiao missed a lot of punches and thought he was throwing wildly."

Another judge, Ross, has yet to comment on the controversy.

Arum denies fixed bout

Arum has denied that fight was fixed.

He said in an interview on ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda" on Monday that he will ask the Attorney-General in Nevada to investigate the result fight.

"What happened last night in Las Vegas was an absolute outrage, and we have to have a complete investigation to determine how something like this could happen and who is responsible,” he added.

Arum called the judges the "three blind mice" for their decision.

He earlier admitted however, that he will "make a ton of money on the rematch."

He is the same boxing promoter who once told journalists, "Yesterday I was lying; today I'm telling the truth."