By Sean Crose
A lot’s been made about C.J. Ross’ judging these past two years. After a long and quite successful career as a Nevada boxing official, Ross suddenly became notorious after deciding Timothy Bradley had bested Manny Pacquaio in 2012 and that Saul Canelo Alvarez was Floyd Mayweather’s equal in 2013. Both decisions brought about a firestorm of bad press for Ross and for the sport of boxing, in general. Charges of corruption and incompetence ran rampant. Ross herself ended up, fairly or unfairly, becoming the poster child for all that is wrong with the sport of boxing.
All of this leads to one very obvious question: what’s the deal with C.J. Ross? Well, let’s try to find out. First, lets deal with the most damning accusation against the woman, that she’s corrupt or somehow “on the take.” While it’s true boxing has a dark history of corruption, there’s no solid evidence that Ross herself has contributed to that dark history – at least none that’s been made public. Therefore, we should leave this one alone. No matter what one’s suspicions may be, publicly charging someone with a crime without evidence to back that charge up is not only legally dangerous – it’s just plain wrong.
Let’s move on, then, to the charge of incompetence. This one might look like it will stick, until we realize Ross has judged one hundred, count them, one hundred, fights since November of 2008. Until the Pacquaio-Bradley bout, none of them generated much controversy. What’s more, Larry Merchant himself spoke well of Ross back in 2011.
“The fights that she works, she does a very good job.” Those were the words of the esteemed Mr. Merchant at the time.
A look at Ross’ record over the past five years or so indicates a rather solid job performance. In the one hundred matches Ross has worked since November of 2008, thirty-eight ended with split judging of some form or other. Of those thirty-eight, Ross ruled differently from her fellow judges on about eighteen occasions. Not exactly the record of some wily renegade.
In fact, a quick background check on Ms. Ross appears to present one irrefutable fact: that overall, the woman has been, at the very least, adequate, and perhaps even quite good, at her job. So what’s the deal? Why did Ross judge like she did in the two biggest bouts of her career? A peek into some of the judge’s previous work may well provide the answer. Then again…
On August 13, 2011, Abner Mares battled Joseph Agbeko in Las Vegas. While Agbeko moved forward for much of the bout, the number of Mares’ low blows reached into the double digits. One low blow actually dropped Agbeko. Referee Russell Mora, who had refused to take a point away from Mares, actually went ahead and ruled it a knockdown. In the end Adalaide Byrd and Oren Shellenberger had it 115-111 for Mares. Ross, on the other hand, scored it a draw.
On November 12, 2011, Juan Carlos Burgos fought Luis Cruz in Las Vegas. After being on the defensive earlier on, Cruz turned aggressor later in the fight. Ross had the fight a 95-95 draw while Duane Ford and Richard Ocasio had it 98-92 and 97-93, giving Burgos a majority decision.
On December 16, 2011, Laura Serrano met Ela Nunez in Las Vegas. This exciting brawl ended in a majority draw. Seranno was more aggressive, while Nunez landed the more powerful shots. Herb Santos and Lisa Giampa scored it 57-57. Ms. Ross, however, scored it in favor of the aggressive Serrano by a score of 59-55.
What do these fights suggest? After viewing them, I thought it could be argued that Ms. Ross holds fighters who move forward in higher regard than those who box defensively. For, in each of the aforementioned bouts, Ross gave a fighter who moved forward at least a draw. Then I asked myself if Bradley was really moving forward that much against Pacquaio and couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer.
Trying to figure Ms. Ross out is a frustrating endeavor.
Perhaps Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated is right when he argues that punch activity has a lot to do with judging in Vegas. Perhaps Ross simply wasn’t ready to judge the big fights. Perhaps time will ultimately prove her judging right and the rest of the world wrong. One really never knows.
There’s one thing, however, that remains certain: Ms. Ross remains boxing’s biggest enigma. And I, for one, feel kind of bad for her. Deserved or not, the woman’s taking a whole lot of heat after a long time spent in the trenches.