by Charles Jay
If you are wondering why Nevada is taking all the heat and the WBO is going to be conducting its own five-person review of the Manny Pacquaio-Timothy Bradley, the answer is clear: Nevada has to take the heat, because it wanted the power all to itself.
Photo: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
The state, which has a capable guy in charge in Keith Kizer, nontheless doesn’t appear too willing to investigate the matter, is not the slightest bit interested in what any sanctioning organization considers to be a credible official, and in fact, rejected twenty names that were offered by the WBO before this fight took place, in favor of a three-judge panel that has set the sport back years in terms of public confidence.
That happens to be the policy of most states in this country, by the way.
The non-cooperation really came to a head back in 2002, when Kirk Johnson got disqualified in his fight against John Ruiz and later filed a protest with the WBA. Johnson’s contention was that the WBA went against its own rules, which called for neutral officials in championship fights. Not only were the judges from Nevada, where Ruiz had taken up residence, but so was referee Joe Cortez, who like Ruiz was Puerto Rican.
Nevada asserted that the authority to appoint judges was strictly in their hands, and Greg Sirb of Pennsylvania, who was then a vice-president of the ABC, went so far as to claim that a ruling for Johnson by the WBA would be directly in conflict with federal law. However, that was a misinterpretation, at the very least.
Section 16 of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, as is contained under the title “Judges and Referees,” states that “No person may arrange, promote, organize, produce, or fight in a professional boxing match unless all referees and judges participating in the match have been certified and approved by the boxing commission responsible for regulating the match in the State where the match is held.” Well, “certified and approved” does not mean exactly the same as “selected or appointed,” and in fact, it was contemplated that an organization like, say, the WBA or WBO, might offer up officials for approval.
Otherwise, it would have been specifically written that the boxing commission was the sole entity that could select officials. In fact, if the state commissions, and only the commissions, were empowered to choose officials, the term “certified and approved” would not even be included in the language, for sake of redundancy. After all, you would certainly pre-suppose that if an entity were selecting the officials, it would have already approved them, right?
The WBA was in a position where it could have tested the ABC’s arbitrary stance, and make a statement about its own role, but Johnson’s protest was roundly rejected. And all the sanctioning bodies have been paying the price for that ever since.
Ultimately, the states can accept or reject as they want, and they have chosen to, for the most part, keep the sanctioning bodies out of the process.
Perhaps with the Pacquiao-Bradley brouhaha, THEY can start paying the price for it.
There has been much skullduggery on the part of the alphabet soup organizations, but keep in mind that when it comes to almost every bad decision in the United States in recent years, it can’t be blamed on a sanctioning body, but on a local commission, whether it be state or tribal. They have grabbed all the authority they could when it came to appointments, and have often allowed for an atmosphere where a hometown fighter benefits from having three hometown judges and a hometown referee, even in fights of great significance. And they do not have a track record of exercising particularly good judgment when it comes to safeguarding against such a thing.
This would be an ideal time for the WBO to snare some good public relations, by making their process transparent and democratic, and encouraging the states to do the same. They can score some points for sanctioning bodies in general by appointing an “all-star team” of, say, a dozen officials, who are at present licensed (and therefore approved) in one or more states, announcing their intention to rotate three of them into each championship fight, and then daring the state commissions to reject them for the purposes of playing politics, or eschewing the concept of geographical neutrality.
Then you might find out where the spirit of corruption truly lies.