More than a quarter of a century later, umpire Don Denkinger’s mistake is available to be analyzed, over and over, on Major League Baseball’s website.
Denkinger called Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first base in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series and the Royals went on to win. When they then won Game 7, they captured a championship they likely wouldn’t have had Denkinger correctly called Orta out.
In boxing, however, there is no such simple mechanism to prove a bad call – or a perceived bad call – no matter how much Jim Lampley or Teddy Atlas scream and holler about it.
Boxing is perhaps the most subjective sport to judge. Two people can, and often do, watch exactly the same fight and evaluate it in dramatically different ways.
Manny Pacquiao lost Saturday to Timothy Bradley in a bout most experts – though not all – felt he deserved to win. Judge Jerry Roth scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao, closer than most ringside reporters had it. He was overruled by judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, who each had it 115-113 in favor of Bradley.
On Wednesday, the World Boxing Organization announced it would review the verdict with a panel of five international judges. Normally that would be sanctioning-body code for “we’re preparing to strip Bradley and give the belt back to Pacquiao,” though WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday that is not the case this time.
The WBO decision to examine the outcome of the welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden comes on the heels of promoter Bob Arum on Sunday calling for an investigation by Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, a sentiment that was supported by longtime Arum (and Pacquiao) ally U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Arum is the promoter for both Pacquiao and Bradley.
Outraged Pacquiao fans have petitioned Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to overturn the result.
Jennifer M. Lopez, the public information officer for the state attorney general’s office, said via email it is office policy not to comment on potential or ongoing investigations.
However, Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, told Yahoo! Sports that the attorney general’s office had requested information from him regarding the selection of the officials, the boxers’ licensing and the judges’ records as it related to past Pacquiao and Bradley fights.
That would seem to indicate that Cortez Masto is at least considering an inquiry. Lopez, though, would not confirm that.
“On Monday, June 11 Bob Arum, with Top Rank Inc., submitted a complaint about the decision in the Pacquiao/Bradley fight,” she wrote. “We are treating this complaint like any other complaint our office receives. We will review the information submitted and take appropriate action if necessary. Per standard office policy procedures, we do not confirm or deny if we have an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Long-time commission member Skip Avansino, now in his second term as its chairman, declined to say how he scored the fight. He said he did not know if Cortez Masto would order an investigation but said he believed in transparency and would cooperate fully with whatever she asked of his office.
He said he had asked Kizer to watch video of the fight with the judges. Kizer said he was awaiting receipt of a DVD so he could do so.
“I wanted Keith to go through the fight with them and test and vet their determination round by round,” Avansino said. “If [Kizer] sees something, we should be advised about – let’s look into it. And then, of course, certainly, we always have to consider whether there was some untoward behavior, any corruption or any kind of undue influence.
“At this point, I haven’t any evidence of any of that other than looking at three seasoned professionals who have done a lot of good championship bouts for us. That’s where I stand on it and I have been supportive of those judges for that reason.”
Arum wants the investigation largely to clear his own name. After the fight, he went to great lengths to point out he did not accuse the judges of corruption.
“I want to make very clear, there was no chicanery going on here,” Arum said shortly after the bout.
On Sunday, though, in a telephone call to Yahoo! Sports, he demanded the investigation. This was the first major fight of the social media age to end in a decision the public overwhelmingly disagreed with. Arum was taking as much abuse as the judges and was accused, without any evidence, of tampering with the outcome.
Bob Arum has called for an investigation into the results of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight. Getty Images)
The fact is Arum would have benefited more had Pacquiao won. Though a Pacquiao fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. might still be made, it would have been far more lucrative had Pacquiao defeated Bradley.
Prior to the fight, Bradley had made faux credentials and posters touting a rematch. But clearly Top Rank had other plans. In attendance Saturday night was Juan Manuel Marquez, who after the fight Top Rank planned on announcing as Pacquiao’s next opponent in November.
There was a rematch clause in the contract, but this isn’t unusual. Mayweather, for example, had one against Miguel Cotto when they fought May 5. It is standard operating procedure for stars, in this case Pacquiao, to have one.
Valcarcel said his organization would not strip Bradley of the title no matter what its independent review found. He said he would simply order a rematch. That would only differ, he said, if corruption comes to light, but he said he did not expect that.
“I have known Roth and Duane and Cynthia [Ross] for many, many years and they are wonderful, honest people and excellent judges,” Valcarcel said. “We just want Nevada to consider all of the judges. Nevada picks its judges and we want them to consider who we recommend. I gave them a list of 20 judges, from all around the world – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, everywhere – and they were great judges.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the ABC [Association of Boxing Commissions] and the sanctioning bodies to work together. I am not saying there was anything going on here, but I just think it would be important for Nevada, and all the states, to work with us on the selection [of officials].”
As it stands, allegations of fraud have been leveled against Ford, Ross and Arum. These allegations will continue, which is why Cortez Masto is being pressed to launch a formal investigation.
Like Denkinger, the judges made a call in a high-profile, significant sporting event.
But unlike Denkinger, theirs isn’t one that can be proven right or wrong by a replay.
An investigation should prove that. Then, the business of boxing can move on, Pacquiao and Bradley can fight again and all of the conspiracy theorists can look for another issue.