Manny Pacquiao boxing on ESPN, rather than pay-per-view, should have been a special night for fight fans. How often have fans been able to see the Pac-Man fight on free TV (well, cable) during his 20-plus year career in the ring?
Saturday night’s bout between Pacquiao and Jeff Horn in Australia was indeed a good boxing match. Horn was hardly deferential to Pacquiao, taking the fight to the welterweight champion instead of simply trying to stay in the ring with him. It appeared that Horn had been knocked out in the ninth round, yet the referee allowed him to continue. The native Australian didn’t squander the opportunity, lasting through 12 rounds and leaving the decision up to the judges.
That’s where controversy ensued, as Horn was awarded a unanimous decision by the three judges that contradicted the view of virtually everyone else who watched the fight. ESPN.com scored the fight 117-111 in favor of Pacquiao. Analyst Teddy Atlas scored 116-111 for Pacquiao. This fight became memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Did Horn get a hometown decision in his native country? Stephen A. Smith, in studio with Steve Levy following the fight, denounced the “bogus” decision, saying the three judges should have their mugshots taken for the crime they perpetrated on boxing.
Stephen A. then found the names of the three judges and his commentary became especially awkward when he exaggerated the pronunciation of Waleska Roldan’s name and questioned whether she was female.
“I’m not assuming there’s a man named Waleska, OK?” said Smith.
Roldan is, in fact, female. But did her name and gender have anything to do with her decision to score the fight heavily in Horn’s favor, 117-111? Judge Roldan on her record, as plenty of boxing observers were doing after the fight.
Steve Levy’s smile and muffled expression was probably an appropriate response under the circumstances. Live TV — ain’t nothin’ like it, as Tony Kornheiser might say.
That’s not to say that Smith was out of line in criticizing the judges’ baffling decision. He was voicing the outrage many viewers — including those in the sports world — were feeling upon hearing the stunning unanimous outcome that contradicted what they had just witnessed. The uproar over the decision may have been equally unanimous in its disbelief.
But did Stephen A. really have to mock the pronunciation of a judge’s name and raise the issue of her gender to make his point? It was a misguided attempt to be entertaining, to further ridicule the ridiculous. In this case, the results truly spoke for themselves, even without Stephen A’s embellishment.