GAB calls for fight probe
By Joaquin Henson Updated Monday June 18, 2012 - 12:00am
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MANILA, Philippines - Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chairman Juan Ramon Guanzon said yesterday the government agency supervising professional sports in the country is joining the public clamor for the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to conduct an investigation on the circumstances that led to a controversial decision taking away the WBO welterweight title from Manny Paquiao and awarding it to Timothy Bradley, Jr. in Las Vegas.

Guanzon, GAB commissioner Fritz Gaston and GAB boxing chief Dr. Nasser Cruz were in Las Vegas to witness the fight last June 9. They were shocked when ring announcer Michael Buffer declared Bradley the new champion by virtue of a split decision. Two judges – Duane Ford and Cynthia J. Ross – scored it 115-113 for Bradley while the other judge Jerry Roth saw it 115-113 for Pacquiao.

“As GAB chairman, my duty is to protect Filipino professional athletes who appear to be prejudiced,” said Guanzon, a voting member of the WBC Board of Governors and international secretary. “It was clear that Manny won the decision. In behalf of the Filipino people, the GAB will send an urgent message to the NSAC and call for an investigation. I know that (Bob) Arum has asked the Attorney General of Nevada to conduct a similar probe to comply with public demand. I think there should be an investigation of the judges. To be honest, I find it difficult to justify their scoring.”

Guanzon cited Pacquiao’s sportsmanship in accepting the decision without rancor. Pacquiao’s behavior was in stark contrast to Juan Manuel Marquez’ reaction in failing to beat the Filipino icon in three fights. Marquez raved and ranted about being robbed thrice over. “Of course, we will abide by whatever the NSAC decides but first, there should be an investigation,” said Guanzon. “The public demands it and the NSAC should listen to public clamor. The WBO has announced it will review the fight using a panel of five highly-regarded judges but I don’t know what that will accomplish. Even if the five judges score it for Manny, will the WBO overturn or nullify the decision?”

Guanzon said it’s premature to speculate if neutral judges should be assigned in case of a Pacquiao-Bradley rematch in November. “We don’t even know if there will be a rematch,” said Guanzon. “But if there is, I would suggest assigning neutral judges. If you assign a Filipino judge, an American judge and a judge from a neutral country, it will come down to how the neutral judge will score it. So why not assign three neutral judges?”

Guanzon said he will confer with GAB commissioner Aquil Tamano today and finalize the letter to be sent to NSAC chairman Raymond (Skip) Avansino and executive director Keith Kizer.

Meanwhile, Filipino boxing judge Danrex Tapdasan said the NSAC chose the three judges for the Pacquiao-Bradley fight from a list of 20 recommended by WBO president Paco Valcarcel. Tapdasan said the 20 judges are certified and licensed by the WBO. Roth, Ross and Ford are all based in Las Vegas.

“If you talk of neutrality, what is the standard of being neutral?” wondered Tapdasan. “Is it just a matter of what country you’re from? Credibility and competence are more important factors than neutrality.”

Tapdasan said Arum’s request for an investigation by the Attorney General has a different perspective from the WBO’s own review. “I think Mr. Arum wants to find out if there was some kind of a fix or conspiracy while the WBO wants to review the scoring, round by round, not with the view of reversing the decision but of establishing the confidence of the judges,” said Tapdasan. “Unless the Attorney General determines a basis for corruption, I don’t think there will be a reversal or nullification of the decision. If there is basis to establish corruption, the decision will be nullified and either the title is declared vacant or Manny retains the championship.”

In an Associated Press report, Kizer admitted he saw Pacquiao ahead at the end of the fight but isn’t calling for a review. Avansino said he’s content with the judges’ decision. But Arum said a federal commission will overrule the NSAC. “If the commission in Nevada will be intransigent and won’t cooperate, we have to have a federal commission, how they got there, how they operate – something is broke,” said Arum quoted by AP. “Any other sport – football, baseball – the commissioner’s office would investigate. I’m not saying hang anybody but let’s get clarity. Let’s get a complete report as to what happened. They could say, ‘hey, all three judges had a bad night.’ That’s possible, too. I’m not leaping to conclusions. I want to know as well as anybody else. The public saw the fight and they’re outraged. We need those responsible to investigate, to see what happened, how the judges could be so off. Was there any funny business going on? Or no funny business? Did they have a conversation with each other? We need to get clarity. The public is demanding it. It puts boxing in a very horrible light. I’m looking for the sport to do damage control and the only way it does damage control is if you do a full and complete investigation.”

Two US senators are also calling for an investigation. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. John McCain of Arizona want to get to the bottom of the stink. Reid was a former NSAC member and boxing judge while McCain authored the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. Arum has formally requested Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for a “full and complete inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the scoring of the fight.” A Fil-Am organization Migrant Heritage Commission of Washington, D. C., has sent an appeal to the NSAC for a probe. The Fil-Am group said “the NSAC owes the public their right to transparency and accountability in this billion dollar worth of sports that they strongly and passionately support.” The letter of appeal was signed by Migrant Heritage Commission executive directors Arnedo Valera, Grace Jaramillo and Jesse Gatchalian.

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