Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Missed op­por­tu­nity for sport

- By Bill Dwyre Tri­bune com­men­tary

LAS VE­GAS — The morn­ing af­ter the fight be­came yuck-it-up time. The leg­endary P.T. Bar­num line seemed a per­fect fit: There is a sucker born ev­ery minute.

In­cluded in those suck­ers were the 16,507 who filled the MGM Grand Gar­den Arena, gen­er­at­ing a paid gate of $74 mil­lion, all to watch Floyd May­weather Jr. out­box Manny Pac­quiao. Also right there in Bar­num’s pocket were the mil­lions who paid $100 to watch on TV, and the me­dia hordes that en­cour­aged them to do so.

This was billed the Fight of the Cen­tury. As the Wall Street Jour­nal so aptly put it, it’s good that we have 85 years left to top it.

There was a se­ri­ous and sig­nif­i­cant side to what took place Satur­day night.

In­deed, on a night that might have saved the sport, or at least im­proved its brand, it was only fur­ther dam­aged. That was not for the ob­vi­ous rea­son of de­liv­er­ing a pre­dictable and bor­ing fight, but for the missed op­por­tu­nity it pre­sented.

More than an hour af­ter the fight, when most sane peo­ple were asleep, Pac­quiao’s team re­vealed, at the post-fight news con­fer­ence, that their boxer had fought with a right shoul­der in­jury.

The mus­cle tear re­port­edly oc­curred in early April, dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in the Wild Card Gym in Los An­ge­les, owned by Pac­quiao’s trainer, Fred­die Roach. The fighter’s ses­sions had been closed to the me­dia and all but a hand­ful of team mem­bers.

Roach said the in­jury ap­peared to be heal­ing. But at one point dur­ing train­ing, he had Pac­quiao work­ing only on left-hand-punch­ing drills.

Pac­quiao said in the news con­fer­ence that he rein­jured the shoul­der early in the fight and was not as ef­fec­tive af­ter that.

The sit­u­a­tion got even more com­pli­cated as the news con­fer­ence con­tin­ued. It be­came a game of who knew and when did they know it.

Bob Arum, Top Rank Boxing’s chief ex­ec­u­tive and Pac­quiao’s pro­moter, said they had sent a re­quest for Pac­quiao to be in­jected with painkiller­s for the fight. That in­jec­tion would be a cock­tail of three drugs, none banned, which in­cluded li­do­caine. Arum said the re­quest was sent to the Ne­vada State Boxing Com­mis­sion a week ago.

Satur­day night at 6:08 p.m., three hours be­fore the fight, Top Rank’s Bruce Tram­pler ap­proached the com­mis­sion to ask that the in­jec­tion be done. The com­mis­sion said no.

So Pac­quiao went out, rein­jured the arm, and much of the post-fight news con­fer­ence fur­thered the im­pres­sion that he fought mostly one-armed. It also in­cluded the im­pres­sion that, some­how, the Ne­vada com­mis­sion had done him wrong.

That im­pres­sion was quickly clouded fur­ther when, as the news con­fer­ence was end­ing and re­porters fil­ing out, com­mis­sion Chair­man Fran­cisco Aguilar took the mi­cro­phone to say his com­mis­sion knew noth­ing of any in­jury to Pac­quiao un­til Tram­pler’s re­quest. He said had they known in a timely mat­ter, they would have or­dered an MRI to con­firm the in­jury and al­lowed the in­jec­tion.

All of this raises the $64,000 ques­tion, or in the case of this fight, some $640-mil­lion ques­tions:

Why didn’t boxing post­pone the fight?

Why didn’t they bite the bul­let, face the in­evitable skep­ti­cism, and do the right thing?

Why did they take such a huge chance, know­ing that an in­jury such as this would re­duce Pac­quiao’s chances against May­weather to near zero and fur­ther turn off a gen­er­a­tion of fans?

Those who paid dearly to see this were al­ready feel­ing their pock­ets picked by the yawner fight they got. Now they are told they had paid for a yawner in­volv­ing dam­aged goods.

Arum was ques­tioned about the ethics of putting an in­jured boxer out there, and he said, “All ath­letes play with in­juries.”

He didn’t men­tion that when there are mil­lions of peo­ple not only watch­ing, but wa­ger­ing on th­ese ath­letes, full dis­clo­sure is es­sen­tial.

In mis­for­tune, there is of­ten op­por­tu­nity. Boxing had a chance to do the op­po­site of what it did. In­stead of spoil­ing its brand, it could have en­hanced it.

It needed to an­nounce a post­pone­ment with a clear and con­stant mes­sage — along with re­funds — that the sport needed to do what was right, that it would not sell a pig in a poke.

Boxing blew it. Its dream turned to dis­as­ter.

Arum was about to be pressed more on this eth­i­cal is­sue when the cham­pion ar­rived and took over the news con­fer­ence stage.

Soon, May­weather, who has nick­named him­self “Money,” was talk­ing about his pri­vate jet and show­ing re­porters the $100-mil­lion check he re­ceived af­ter the fight. The sport of boxing, as it cur­rently ex­ists, was on dis­play.

 ?? FRED­ERIC J. BROWN/GETTY IMAGES ?? Floyd May­weather Jr., left, eas­ily out­boxed Manny Pac­quiao late Satur­day night. Af­ter the fight, Pac­quiao’s team re­vealed that their boxer had fought with a right shoul­der in­jury.
FRED­ERIC J. BROWN/GETTY IMAGES Floyd May­weather Jr., left, eas­ily out­boxed Manny Pac­quiao late Satur­day night. Af­ter the fight, Pac­quiao’s team re­vealed that their boxer had fought with a right shoul­der in­jury.

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