The Combat Sport that Cannot Slip its Own Punches (Part 1 of 2)

In What Should Be a Year of Celebration for Professional Boxing, There is Instead Endless Legal and Regulatory Scrutiny of Many of Its Biggest Developments.

A few months ago, 2015 looked as if it would be a watershed year for professional boxing in the United States. Undefeated heavyweight contender Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder won a portion of the heavyweight championship and emerged as the first serious American threat in a long time to fellow champion Wladimir Klitschko. Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. and Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao finally signed to face each other in the “Fight of the Century” following five years of on-and-off negotiation and heartbreak for boxing fans. And Al Haymon, the manager/advisor to nearly 200 of professional boxing’s most highly regarded prospects, contenders, and champions launched “Premier Boxing Champions,” an expansive showcase that promised to bring elite level matches back to prime-time on NBC, CBS, ESPN2, and other networks, and thus into the consciousness of the public at large for the first time in decades.

While Wilder remains on course, Mayweather-Pacquiao was widely regarded as an underwhelming affair and has become a veritable cornucopia of legal and regulatory controversies in its aftermath. In addition, a call was recently made for Al Haymon to be investigated by the U.S. government for suspected violations of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (the Ali Act). Moreover, Haymon, who advises both Wilder and Mayweather, was just named in a $300 million lawsuit by Golden Boy Promotions, in which it is alleged that he has not only violated the Ali Act, but has also restrained trade through his business practices. So, how is it that professional boxing has, once again, failed to get out of its own way and ran itself into myriad legal and regulatory issues when the lights have shined most brightly on it? We’ll have more on Haymon’s story tomorrow, but a quick look at Pacquiao-Mayweather follows.

Pacquiao-Mayweather

Boxing fans across the world were aghast at the seemingly amateurish, one-dimensional effort put forward by Manny Pacquiao in his long-awaited bout with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.  on May 2, 2015. Never in his long career had Pacquiao seemed so thoroughly befuddled and generally clueless in the ring. Indeed, his prior high-profile losses were either overt robberies (i.e., his first bout with Timothy Bradley) or bruising battles where Pacquiao gave it his all and either went out on his shield (i.e., his crushing 2012 KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez) or lost a close decision (i.e., his 2005 decision loss to Erik Morales). A purported explanation for Pacquiao’s performance quickly emerged, however: Pacquiao had sustained a torn right rotator cuff two-and-a-half weeks before the bout, which hampered his ability to throw his right hand and keep up his usual work rate. The heat has been on Team Pacquiao ever since.

Aside from the obvious question of why Team Pacquiao did not opt to postpone the bout, a more important question, which can stand to get Team Pacquiao in a world of legal and regulatory trouble, is why Pacquiao’s shoulder injury was not disclosed to the Nevada State Athletic Commission prior to the bout. And not only was it not disclosed, either Pacquiao, or someone who completed a pre-fight Commission questionnaire for him, checked “no” in response to the question of whether he had shoulder injury. Explanations have been bandied about, and some might question why the Commission did not investigate further when it was made aware that Pacquiao had been on several pain medications prior to the bout. Whatever the case, the end result, on its face, was that the box checked “no” constituted a knowing misrepresentation to a government agency. The fall-out thus far? Talk of a potential suspension and/or fining of Pacquiao by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, a possible criminal investigation for perjury, and multiple class-action lawsuits against Team Pacquiao by individuals who allege that Pacquiao’s injuries were fraudulently concealed from fans who brought tickets to the fight, ordered the fight on pay-per-view, and/or bet on the fight.

Tomorrow, we’ll cover the story of Al Haymon’s situation, which has not garnered as much media attention as the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. 

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