Boy, did ESPN do its best to advertise “free” boxing on Saturday night (our time).
By free, I believe the sports media giant was referring to the fact that the sport’s major events are usually pay-per-view instead of cable.
However, if you’ve ever heard of Spectrum – Oh, I know, repackaging Time Warner Cable surely brings our bills down, right? – you know that ESPN is anything but free when you peep your cable expenses each month.
But I digress.
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I’ll admit that there’s no way I would have watched the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight Saturday night (Sunday afternoon in Australia) if it was going to cost $50 or more on the spot. However, after watching I once again realized why boxing is a sport greatly struggling to return to the limelight these days.
I don’t watch a lot of boxing, but I’m pretty sure I can tell when someone is winning. Pacquiao came short of knocking out Horn in the ninth round and then somehow – despite nearly everyone else on planet earth having Pac-Man as the winner – the judges unanimously scored the fight as a victory for Horn in his home country of Australia.
115-113Two judges’ scores in the Pacquiao-Horn decision.
In a shocking – and controversial – turn of events, now Horn is the WBO welterweight champion.
117-111The third judge’s score in the decision.
Then it got worse.
While Horn being the victor didn’t pass the eye test, the stats didn’t do anything to support his win. According to ESPN stats, Pacquiao landed 90 more punches and connected on 17 percent more than Horn did.
“I thought I was coming forward more and landing the cleaner blows,” Horn told ESPN after the fight. “That’s just my opinion.”
Well, what was he supposed to say?
Meanwhile, Pacquiao didn’t exactly protest the result.
“I am professional. I respect the judges. He survived that [ninth] round,” he told ESPN.
I guess there’s no reason to be too upset. Pacquiao still walked away with a paycheck of at least $10 million, according to ESPN. Horn, according to ESPN, made $500,000.
I have to admit the bout was entertaining. Both had blood streaming down their faces at points, and it wasn’t like the Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight where the latter basically ran away from punches the whole time. Nope, this looked like an actual boxing match.
So, let’s recap.
The fight was “free,” there was blood and controversy erupted. That then led myself – and presumably many others – to watch post-bout coverage, which included fun rants from Stephen A. Smith and Teddy Atlas.
It was very entertaining, and there was already talk of a rematch. What more could ESPN have wanted?
Well, therein lies a problem.
This isn’t the WWE. While boxing tries to compete with the increasingly popular UFC, a night like this made the sport look foolish or perhaps even fixed.
In the short term, ESPN got exactly what it wanted.
In the long run, it portrayed the sport’s problems on “free” television.
We’re at a place where many consider football to be too brutal a sport because of the long-term effects of concussions and such. So what about boxing and UFC?
That being said, I don’t see these punishing sports going anywhere anytime soon.
That is, however, if they don’t run themselves out of relevance for other reasons.
And unfortunately boxing appears to be trying.
I was once again left disappointed by the sport. I deserve a payout for tuning in for so long.
Boxing better hope the Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight can save its face.
Otherwise, opinions like mine could soon become unanimous.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans wrap up a road trip with a 7 p.m. contest against the Down East Wood Ducks on Monday before returning for a three-game home set against the Buies Creek Astros from Tuesday through Thursday (all 7:05 p.m. starts). The squad then hits the road again for a four-game set against the Frederick Keys from Friday through Monday (game times are 7 p.m., 6 p.m., 6 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively). … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night (NBCSN). … The PGA Tour heads to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for The Greenbrier Classic from Thursday through Sunday. … The ATP and WTA tours begin play at Wimbledon on Monday.