Bum’s Rush: The Rabbit Hole

Okay, hear me out.

I’ll admit that I’m a Canelo Alvarez partisan. In an era of boxing that is hurting for a charismatic public face, he’s a bona fide star (those awful Tecate commercials with Sylvester Stallone notwithstanding). He can be both a knockout artist and a tactician when the moment calls, and he brought both talents last night to a riveting 12-round bout with Gennady Golovkin, whom, though he is a fearsome undefeated middleweight and the jabbing-est man in the sport, I’ve always thought of as a one-trick pony, if not a highly effective novelty act. In short, I recognize my bias when it comes to Canelo; I thought he would win, but really I wanted him to win, even as I did not want to see GGG lose. So, in theory, a draw seems like a proper outcome.

But GGG won that fight. I’m not saying that Canelo didn’t bring his heart and brain to the ring. He did, and the fact that it Golovkin had to work as hard as he did for thirty-six minutes speaks to Canelo’s formidableness and ought to erase any lingering criticisms (if such still exist) that he’s a pretty boy with good matchmaking skills. But aside from Rounds Two and Three, and a rally in the final round (or the final three rounds, if you’re charitable), Golovkin won every round with an inspired combination of head and body shots, ring management, and an iron chin. Both men earned their keep, but Golovkin won the night. Malarkey Blog judged the fight 116-112, GGG.

But from the three judges, we got a Draw, and an odd one too. Don Trella scored it 114-114; I don’t agree, but I can understand why he might feel that Canelo won more rounds than I thought he did, particularly toward the end of the fight. Dave Moretti’s score was 115-113 for Golovkin; again, that’s closer than I saw the fight as being, but I’m willing to live in that world. Adelaide Byrd scored it 118-110, Canelo; with all due respect, what the fuck is this? As a Canelo fan, I would have loved to have seen a fight where he won ten of twelve rounds against GGG, but that was not the fight we saw. Byrd has judged over 400 professional fights in 20 years, and has had her share of controversial scores. But she could not possibly have been watching the same fight as the rest of us. She’s no amateur; she was not confused about the score card, like some Florida voter circa 2000 pondering a hanging chad. So the score must have been deliberate, either because she legit thought Canelo had won by such a wide margin, or because…

Ever since the corporations took over Vegas in the ’90s, there hasn’t been much corruption in boxing—at least not of the On the Waterfront, “Tonight ain’t your night” variety. Today’s corruption comes more in the form of matchmaking, where a fighter determined to be valuable has his reputation and record inflated by a series of lopsided matches. Think Deontay Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne in 2015, a fight that happened purely in order for Showtime to tout Wilder as the American hero of post-Klitschko heavyweights. His victory over Stiverne was pre-determined, not by Stiverne taking a dive, but by Stiverne being in the ring at all. That, and performance enhancing drugs, are the current scourge of boxing; the crime is all outside the ring.

I submit that what happened last night was a sophisticated form of outside-the-ring corruption, fiendish not just for the confluence of motive and opportunity, but that it required no collusion, nor any legal violation. All it took was one judge and her scorecard.

Consider the following facts:
1. Adelaide Byrd is the wife of famed referee Robert Byrd.
2. Refs for PPV fights (such as Robert Byrd) can make upwards of $20,000 per fight.
3. Robert Byrd is 74 years old.

None of these facts, taken separately, are all that remarkable. Consider, though, that Adelaide would naturally have a vested interest in the financial success of her husband. And that “financial success” for a referee would mean being the third man in the ring for the biggest fight of the year, either for the main event or even for the undercard, as Byrd was last night. Consider that Byrd refereed last month’s Mayweather-McGregor fight and is one of just a handful of referees regularly called upon for big-ticked PPV matches. And that Adelaide, in her power as a judge for Canelo-GGG, could impact the outcome of the fight, as well as the likelihood of a rematch.

But a Canelo-GGG rematch was likely to happen anyway, no matter what the outcome, you might say. That’s true. These are the two biggest middleweights in the world right now, and really each other’s only competition. A rematch was inevitable. However, a draw makes it Unfinished Business, with each fighter now having something to prove, and much more likely to rush into a rematch. If Canelo had won or lost unanimously, he might not be terribly impatient to get back into the ring with GGG. A rematch might not have happened in 2018. Now, it is all but guaranteed to happen within the next year, possibly on Cinco de Mayo weekend. And remember, Robert Byrd is 74. Perhaps he’s looking to retire, and is looking for another big fight before he does. And without technically violating any rule, his wife could make that happen by swinging her score wildly to one side on a very evenly matched fight, thereby increasing the likelihood of a draw or split decision, creating a situation where a rematch not just might happen, but has to happen, and soon.

Adelaide Byrd used her legal authority as a fight judge to skew the Canelo-GGG decision, increasing the urgency for a PPV rematch within the next year, which would be refereed in some capacity (either main even or undercard) by her husband Robert.

Or she fell asleep and just filled out the score card as she thought it might have gone. That could also be the case, and just as likely.




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