I have wondered often since Saturday night about eyes.
How one set can see something entirely different from thousands of others within a bead of sweat flying from a boxer’s face.
How one opinion can be so incredibly contrasting to the majority.
How legacies hang in the balance of a single act of profound incompetence.
I forgot that she wasn’t a he, that boxing judge C.J. Ross was a woman and not a man. Big mistake. Huge brain cramp. Wrote a column about her after the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight on June 9, 2012. Won’t error in this regard again. You learn and move forward.
It’s a truth that Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer had the opportunity to embrace and didn’t.
I have wondered why since Saturday night.
Here’s the biggest problem with the fraud that was a Ross scorecard after Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s dismantling of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at the MGM Grand Garden: perception.
It wasn’t minutes after the announcement that Ross as one of three judges had scored Mayweather’s majority decision 114-114 when a respected member of the boxing media, he of decades covering world championship fights, wondered aloud:
“You know,” he said, “a lot of money came in late on the draw.”
And there it was, hanging in the air of disbelief surrounding Ross and her unfathomable judgment of how things transpired for 12 rounds. The mere hint of scandal, of impropriety, of a boxing judge being on the take.
I don’t believe the media member who mentioned odds on a draw truly thought there was a connection between Ross and a betting line that moved; I don’t think anything was so sinister about her decision.
But many have and will perceive it to be such, and that’s often as bad as the reality of a judge who simply wasn’t skilled enough to work fights at this level.
Ross on Tuesday took an indefinite leave of absence from judging fights, which is another way of saying she beat the commission to the punch before they officially put her on ice. It also means you never again will see her judge a fight near the magnitude of Mayweather-Alvarez. It’s for the best.
“When something happens like it did Saturday, the public will immediately think the fight was rigged in some way,” said Jeff Dotseth, who has covered boxing for more than 20 years and is a licensed judge for USA Boxing. “It’s bad for the sport, bad for Nevada, bad for Las Vegas, bad for the commission. That’s why so many people were shocked Kizer gave (Ross) the assignment. It was like sticking your hand in a bee’s nest and being shocked you get stung.
“It’s insane. Combat sports are already under the microscope. So many new sets of eyes who don’t follow boxing on a regular basis would tune in and watch that fight because it’s so big. It’s a Super Bowl of boxing, and, like the NFL with its officials and its biggest game, you should make certain your best judges are working the biggest fights.
“You should all be dressed in your best tuxedo. Keith Kizer came dressed in a tuxedo T-shirt by putting someone ringside to judge who didn’t have a clue what she was doing. He chose her over hundreds and perhaps thousands of others, and it only led to more conspiracy theories about boxing being dirty.”
I don’t blame Ross for taking the assignment. She has scored fights since the early 1990s. It’s like anything else. You want to reach the pinnacle of a chosen profession. The call comes, and you accept.
Kizer and a commission that rarely, if ever, questions his decisions are entirely different matters.
Kizer once told me it was his belief I took pleasure in writing negative things about others, that I purposefully went out of my way to degrade and criticize, which only made me wonder how in the world he had so much free time to read columns about UNLV football.
Kizer knew Ross erred badly in scoring Bradley a winner against Pacquiao, knew that only 15 months had passed between that laughable and globally controversial decision and the fight she would judge Saturday.
Hence, his decision to again assign Ross such a massive fight meant he either is incredibly arrogant or suffered from one of those brain cramps I mentioned having above.
I don’t think he had a brain cramp.
The entire mess of Ross scoring Mayweather-Alvarez a draw falls directly at Kizer’s feet, not to mention a commission that habitually has rubber-stamped his decisions like the post office might a letter to Santa Claus. The commission now is saying major changes in the selection process are coming. In this particular case, such proclamations hold the weight of an ant.
I believe Ross judged Saturday’s fight as much with her ears as her eyes, that she got caught up in the hysteria of a pro-Alvarez crowd. I also believe she did the the best job her skills allowed. The fallout couldn’t be a pleasant thing for anyone to endure, and her decision to step away from the judge’s chair should provide relief from such scrutiny.
But whether judged by a woman or man or goat, any card that proclaimed Mayweather-Alvarez a draw is damning evidence to the ineptness of the person scoring.
And yet Ross isn’t the one to blame most here. Kizer is.
And if that’s too negative a take for him, well, he has much bigger problems.
Like why he showed up to the gala wearing a tuxedo T-shirt.
And what the commission — or even governor — might do if it happens again.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.