As beneficiaries of political patronage, you would think members of the Nevada Athletic Commission would appreciate the politics of perception.
They clearly do not.
That opinion ought to be unanimous.
The commissioners and Executive Director Keith Kizer displayed their undeniable lack of savvy beyond any reasonable doubt when they allowed C.J. Ross to be a judge for Saturday night’s world junior middleweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. By now, the emperor penguins of Antarctica have heard that Ross somehow scored the lopsided fight a draw.
This, of course, is the same Ross who was among the judges on the wrong side of the June 2012 welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. That fact provides enough fodder for the nation’s sports writers to draw and quarter her from here to New Delhi, but that misses the more important point.
This wasn’t her first, or second, contrary call. The statistics mavens at BoxRec.com note a series of odd Ross decisions in major fights dating to 2002. Among those questionable calls are several in which Ross time and again managed to judge fights a draw.
BoxRec, meet train wreck: The Burgos-Cruz fight in November 2011, Agbeko-Mares in August 2011, Judah-Jastrzebski in July 2011, Mayol-Gallo in May 2011, Holt-Tackie in February 2008 and Kelley-Soto in July 2002.
Good Dr. Seuss didn’t draw that much. And Oliver Wendell Holmes dissented less.
Of course, it’s easy to play armchair judge. It’s also true that even the best judges in the business can differ on the ebb, flow and outcome of a fight. Not that Ross can reasonably be considered among the game’s elite judges.
But the question isn’t whether C.J. Ross is a top boxing judge. The question is whether the NAC ought to have placed Ross in a position that might embarrass the state of Nevada.
The NAC has several stated duties, but its most important job is to ensure the quality and integrity of major professional fights that generate millions for Nevada’s economy. An essential part of that job is to make sure the best referees and judges are working the fights that attract a worldwide audience.
Ross is taking the heat, but it’s the NAC that failed to appreciate the trouble it courted by having her on the apron under such an intense spotlight. Somehow, the commissioners and Kizer failed to see the obvious potential for a political embarrassment.
Had her call been made in an undercard bout — even one for a lesser title — the controversy probably would have been reduced to a note in a boxing column. But this wasn’t just another fight.
This was a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. It doesn’t take a pugilistic Ph.D. to understand that when it comes to major boxing events, Mayweather is the undisputed king. He pumps life into Nevada’s economy. He’s a gold mine with a motor mouth.
And the NAC surely knows that. Still it elected to send in Ross.
Ever the gentleman, NAC Chairman Bill Brady defended his judge, even at the expense of his own credibility, calling her overall record exceptional.
“She’s done many fights,” Brady said Monday. “She’s done title fights. We can really look at an outstanding record that she’s had. She’s been a great judge. But in a fight of this magnitude, everyone notices everything that isn’t maybe perfect.”
Was she the best judge Nevada had to offer?
Without directly criticizing the NAC’s decision-making, Brady confirmed the commission is forming a judge selection committee in an effort to add “a few more judges. We want to go out and find a couple more judges, just to add to our numbers. We want to make sure we get the best in the world.”
He added, “In hindsight, we wish there wasn’t a one card that called it a draw.”
Obviously the NAC chairman possesses the gift of understatement.
C.J. Ross is making headlines, but it’s the NAC’s judgment that should be questioned.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at email@example.com or call (702) 383-0295.