Boxing could take lesson from UFC

For a reminder that it never pays to paint a professional boxing event as a morality play, remember the silly white hat some people placed on Manny Pacquiao’s head.

You know, back before he failed to disclose he’d suffered a substantial injury during training for his welterweight championship bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr., a mismatch touted to rubes as the “fight of the century.” I’ve seen grandmothers mix it up more intensely while fighting for supermarket parking spaces, but let’s not digress.

There’s no truth to the rumor Pacquiao tore his right rotator cuff attempting to haul a large sack of cash back to the Philippines following Saturday’s 12-round cure for insomnia at the MGM Grand Garden. But you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

Pacquiao revealed his injury, suffered in early April during training, to the public only after the fight was in the books and he’d been outpointed by Mayweather. What initially sounded like a guy nursing a loss and drumming up an alibi turns out to have been a genuine rotator cuff tear he treated in secret with a variety of approved anti-inflammatories and other medications.

The fact Team Pacquiao and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum failed to ensure the Nevada Athletic Commission was in the loop means someone is bound to suffer an injury to their credibility.

If it’s Team Pacquiao and Arum, then the commission needs to be strong. If the commission failed to do its due diligence, then it’s time to print new business cards.

One thing that ought not to have surprised anyone is that the show went on despite the fact a shoulder injury could have endangered Pacquiao’s health and delayed the event. Fans and officials remained in the dark while millions of dollars in bets, tickets, hotel rooms and pay-per-view TV broadcast subscriptions were gobbled up.

Nevada Athletic Commission Chairman Francisco Aguilar swears he was unaware of the injury until shortly before the fight. Pacquiao failed to disclose the shoulder tear, which will require surgery, on the boxer’s pre-fight NAC questionnaire signed under penalty of perjury.

That’s what Perry Mason might have called evidence, but maybe that white hat was obstructing Manny’s view.

In the run-up to the fight, the fighters’ roles seemed clear: Super-flashy girlfriend-beater Mayweather wore the black hat, and Filipino hero Pacquiao wore white. What a laugh.

Manny’s making Floyd look good. That’s no mean feat.

No matter how it ends up, Las Vegas boxing suffers a black eye that can’t be fixed with surgery.

Juxtapose Pacquiao’s predicament with the assertive decision-making that took place just last week inside boxing’s rival for the title of great American blood sport, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The difference is remarkable.

Although the story received relatively little play during fight week, the UFC chose to suspend light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and strip him of his title following a car wreck in Albuquerque, N.M., in which it is alleged he twice fled the accident scene. The accident injured a pregnant woman, and Jones failed to render assistance.

From a marketing standpoint, think of Jones as Mayweather and Pacquiao combined. He was easily one of the UFC’s top draws and had lucrative national endorsement deals. He was on his way to becoming a huge sports star heading into his scheduled May 23 fight against Anthony Johnson at the MGM Grand.

With so few days before the show, the UFC could have mustered some plausible deniability and dummied up a hollow justification for letting the show go on. After all, this is America, and a person is innocent until proven guilty, and blah, blah, blah.

Instead, something refreshing happened. Before the tow trucks had removed the wreckage, calls were placed to UFC attorneys, including general counsel Lawrence Epstein. A short time later, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White were in the loop and gathering facts.

If boxing were a sport looking to learn a lesson, what came next might have been instructive. A day later, the UFC’s leaders boarded a jet to Albuquerque, where they met with Jones and his attorney, and informed the fighter he was being suspended indefinitely and stripped of his title.

There was no negotiation, no Alibi Ike routine, no waving of the U.S. Constitution. Jones was wished good luck and bounced on his wallet.

The show would go on without him.

Without Jones, in the short term the UFC figures to lose a bundle on its upcoming fight card. But its swift decision-making protected its brand and bolstered its credibility.

Meanwhile, boxing is left with mud on Money Mayweather and a silly white hat on Manny Pacquiao.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Find him on Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

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