What could have been one of boxing’s greatest bouts instead resulted in the sport’s latest shiner. Manny Pacquiao managed to give both boxing and the state of Nevada a black eye, not because of any punch he threw against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during Saturday night’s megafight at the MGM Grand Garden, but because he couldn’t punch hard enough to make the bout competitive.
Mr. Pacquiao, an enormously gifted and popular fighter who has boxed in Nevada more than a dozen times over the past 15 years, did not disclose to state officials that he had suffered a right shoulder injury in early April. On a prefight Nevada Athletic Commission medical questionnaire, Mr. Pacquiao’s camp was asked, “Have you had any injury to your shoulders, elbows or hands that needed evaluation or examination?” They checked “no,” even though they listed on the same questionnaire several drugs used to treat the shoulder injury.
It was a deliberate move to ensure the bout went forward to the financial benefit of the boxers — at the expense of what was left of the sport’s integrity.
Mr. Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, insisted during a Sunday news conference that state officials were aware of the fighter’s condition. But commission Chairman Francisco Aguilar said he learned of the issue just hours before the fight, when Mr. Pacquiao asked for an injection of anti-inflammatory medication in his shoulder. Mr. Aguilar refused the request because no injuries were disclosed on the prefight questionnaire.
Because he couldn’t receive that shot, Mr. Pacquiao said he couldn’t use his right hand.
Because he couldn’t use his right hand, his slim chances of beating the undefeated Mr. Mayweather were gone before the fight even started.
But the betting public didn’t know that. Nevada’s sports books didn’t know that, in setting odds and collecting tens of millions of dollars in wagers. And the millions of people who spent $99 to watch the fight on pay-per-view, expecting a fight worthy of such a price, didn’t know that.
Of course, the time for disclosure wasn’t before the fight. The time for disclosure was the moment the injury occurred. The injury was so serious that Mr. Pacquiao will have surgery this week in Los Angeles to repair a torn rotator cuff, the Review-Journal’s Steve Carp reported, a procedure that will keep him out of the sport for at least the rest of the year. The fight should have been postponed.
But Mr. Pacquiao and his promoters had no interest in calling off an event years in the making. They knew the bout was worth more than $100 million per fighter. And they knew, given the severity of the injury, that if the fight were postponed, there was a chance it wouldn’t happen at all. So Mr. Pacquiao kept quiet and fought hurt.
If the Nevada Athletic Commission allows Mr. Pacquiao’s deception to go unpunished, the organization will be complicit in the deceit. If the commission were to license Mr. Pacquiao for any future fight — especially a potential rematch against Mr. Mayweather next year — it would create the appearance of a conspiracy.
The first lawsuit against Mr. Pacquiao and his handlers was filed Tuesday in federal court. More will follow. Consumers don’t like feeling conned. They have a case.
At a minimum, Attorney General Adam Laxalt should investigate Mr. Pacquiao’s lack of disclosure and determine whether a perjury prosecution is warranted. And if this debacle is as cynical as it appears, the Nevada Athletic Commission should sanction Top Rank and never let Mr. Pacquiao box in Nevada again.