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Boxing world’s outrage will turn into acceptance; it always does

When HBO shows the rebroadcast of Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight at the MGM Grand Garden, the network should invite Marie-Reine Le Gougne to score it in the studio.

You remember Marie-Reine Le Gougne? She was The French Judge. Gave the 2002 Olympic pairs figure skating gold medal to the Russians instead of the Canadians. Touched off a major international incident, and claims of cheating and subterfuge and of being French.

In the aftermath of these charges, this outrage, this moral indignation, the sport of figure skating not only survived, it thrived.

Figure skating is the most popular sport in the Winter Olympics. Bigger than luge. Sweden could be playing Finland in hockey in a Group C barnburner and nobody watching NBC will see a single two-minute minor for high-sticking if the hockey game is up against some pixie wearing sequins doing salchows and lutzes.

Marie-Reine Le Gougne. The French Judge. She was the first one who came to mind when her contemporaries at ringside Saturday night got it all wrong.

I also thought of Jim Joyce, the umpire, making an incorrect call at first base and costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

Of Don Denkinger, another umpire, making another incorrect call at first base that might have cost the St. Louis Cardinals the World Series.

Of the referees and the timekeeper at Munich, who put a couple of more seconds back on the clock. Two or three times. Until the Soviets won.

Of Brett Hull’s skate being in Dominik Hasek’s crease.

Of Charles White fumbling on the 1-yard line in the Rose Bowl.

Of Eric Gregg ringing up Fred McGriff on a pitch that was at least a foot outside.

Of a 12-year-old kid named Jeffrey Maier reaching over the fence to catch Derek Jeter’s fly ball before Tony Tarasco, the Orioles’ right fielder, could do it.

Of Diego Maradona scoring the winning goal in the World Cup with a hand from God.

Of Mike Renfro being ruled out of bounds in the AFC Championship Game.

Of Colorado getting five downs to beat Missouri.

Of Michael Jordan pushing off on Bryon Russell before sinking the final shot.

Of Drew Pearson pushing off against the Vikings.

Of Chuck Knoblauch’s phantom tag.

Of referee Phil Luckett hearing "heads" when Jerome Bettis clearly said "tails" on Thanksgiving.

These were all bad calls, or no-calls, that affected outcomes of games.

The games survived.

Like it or not, controversy is good for sports. It gives us something to tweet about, to argue about over beers, to chat about at the water cooler with co-workers we might otherwise ignore or try to avoid.

This is why though nobody at NASCAR headquarters will admit it, people who work there secretly like it when a reporter sticks a microphone in Kurt Busch’s face after a mundane Nationwide Series race, and Busch goes off like a Roman candle, and somebody from one of the Carolinas who shouldn’t even have had a credential posts the video on YouTube.

The scientist Benjamin Rush, who died in 1813 – but would have had it 117-111 for Pacquiao – said that "controversy is only dreaded by the advocates of error."

Manny Pacquiao understands this. He also understands the sport that has made him rich and famous.

"Don’t be discouraged about boxing," he said about the three blind mice, or whatever fight promoter Bob Arum called the judges after he had cooled off. "There’s always next time."

The next time probably will be in November, at the rematch, and everybody will be talking about it, and a lot of people will cough up $54.95 to watch it on pay per view though the economy stinks, though they say they’ve had it with boxing.  

That is why boxing should be sending CJ Ross and Duane Ford and Jerry Roth flowers, with compliments from The French Judge.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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