Unbelievable. They did it to us again.
Just when you thought boxing couldn't possibly catch you by surprise one more time, that it couldn't steal another tiny piece of your sporting soul -- or that the overlords of the fight game wouldn't dare continue to sit idly by while it happened -- the sport steps on your foot and cracks you behind the ear. Again.
The verdict in Saturday's Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. welterweight title bout is just the most recent foul boxing has committed against its fans -- and although Bradley's stupefying split decision victory is one of the more egregious violations of recent vintage, it's not remotely uncommon.
And yet, while many swear that the situation worsens with every passing fight, to say dodgy decisions -- or nearly any of boxing's manifold troubles -- are a new trend would be disingenuous, an act of willfully shrugging off a hundred years and more of history. Even if Pacquiao-Bradley didn't pass your sniff test, if you -- like many -- suspect dirty dealings that tilted the scorecards in Bradley's favor, a single apocryphal outcome is hardly symbolic of a shift in core values of the business of boxing. Before today's self-interested promoters, sanctioning bodies and networks, we had shady "managers," connected bookies and the mob. Ah, progress.
Many authorities, fans and invested observers have expressed outrage at this latest insult, including trainer and ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas, who has publicly railed against boxing's injustices for years. After watching Saturday's fight, it's hard to argue against his point that the result -- and others like it -- must be attributed to either corruption or incompetence. Are there other possibilities? Would we suffer fewer of these stinkers by adding more judges at ringside, providing them the same TV feed granted to viewers and better defining the criteria for scoring a fight, as some have suggested?
We'd like to find out. In a week that seems as appropriate as any, ESPN.com is launching the granddaddy of all DIY projects in an effort to cure what ails boxing. We call it "Fixing The Fight Game," and we're enlisting experts, insiders and fans to help identify the sources of boxing's worst problems and, most important, to share their ideas and devise strategies for restoring a grand old sport that has fallen into disrepair.
The scorer's table is only where we'll start. FTFG will cover topics ranging from officiating to matchmaking to the messy sanctioning bodies to fighter safety and welfare, an issue we consider to be as important (and currently overlooked) as any other. We expect the project to grow organically, and the hope is that, with your help, we'll cover whatever ground necessary and arrive at actionable solutions to bring boxing -- for too long perceived as a back-alley sport -- into the light.
It's a challenge, we know. Call us hopeless optimists, though -- we don't consider it a quixotic quest. Boxing's troubles are entrenched, and there will be no quick fixes. But an open forum of ideas and a groundswell of support for change is a good place to start if the sport is to have a chance to get off the ropes. By sharing your thoughts in the comments sections of stories covering these issues and with ESPN Boxing on Twitter (using hashtag #FixFightGame), you can help to at least try to make it a fair fight.