LAS VEGAS -- Two days before Floyd Mayweather met Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand Garden for the WBA/WBC super welterweight titles, an ominous headline appeared on an MLive.com over a column by David Mayo.
Mayo is a columnist for the site and has covered Mayweather since the world's greatest boxer was 10 years old.
Floyd Mayweather at risk of a robbery? Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez fight sets up for one, read the headline.
On Saturday, when ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. read judge C.J. Ross' scorecard, it seemed that Mayo and the MLive.com copy editor who write the headline might have foretold the future.
Ross inexplicably called arguably the greatest performance of Mayweather's career a draw, scoring the one-sided bout 114-114. She was overruled by Craig Metcalfe (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112), so ultimately, her scorecard mattered little.
Except that it does matter, because in many cases, the careers of these fighters are in the hands of those judges. For Mayweather, a bad call would have ended his chase at history, a bid to become one of the few champions in boxing history to retire without either a loss or a draw. If Mayweather is undefeated and untied heading into the final bout of his career, it is going to be a massive news story and a mega-payday no matter who he fights.
A bad card like Ross' could easily ruin that.
Ross, predictably, defended her score in an outstanding piece by Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
When you score 12 rounds of boxing, you’re scoring 12 separate fights. From where I sat, there were a lot of close rounds and a lot of exchanges Canelo was able to win. Canelo was able to land his punches effectively from the inside and control the rounds I gave him. I have no problems with my scoring the fight the way I did.
Ross is correct in that a judge is scoring each round independently of the others. And sometimes, that is confusing to fans, particularly in a scenario where the rounds Fighter A won are clear-cut, but the rounds that Fighter B took are not so obvious.
It is difficult to see what Ross thought she saw, though. Alvarez was not winning many exchanges. The punch statistics back what the eyes saw. Mayweather landed 232 of 505 punches, connecting on 46 percent. Alvarez connected on 117 of 526 blows, just 22 percent.
Punch statistics can be misleading, but they back in this case what was happening in the ring: Mayweather was landing and Alvarez was not. Alvarez appeared hurt several times down the stretch and Mayweather seemed at times as if he were on the verge of a stoppage.
Ross, of course, is one of the two judges who scored the June 9, 2012, bout in Las Vegas for Timothy Bradley over Manny Pacquiao, scoring that aroused so much controversy that promoter Bob Arum asked the Nevada attorney general to investigate.
It was thus stunning that Ross was appointed on Sept. 4 to judge Mayweather-Alvarez. If a referee's error blows the Super Bowl, you can be certain he won't be working another one anytime soon.
I usually wind up vigorously defending judges, even when I disagree with their scorecards, because I know how difficult of a job it is, how little fans understand about the scoring process and because how quickly some people are to call fix.
There were, not surprisingly, many calls of fix after Ross' scorecard was announced, not only because the line on betting a draw at the MGM Grand had a major drop before the fight, from 30-1 down to 8-1, but because Ross' card ensured the bout would be a majority decision instead of a unanimous one. That meant that those who bet on a unanimous decision lost even though they clearly deserved to win.
People who don't understand scoring often use the mantra, "You have to take it from the champion," which is not correct. The champion's advantage is that he retains the belt in the case of a draw. That is it. As Ross said, each round is scored as an individual unit, and no weight should be given to which man is the champion when scoring the rounds.
I'm not, though, going to defend Ross. I can't. I don't think there was any corruption involved, as many are speculating. I think she made a mistake. But she made another major mistake when she erred on the Pacquiao-Bradley fight.
Some judges don't get two mega-bouts like Mayweather-Alvarez and Pacquiao-Bradley in a career; Ross got two in 15 months, though she's never had a reputation as the best judge in the sport.
Nevada commission chairman Bill Brady told Carp he regrets not having blocked Ross' appointment when it was suggested by executive director Keith Kizer.
I accept the blame for that. I, as chairman, let the public down. I could have done something about it, and we chose to go the way we did.
Brady deserves points for candor, but candor alone can't erase this stench. And Brady said he's going to try to prevent similar foul-ups.
I can guarantee there will be some changes. We have to protect the fighters, the viewing public and the betting public. We’re going to look at our vetting process. It needs to be more thorough. We have to get this right.
Not even Alvarez believes he won, or came close to winning, the fight on Saturday, yet Ross failed to admit a mistake and defended her card in a series of interviews.
That only adds to the problem. If she believes her card was correct, then her ability to judge a fight has to be brought into question. If she reviewed it again and realizes she made a mistake but is unwilling to say that publicly, then her judgment has to be questioned for granting interviews.
Thankfully, the fighter who deserved to win the fight on Saturday got the decision. But on Monday morning, the talk should be about celebrating a brilliant performance by one of the greatest fighters who ever lived.
Rather, the water cooler talk is about the incompetence of a judge who did not deserve the assignment she got in the first place.
That's reason enough to move the next mega-fight outside of Nevada. That would teach the state and its boxing leaders a lesson.