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Manny Pacquiao's injury debacle a big hit to viewers, gamblers

Manny Pacquiao claimed he did not have a shoulder injury before the fight. | AP

BY LARRY HAMEL

For the Sun-Times

All of the people who put down money, legally, on Manny Pacquiao should be crying foul after, in essence, buying a pig in a poke.

Upon losing the so-called Fight of the Century on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Pacquiao admitted that he had suffered a shoulder injury 2½ weeks before the bout and that he was “fighting one-handed” against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pac-Man’s camp had attempted to have an anti-inflammatory shot administered to his shoulder in the dressing room, but officials of the Nevada State Athletic Commission refused the request, pointing out that Pacquiao had not revealed the shoulder injury in a signed pre-fight questionnaire.

As it turns out, Pacquiao will undergo surgery to repair a “significant tear” of the rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The surgery would sideline him for nine months to a year. Then the news hit that Nevada authorities are investigating whether to prosecute one of the most- decorated fighters in boxing history with perjury for failing to disclose the injury. Pacquiao faces the possibility of up to one to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 and the Nevada commission could levy a fine and ban him as well.

What’s more, Pacquiao and his handlers have been hit with a lawsuit asking for damages for anyone who paid to watch the fight because he failed to disclose the injury.

Granted, a purse of more than $100 million was at stake, so it’s not hard to understand why Pacquiao’s people would have fudged the issue of the injury, even after the commission wouldn’t allow their fighter to be shot up (shades of “North Dallas Forty”). That once-in-a-lifetime payday meant the fight must go on, even if his handlers knew that a one-armed Manny might have had as much chance of beating Mayweather, one of the best defensive fighters in boxing history, as Pickett’s Charge had of succeeding at Gettysburg.

The real question here is whether the public interest truly was served when, in the richest fight in boxing history, one of the combatants went into the ring having suffered a serious and debilitating injury weeks beforehand.

The sport of boxing, which had hoped the megamatch might spark a revitalization, instead suffered a 1-2 punch that blackened both eyes. What transpired simply was so wrong on so many levels.

The ticket-buying public, in person in Las Vegas and around the world on a pay-per-view broadcast that cost a whopping $99.95, paid through the nose for a stinker of a fight that universally was panned for its lack of action. Anybody who is familiar with a rotator-cuff injury (and, as a volleyball player, I’ve had one) understands what that does to the strength and range of motion of the arm in question. Telling stat on Saturday: Pacquiao punched about half as often against Mayweather as he usually does.

But the overriding issue is that the betting public wagered millions and millions in Nevada, legally, yet by all appearances, its interests were not protected by the state in which the fight was held and their money was bet. More money reportedly was wagered in Nevada sports books on this fight than any other in boxing history. Common sense tells us that if Pacquiao’s injury had been disclosed, people might have bet differently. I’ll put it this way: If Manny Pacquiao had been a horse in the Kentucky Derby, he very well would have been a vet’s scratch. This mess raises the question of whether, at least in the unique circumstance of a fight of this magnitude, both combatants should be required to pass a series of physical examinations by an independent doctor in the weeks leading up to the bout. Clearly, the fighters’ camps cannot be trusted to act in anything other than their own interests. Better safeguards need to be put in place to protect the public.

If this had happened in horse racing, those bettors holding losing tickets would be screaming fix.