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Exclusive: NSAC Head Keith Kizer Discusses Controversial Pacquiao vs. Bradley Decision


(“I feel bad for the fighters and the judges for being a part of perceived controversy, and I feel bad for Arum being falsely accused…but I’m glad there are passionate fans out there.”)

The June 9th boxing title fight in Las Vegas between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley ended in controversy after Bradley was awarded a split decision despite being routed in nearly every round. Last Saturday many more fans got to see the fight when it was replayed for free on HBO. The sanctioning body for the match’s title belt, the WBO, has announced that they are reviewing the fight, and promoter Bob Arum called for the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to be investigated after he himself was accused of somehow being involved in corrupting the judges decision.

Basically, it’s another mess for boxing and its beleaguered fans to sort through. We thought it would be a good time to check in with the Executive Director of the NSAC, Keith Kizer, to discuss judging in boxing, the controversial decision itself, how he saw the fight and what, if anything, the state commission is doing to review the fight.
- Elias Cepeda

CagePotato: Thanks for taking time to discuss judging in the Manny Pacquiao vs. Tim Bradley bout. Before we get into that fight specifically, let’s set up some general context. Can you describe how judges are selected in Nevada? Not for specific assignments but overall. How does someone become a judge in Nevada?

Keith Kizer: There are three different ways, basically. Sometimes we bring in outside judges for events. For example, on that very card we had several judges from California. What happens in those instances is I’ll call [California State Athletic Commission Head] George Dodd and ask him to give me a couple names of great judges. He is really good about doing that for us. So what happens after that is I have those judges included on the list that I give to the sanctioning bodies and fighter camps, as I did with this event.

But we also have a regular roster of judges. Another way that people can become Nevada judges is when there might be somebody who is a world class judge but lived elsewhere and moved to Nevada. That doesn’t guarantee that they would be added to our roster, but when there is an opening sometimes they are chosen.

This happens with refs as well. This is what happened with Joe Cortez and Tony Weeks. But what usually happens is that people work the amateur ranks as judges here, similar to how people work the minor leagues before moving on to Major League Baseball. They can work the amateurs for years and when it gets to the point where we need to expand the pool, someone is shown the door, someone dies, or we are just getting more fights than there have been, I ask Don Barry, who is the head of amateurs here, to give me the names of his top three judges, in terms of skill and professionalism, and I meet with them, look at their resumes and might have them shadow for several fights.

I’ll have them score the fights they watch while shadowing and give me their scorecards at the end of the night, compare with the official scorecards see if there is anything they messed up. At that time, let’s say someone has proven themselves and it is time to expand, I’ll get with a chairman, have a chairman probably interview that person as well and then put them on the agenda of a meeting like we do with fighters. There, they discuss what they’ve done, question them and have the commission decide whether or not to license them.

CP: You mentioned “skill and professionalism,” as necessary characteristics for judges. We’ll get into skill a bit later, but I want to talk about the professionalism piece. One of your judges who scored the fight for Bradley, Judge Ford, said in an interview that Bradley gave Pacquiao a “boxing lesson.” It is one thing to explain your reasoning for judging the fight a certain way, but that read a bit excessive. Was that an professional thing for him to say?

Kizer: If you read the full quote, Judge Ford was saying that in the rounds he gave to Bradley, Bradley out-boxed Pacquiao, not that Pacquiao was dominated. And he felt that Bradley won more of those rounds than Pacquiao won. In Duane’s opinion Bradley out-boxed Pacquiao. That was probably a loaded term he used but if you look at the full context, it makes sense, if that’s what he saw.

CP: So you don’t think that he was being unprofessional in saying that Bradley gave Pacquiao a “boxing lesson?”

Kizer: I think it’s a loaded term that he shouldn’t have used, but with the whole context of what he says it makes sense. If that is what he saw, then it makes sense. And a lot of other people saw it that way, too. Thomas Hauser and Brian Kenny and others scored it for Bradley and some like Jake Donovan scored it slightly in favor of Pacquiao. This is a situation, I believe, where if Harold Lederman hadn’t scored it so wide then there wouldn’t be as much outrage as there is.

CP: The WBO announced that they are reviewing the fight. What can and what is the Nevada State Athletic Commission doing in regards to reviewing the fight?

Kizer: As you know, there’s no ability to overturn a fight. The judges’ decision is final. So there is no formal review process. That being said, the officials themselves [the judges] review it, especially when there’s a controversial split decision. They review the film and see why they disagree with their colleagues and they plan to do that. I kind of jumped on the train and told them that I want to be a part of that when they review it as well.

CP: So it won’t be a review with any potential teeth to overturn or anything like that, it is more of professional development?

Kizer: Yeah.

CP: Can judges be penalized or fired or anything like that for doing a poor job?

Kizer: Oh sure. They are licensed like anyone else so those licenses can be taken away. Judges could all be subject to suspension. You might have seen some of them judging here in Nevada years ago and now you don’t see them anymore. Sometimes they see the writing on the wall or I show them the writing on the wall and they move on. With referees, they sometimes see the writing pretty well but for some reason judges sometimes need a push out the door and I’ve had to do that about a dozen times in the six years I’ve been the director.

Judges are not evaluated by any single fight. Let’s say there’s a big fight and a judge doesn’t do that well, maybe we move them to the undercard because they need time to hopefully bounce back and they are not going to do that with some big-time fight. In those cases, I’ll watch them very closely. If it is still the case, that’s it. That process, from start to finish could be months or it could be weeks.

CP: It doesn’t sound like any of the judges who scored the fight for Bradley will be punished, though. It doesn’t sound like you have an issue with their scores, is that correct?

Kizer: With these judges, it is not just about one fight. When the camps and promoter heard they would be the judges, they were all very happy with the referee and the three judges. They have all had stellar careers. We look at this as a whole. These are great judges. That’s why [Top Rank] promoter Bob Arum initially said he was shocked by the decision. Whether or not I scored the fights the same as the judges, that is not the important question to me. I have no issues with the judges. The important question to me is, ‘are they still very good judges?’ To determine that I look at the last year or two overall, for them, not just that individual fight itself. That isn’t to downplay the importance of any one fight, because they are all important. But when we are talking about someone’s professionalism and competence, we need to look at their performance comprehensively.

CP: That seems fair, in terms of evaluating competence and skill but what of the specter of corruption? What would you have to see from a judge in a fight to arose suspicion that there is something more sinister than differences of opinion or competence issues at play?

Kizer: Oh, I don’t know. I have never seen it so I don’t know how to answer that. If you’re asking me what would it take to freak me out, I’ve never freaked out before in this job so I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, a decision where guys like Thomas Hauser, Jake Donanvan and others had it pretty much dead even is not a fight that would concern me. Those are all well-versed guys.

After the fight Bob Arum was complaining about the decision but was still saying that these are good judges and that he was just really shocked at the decision. He scored it for Pacquiao but said that the judges just had an off-night and that there was nothing untoward going on. Then Teddy Atlas went on to say all this stuff that ended up not being the case, about Pacquiao being near the end of his contract with Arum and insinuating that Arum had something to do with the decision to pressure Pacquiao to stay with him. It was only after that that Bob Arum started saying that the commission needed to be investigated and all that. Teddy libeled Bob and his answer was just to libel some other people (laughs). That’s never the answer.

I had the fight scored 7-5 for Pacquiao. I had it 7-2 for Pacquiao after nine and then I thought Bradley won the 10th and 12th and eeked out the 11th. With close fights that I scored differently I’ll often call judges to the side and say, ‘explain to me the way you got that.’ I did it with the Nam Pham vs. Leonard Garcia fight. I had it 3-0 the other way as the result. It wasn’t until later when I started getting letters from knowledgeable writers and observers saying that they had it 2-1 and that it was a lot closer than I had said and thought.

Fights are scored round by round and sometimes a guy can win the rounds he wins by a wide margin but the other guy barely eeks out more total rounds and wins the fight. I think the last time we had this much outcry was with the second Shane Mosley vs. Oscar De La Hoya fight. At the time Arum was calling for the FBI to investigate. But after all these years, no one really talks about that one much and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who will say that it wasn’t a close fight. De La Hoya clearly won the first part of the fight but Shane rallied and De La Hoya sort of took his foot off the gas.
I really think that if Arum himself hadn’t been accused very poorly by Atlas and then reacted defensively by accusing us, this fight wouldn’t be as much of a controversy as it is.

CP: So is it fair to say, then, that you are not really concerned with the image of the Nevada State Athletic Commission after the judging controversy in the Pacquiao/Bradley fight?

Kizer: I’m always concerned about the image and I feel bad for the fighters and the judges for being a part of perceived controversy, and I feel bad for Arum being falsely accused but I don’t feel bad about people being able to express their passion and yelling ‘robbery.’ I’ve gotten emails from people telling me that they had it even and can’t believe people are doing this, but I’m glad there are passionate fans out there. Sometimes they are rabid and crazy and it’s called slander (laughs), but I’m glad they are passionate. I just think there are a lot of people jumping on in a bandwagon effect.

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smellypiratehooker- June 21, 2012 at 3:40 am
" Sure Mr Kizer! I'd love to buy some of your snake oil. Do you take Common sense and rational as payment."
imakaiw- June 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm
Keith Kizer is not fit for the job as NSAC Head. Mr. Kizer, resign, please!
fastvjetaux- June 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm
he keep mentioning those very few judges who scored for bradley. and saying they are very good judges, he saw those guys and count and trust them.. but he didnt saw and didnt listen to millions of people. ok lets say those millions of people are just jumping on bandagon or mislead by commentators in what they are trying to feed reason to public. but how about those judges, media and fighters and even himself whos also masters of boxing and with high credibility who also in ringside who scored for pacquiao.. have he even saw those or hes thinking hes mislead? cmon you have your own eyes you dont need to be highly train or aged 70 up to saw whos the real winner, kaiser just trying to justify those obviously blinded judges because if they reverse it also could hurt the ego and credibilty of his management and his commssion.. hes trying to find and see very few people who saw bradley won. but blinding himself to see and listened to millions of people.. very funny.. very stupid leader and very idiot person..
jas.pcppi- June 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm
your no backbone. what's your job purpose if you can't stand for what is right and to correct mistakes?
Mofo- June 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm
Hey CP when can we do away with this super gay "Thanks for posting!" Javascript popup. I swear I have never seen such a thing in my life. Where did you even get the idea for that nonsense? Thank you for reminding me to vote for my favorite comment every single day of my life, because without that popup reminder that I am forced to click on before I can proceed with your website, why, surely I would forget to vote for my fave! As if you even give a shit if we vote for our favorite comments. You're not paying attention to that vote anyway.
Mofo- June 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm
I couldn't read three sentences of this fucking nonsense before throwing up on my monitor. Now I can't make out the rest of the words. Fuck you Keeth Kaiser. I won't do you the respect of spelling your stupid name correctly you dried up old turd. Look at his stupid fucking face. What a piece of shit. Stop weaseling your way onto every episode of TUF while I'm at, no-one wants to see your ugly mug ya fuckin palooka.
Oklahoma- June 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm
Kinda funny, the 5 judges have absolutely no influence whatsoever and it's sad... Even though Bradley has the belt now undeservingly because the judges were probably watching Matlock instead of the fight it will still remain in stone that way? So frickin stupid. The right thing to have been done would have been for them to say "yeah Pacquiao deserves his belt back." give it to him and order a rematch then... Boxing is crippled by some necrotizing plague...
white boy- June 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm
you talk shit Mr Kizer... makes no sense at all..
Mr_Misanthropy- June 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm
Poo-tee-weet?
BOIEMACHO- June 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm
STOP THE BS MR KIZER. PACQUIAO WON ACCORDING TO THE EYES OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO'VE WATCHED THE FIGHT AND NOBODY CAN DENY THAT EXCEPT YOU AND YOUR THREE CROOKED JUDGES. YOU ARE DECEIVING THOUSANDS OR MAYBE MILLIONS OF BETTING PUBLIC. THEY LOST THEIR MONEY BECAUSE OF YOUR DECEITFUL ACT. KARMA WILL GET BACK TO YOU PEOPLE.
YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF.
affleap- June 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm
The judges involved in this controversy is at their mid seventies. Their mental and physical faculties are in the diminishing return. This must be the reason why they perceive the fight the other way contrary to what have been perceived by many. Kiser should have assigned much younger judges than this two. There should have been age limit for judges. They should undergo physical and mental examination if they will be able to do their job properly.
rolyabella- June 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm
One thing I can promise. My family, relatives and friends
will never watch boxing judged by a Nevadan. Bye.
MrEdbers- June 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm
Better Pacquiao never fight inside Nevada,the sin city of Las Vegas is full of MAFIA including Kizer and Arum...Dela Hoya said,"Bradley return the belt to Pacquiao coz you are not deserving! This is the Shameful history in boxing happened in Las Vegas!!
Get Off Me- June 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm
Kizer pictured above administering test to prospective NSAC judges....80% saw five fingers and were subsequently liscensed.
dranokills- June 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm
I don't give a damn how much sugar coating double talking politico mouthing Keith Kizer puts on this, Pacquiao got ass-raped out of his title........which is fine with boxing I guess, cause that was the only goddamn way they were gonna take that strap. It's cool that cheaters and cowards found a way, cause it just drives another nail in the casket to bury that 1 trick pony sport once and for all.
towelie- June 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm
you are full of shit Kizer. you mention like three guys. click here and see the 52 other guys that scored it differently. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manny_Pacquiao_vs._Timothy_Bradley

you've never seen it so you don't freak out, or suspect anything? that is the dumbest answer i have ever heard. also ask him what he has put in place and will they ever change the rules to allow reviews of fights to be overturned. I understand that this would ruin bookies, but come on, fights are about the sport. the Jon Jones vs. Hammill fight should have been overturned as well. What have you put into place to combat a referee trying to communicate with a def man? I'm guessing that never happened before, but it did happen in this instance. Are you guys progressive at all, or just fucking lazy?
Elias- June 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm
FT, it isn't up to Kizer to give Pacquiao an immediate rematch. I mean, the state sanctions all bouts and I don't see why they wouldn't sanction that one, but other than that... And Cecil Peoples is a California licensed ref and judge, fyi
Fried Taco- June 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm
And please, next Kizer interview, ask him why Cecil hasn't seen the writing on the wall.
Fried Taco- June 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm
So is he going to give Packy an immediate rematch? Isn't that how it is supposed to work?
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