Here are the judges’ scorecards for Saturday’s fight, a clear unanimous decision for Floyd Mayweather over Manny Pacquiao. If you are a normal human being, there’s nothing notable here; just a cool artifact of a megafight, and some relief in the knowledge that the judging accorded with reality—no given in this sport. If you are particularly conspiracy-minded, however, you see indisputable proof that the fight was fixed.
The “corner” notations above each column’s scores have Mayweather in the red corner and Pacquiao in the blue corner. This is the opposite of what actually happened, as can be seen in photos and video of the fight: Mayweather was in the blue corner, while Pacquiao was in the red.
This, according to the theory currently rocketing around the web, social media, Reddit, and our tips inbox, is a smoking gun. Its proponents believe that the three judges actually scored the bout a victory for Pacquiao, but because the corner notation was reversed, inadvertently awarded the fight to Mayweather. And like in the classic Marisa Tomei accidental-Oscar conspiracy theory, once the (incorrect) results had been announced, officials were supposedly too embarrassed to correct the error.
To accept this theory, all you have to do is allow that all three judges mistakenly listed their scores below the corner colors, ignoring the actual fighters’ names on the scorecard; gave the clearly Mayweather-won rounds to Pacquiao and vice-versa (Manny’s fourth, for example, which was the most commanding single round for either side); and that neither they nor anyone else realized the problem or spoke up once the decision was announced. Conversely, you could accept that someone accidentally wrote the “R” and the “B” in the wrong boxes when copying from the individual cards to the NSAC’s composite scorecard.
You would think common sense would win out here. On the other hand, there is this shoddily made graphic:
This is how conspiracy theories are constructed now, tending toward the visual and eminently shareable, if also the not-quite intelligible. Amateurish and liberal use of arrows and circles draw the eye to supposed anomalies, counting on gullible, suggestible, or outright sympathetic audience members failing to discern between something being highlighted and something worth highlighting. It is MS Paint as testimony.
With an arrow, a contrail becomes a chemtrail, an engine becomes a sinister aerosol sprayer. With a circle, Beyoncé becomes a worshipper of Baphomet. Gamergate becomes the victim of a vast and powerful cabal. September 11th becomes an inside job. An innocent man becomes a marathon bomber.
And Manny Pacquiao becomes the rightful winner of a fight in which tens if not hundreds of millions of people saw him dominated—that is, if you believe a widespread campaign of silence and complicity is a more logical explanation than one set of transposed letters.