By Cliff Rold
It’s a tricky word. They can be preached as a virtue but, in practice, can be difficult to come by. In boxing, the consequence of judges turning in scorecards most of the seeing world regards as contemptibly wrong has been…
Not this time.
On Wednesday, the following news appeared prominently in the headlines. As reported at BoxingScene:
BoxingScene.com has received a copy of a letter dated July 13, 2011, from Aaron Davis, the commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, advising promoters Dan Goossen and Golden Boy Promotions, that all three judges from last Saturday's junior middleweight bout, involving Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara, have been indefinitely suspended.
Citing concerns over their scoring, Davis informed the promoters that his agency placed judges Al Bennett, Hilton Whitaker and Don Givens on suspension and all three will require additional training upon returning to boxing. After what appeared to be a dominating victory for Lara, the three judges scored a majority decision win for Williams, with scores of 116-114 (Givens), 115-114 (Whitaker) and 114-114 (Bennett). HBO had the fight scored 117-111 for Lara, as did BoxingScene.com.
Davis also noted that his agency found no evidence of corruption, but he did admit that his agency "did not provide our best officiating on July 9.”
Davis is right. They did not. His comments are in line with those of HBO unofficial official Harold Lederman on Saturday night. Near the end of the broadcast, as the scoring controversy was discussed, Lederman pointed out the lack of experience the judges for Lara-Williams had.
No mention was made of the lack of experience pretty much everyone else who watched the fight has being a fight judge. Just about everyone who didn’t have a pencil and paper got it right.
Everything else is nonsense. Want proof?
Three judges just got suspended. The last time that happened…
Go ahead. Think of something. In 1993, Franz Marti and Mickey Vann somehow saw Julio Cesar Chavez draw with Pernell Whitaker in a fight where the consensus in most of the Milky Way Galaxy was Chavez lost, at least, eight rounds.
In 2009, Paul Malignaggi openly worried about the use of judge Gale Van Hoy before his first bout with Juan Diaz. Van Hoy ended up giving Diaz ten rounds in a fight most found razor close and many in the press scored for Malignaggi. Van Hoy later defended the score, even acknowledging he might have been off a ‘round or two.’
Whoops. My bad.
Eugenia Williams scored 1999’s Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield I for Holyfield, notably scoring round five against Lewis. That’s worth remembering here because Lewis’s best round may have been the fifth and, as replays showed, Williams had a great view of the action. It’s worth remembering because, this past Saturday, Lara had maybe his best round of the fight in round eleven. Judges Bennett and Givens gave Williams the frame on their scorecards.
There was much hemming and hawing about Williams after Lewis-Holyfield I, and lots of chatter in the press at the time. Williams continued on. She was recently elected to the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.
In other words, hard consequences for decisions most find insulting, plain wrong, and damaging to the credibility of the game, are hard to come by.
Time will tell whether this is the start of something different. Additional training may well end up being the sporting equivalent of a ‘time-out.’ It’s still better than nothing.
And nothing just can’t cut it anymore.
Boxing is doing better right now than often given credit for. The crowds in parts of Europe are outstanding. It’s been at least a generation since the sport had two consistent draws below Heavyweight the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Oscar De La Hoya carried the load alone for years. Now we have two of him in terms of revenue.
That doesn’t replace what was lost. Millions of people who used to watch boxing don't anymore. There is lots of blame to go around. Poor programming choices, a lack of proper promotion, and the watering down of every measurement of merit in the sport by way of profligate belts can all be pointed to.
It says here poor judging may hurt the worst of all. When folks see two warriors give their all with honor, as Lara and Williams did on Saturday, the least they can ask is they see a result they can respect at the end. When that does not occur, the sport’s integrity suffers. Some, most reading this right now, come back. They suck it up and forgive the sport its sins and failings.
They, we, have stuck it out for years because the love for what boxing gets right outweighs the rest.
However, they, we, know that our numbers have shrunk steadily for years. We know, if only by anecdote where hard science does not exist, how many of those who used to tune in just couldn’t stomach boxing anymore.
Belts and bad fights can be overlooked. Bad decisions are a quiet cancer that eats away, stealing one fan at a time. Raise a hand if anyone reading knows someone who saw what, for them, was that final bad decision and just wouldn’t watch anymore. How many, at home now with hands up, have come close to joining them?
Commissioner Davis took a step in the right direction this week. Now lets find out if this can become a well-trod path.
But wait, there’s more…
Gutsy Gonzalez: http://www.boxingscene.com/gonzalez-shows-blood-guts-mentality-phoenix--41306
Lara’s Big Win…Screw The Scores: http://www.boxingscene.com/hope-lara-got-lubed-review-ratings-update--41388
Divisional Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--41427
Cliff’s Notes…To be resumed next week.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]