By Frank Warren
Lately there has been a spate of judges returning bizarre scorecards in high profile fights over in the US which threatens to tarnish boxing’s credibility.
Floyd Mayweather looked as brilliant as ever whilst schooling Latino warriors Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana in his last two fights. Yet, in both, one of the three judges ludicrously voted for a draw.
Bernard Hopkins’ fabulous world light-heavyweight unification win over Beibut Shumenov in April was similarly marred when one blind mouse scored for the Kazakh. Thankfully, the two who were paying attention both had Hopkins five rounds to the good.
Then last weekend in New York, a sizeable majority of the ringside press felt that Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov had done more than enough to retain his WBO light-welter strap against local fighter Chris Algieri, especially after forcing two first round knockdowns. Two of the men that mattered thought otherwise and ‘The Siberian Rocky’ conceded his title.
Some people bang on that scoring fights is a subjective science, dependent upon a judge’s personal preference for aggression and ‘ring generalship’ or skilful boxing. Well, frankly it shouldn’t be.
Boxing is the Noble Art of Self Defence, it’s not about who punches the hardest a sweet science of skill and savvy where boxers battle to land scoring blows through speed and cunning whilst avoiding those of their opponent by evasion, blocking and slipping. Most championship fights go the distance and that is why we have judges. It is imperative that we have consistency.
At the rules meeting prior to title fights it is categorically emphasised that points will be awarded for blows that are correctly delivered with the knuckle part of the glove onto the designated target area.
There is no mention of either the weight of the blow or which fighter is advancing. I’ve little time for fighters who aimlessly trudge forward munching leather, then claim they deserved victory because they ‘forced the fight.’ Nonsense.
Whoever lands more scoring shots, wins the session. It’s that simple. Only when an equal number of blows were scored should other factors be considered to avoid the cop-out of shared rounds. Invariably, if a contest last the full distance, the good boxer will invariably beat the good puncher and that’s how it should be.
Fans love nothing more than the genuine knockout artist and, of course, there is a place for powerful punchers in our sport. A single decisive strike at any time can render the judges redundant.
Heavy blows also result in knockdowns which earn the executor additional points. Similarly, they can inflict cuts and facial damage causing fights to be curtailed in their favour before scorecards are called.
Meaty barrages, particularly to the body, slow opponents down in the later stages of a 12 round title fight and may even render them incapable of continuing. It’s the fighters with the fitness and mental fortitude to withstand such and prevail, who determine our greatest champions.
No judges were required last weekend when Brian Rose challenged Yank Demetrius Andrade for the WBO light-middle strap at the Barclay’s Center, New York. The lad from Blackpool was dropped twice, badly cut and reportedly had his nose fractured before his corner finally raised the white flag in round seven.
The 29 year old Lancastrian was plenty brave but couldn’t cope with either the occasion or his laser quick opponent, a former world amateur champion. Rose wasn’t remotely competitive in any of the six completed rounds and punch stats revealed he’d landed just 30 blows, none of any consequence.
It was the latest episode in a disturbing trend of Brits being slung into world title fights overseas when they are patently ill-equipped to cope. They get the stuffing knocked out of them and the subsequent dent to their confidence can seriously affect their careers.
Over the last 16 months, Gavin Rees, Lee Purdy, Tony Bellew, Darren Barker and now Rose have been required to travel to secure world title action. All were brutally dispatched inside seven rounds.
It is the duty of every fight manager and promoter to deliver their guy every advantage prior to battle.
Securing your fighter a title opportunity isn’t simply about pocketing short-term profit. It’s about investing wisely to later reap from the title, through a series of successful defences that will optimise the fighter’s career earnings over a period of time.
Home turf ensures there is minimal disruption to the fighter’s training schedule. Sometimes it accords him the luxury of sleeping in his own bed at night and allows the security of being surrounded by familiar places and faces.
On fight night, it’s a reality that every near connect from the home fighter will be roared to the rafters while every clean strike from the visitor will be met with stony silence. Inevitably that will influence all but the very strongest judges.
No one is more aware of this than St Helen’s middleweight Martin Murray who was restricted to a draw, then a contentious points defeat, in recent world title challenges to Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez in the champion’s home countries of Germany and Argentina.
After 14 months in isolation, Murray returns to the periphery of world class this evening when he confronts ex European champion Max Bursak of the Ukraine on neutral terrain in Monte Carlo. It’s effectively a world title eliminator and he should come through, probably on points. BoxNation screen live.
Don’t be hoodwinked into believing that next Friday’s light-welter unification between British champion Curtis Woodhouse and Commonwealth counterpart Willie Limond in Glasgow will determine the best 10st fighting man on these isles.
Earlier this year both rejected significantly more money than they’ve previously earned to make a voluntary defence against Durham’s Bradley Saunders who, at the time, was just an eight fight pro novice.
Bad Brad, a former world amateur medallist and Beijing Olympian, continues to ripen at a frightening pace and will only get better.
Saunders is the future of the division and I sense both Limond and Woodhouse are acutely aware of that. I’d place a substantial wager on Saunders to beat the pair of them.
Last March, Vasyl Lomachenko’s attempt to win a world title in the fewest fights ever was compromised when WBO feather king Orlando Salido weighed several pounds over the limit and effectively cheated his way to a debated split decision.
The Mexican was stripped of his belt and tonight ‘Loma’ gets a chance to equal the record set by a Thai light-welter 39 years ago. In just his third start, the double Olympic champion contests the vacant title against unbeaten but unproven US southpaw Gary Russell Jnr.
Fans can watch the Ukrainian’s attempt to make history live by tuning into BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 1.30 am Sunday morning.
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Tags: Frank Warren