By Mike Coppinger
The boxing world has been buzzing over the highly-controversial decision rendered in the HBO main event between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara on July 15th, a bout in which Lara seemed to dominate yet was deemed the loser by majority decision by judges Donald Givens, Hilton Whitaker III and Al Bennett.
Subsequently, New Jersey Athletic Commissioner Aaron Davis took action, suspending all three judges indefinitely.
BoxingScene.com caught up with HBO’s unofficial judge Harold Lederman to discuss one of the most criticized boxing decisions in recent memory and how can judging can be reformed in the sport.
BoxingScene.com: What is your take on the suspension of the judges from the Williams-Lara fight?
Harold Lederman: Unless [Davis] was going to put these guys back into another high-profile fight, it doesn’t mean much. He’s showing the public that he’s cognizant of the fact that the decision wasn’t right and he’s making an effort to change a bad situation. These guys obviously blew the call and he’s holding them out for a little while. There’s a lot of high-profile fights coming up in Jersey, so now I think he’s gonna be a lot more careful when he appoints the judges. There’s at least three HBO shows and one Showtime show that are scheduled to come off in Jersey. At least he’ s showing the public that he’s aware of what’s going on and that’s important.
BoxingScene: Is it odd that the trio of judges worked so many fights in concert on the undercard?
HL: I don’t think it affected the decision one way or the other. I think they would have scored it the same even if they didn’t judge the other fights.
BoxingScene: It seems that judges often score rounds based on one fighter being more busy in a round, even if he’s not being more effective. How can this be rectified going forward?
HL: There’s no question in my mind that the judges were looking at Paul Williams’ work rate, he throws a lot more punches than everybody. But at the end of the round, you gotta say to yourself ‘who did more damage?’ the guy throwing a million jabs or the guy that landed that sensational hard left hand? I thought Erislandy Lara certainly, in nine rounds, did more damage than Paul Williams did, without doubt.
You correct it by having seminars for judges, looking at tapes and going over the way you score and what you’re looking for. In my mind, the most important thing is, at the end of the round you’ve gotta decide who did more damage? Who hurt the other guy more than the other guy hurt him? That’s the guy you give 10 points to.
BoxingScene: Where do you think this ranks in the worst decisions of the past decade or so?
HL: It has to rank up in the top 10, no doubt about it, because Erislandy Lara clearly won that fight. I think Lara really is not going to lose anything from that decision, I think everybody in the world knows he won. I think his career is going to take a step up, he’ll fight somebody good real soon in another real high-profile fight. I think he did himself a lot of good by putting on a great performance like he did.
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing freelancer for USA TODAY and Ring Magazine. He’s a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, the Ring Ratings Advisory Panel and the Yahoo! Sports Boxing Panel. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger.