By Terence Dooley
Driffield’s Curtis Woodhouse cut a disconsolate figure in his dressing room on Friday night after losing his English light-welterweight title to Colne’s Shayne Singleton on a Coldwell Boxing show at Manchester’s Bowlers Arena. The entire press row had Woodhouse a comfortable, and in most cases clear, winner yet scores of 94-96, 95-96 and 96-94, from Phil Edwards, Steve Gray and Dave Parris respectively saw Singleton extend his record to 14-0 (3). BoxingScene had it for Woodhouse by 97-92; eight rounds to two with a point deduction for hitting on the break in round ten.
Woodhouse drops to 17-5 (11), he has lost before — Jay Morris (L6), Peter McDonagh (L8), Frankie Gavin (L SD 12) and Dale Miles (KO 5) — this time, though, the loss of his cherished English belt added insult to injury and has left the former Premiership footballer contemplating his future.
Certainly, Singleton started brightly, he started to look composed towards the end of the first round, produced some brilliant lead right uppercuts in the second and drew Woodhouse’s sting with his lateral movement and slippery style.
There was major problem for Singleton, though — his punches weren’t impacting on Woodhouse whereas the champion’s shots busted up the skin beneath the challenger’s eyes and caused the claret to flow from his nose. In mitigation, Singleton’s team told me that Woodhouse’s head did most of the damaged, and they did bump heads often throughout the contest.
However, referee Howard Foster told judge Phil Edwards that “A punch caused the cut [to Singleton’s right eye]” at the end of round five — Woodhouse’s raking jab, much stiffer than Singleton’s, had grazed and then split Singleton’s skin during the preceding rounds.
Singleton’s facial damage could also be attributed to the use of Reyes gloves, which favour punchers, because they are, to quote Woodhouse, “so tight and compact that you can pick your nose with them”. Singleton showed a lot of gumption to wipe the blood from his face round after round, and showed discipline by sticking to his move and jab approach.
Despite the fact that there is always a temptation to score the blood, and you have to be at pains to avoid this, it appeared to most that Woodhouse was pulling further wide during the home stretch — it was a case of an amateur style versus a pro style.
Although the champion had a point taken away for hitting on the break in the final round, victory seemed assured. Woodhouse’s jab had been key, a sentence I never thought I’d write when I first saw him turn professional back in September 2006, but the announcement of a split decision raised eyebrows. The scores themselves raised the roof. Singleton’s triumph had lifted his vocal, and in some cases shirtless, barmy army — only the men stripped off, unfortunately — into a crazed rapture. Coldwell remonstrated with Grey. His protests meant nothing; his man had lost, and is now contemplating retirement.
“I felt like I won the fight comfortably, everyone in my corner thought I won it comfortably,” said the 32-year-old former champion when speaking to BoxingScene. “This is boxing for you, people don’t understand that there’s careers, and lives, on the line.
“I’m not one to disrespect judges, they’ve got a hard job, but they could have cost me my career tonight. I thought I won the fight, I should be sat here with my English title, but I’m sat here thinking I’ve got to go back to the drawing board without a belt. Blatant errors like this cost people livelihoods, I love this sport, but it has kicked me right in the bollocks.”
When searching for the argument behind a Singleton win, you have to start with his jab; he flicked it out constantly and, despite engaging a bit too often, constantly stayed on his toes throughout the bitty battle. Woodhouse, though, stressed that, in his opinion, his 23-year-old opponent wasn’t as consistent with the left as he was.
“He landed the occasional jab, but he didn’t land anything else the whole fight, he looked like he had been knocked over by a fucking Mack Truck. I’ve had fights that didn’t go my way before, but nothing like this — they were close fights that could have gone either way — I won that one clearly. All I want is a fair crack of the whip, but I feel like I’ve been cheated. There was blood to his nose, it looked broken, and he had cuts to both eyes — I thought they were going to throw the towel in at one point. I don’t get it.
“I’m upset, I’ve been in the gym every day. I gave boxing my life and it has kicked me in my teeth. I don’t feel like ever putting the gloves on again. That decision has put me back so far that I feel it could be the end for me. I don’t want to go back to scratch, build myself up and have that happen. I’m going to think about my future.”
Steve Wood manages Singleton, he expressed surprise over the press row scorecards and stressed that his man won the fight while ruling out an instant rematch. Wood wants to secure Singleton a quick defence in Bolton as the undefeated fighter is now too big a draw for his local venue, Colne’s Municipal hall, which can only accommodate 300 people. This is roughly the same number of fans that “The Pain” brought to Manchester tonight, and he is bound to have won himself a few more.
News that a rematch might be out of his reach only served to further dampen Woodhouse’s mood. He said: “They won’t have the rematch because they know he lost comfortably first time around. I thought I lost the first round, and then I ran away with it from then.
“You get an inkling of how it is going during the fight, I felt in control and that it was mine. Dave [Coldwell of Coldwell Boxing] said: ‘I think they’ve given it to him’, I thought he was joking, but that’s how it went. It could be the end of the line for me. It has been a great journey, Dave will be upset and I’ll be upset. One bad decision might have cost my career. I don’t know how I’ll start to build myself up. This was the launch pad to help me become British champion. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Karl Ince whipped his man into great shape for the biggest fight of his career yet the Bolton-based trainer believes the win was based on a mixture of will and skill. When I arrived in their dressing room, Wood told Singleton and Ince that I had scored it 97-92 for Woodhouse. The likable fighter asked me if I was drunk — I’m not, yet — such was his belief that he had deserved the nod — it was one of those nights. Ince was equally bullish.
“No, no, no — it was half and half with people [at ringside], but I thought Shane won the first, then Curtis came into and Shane was popping and moving,” said Ince when I relayed the press row scores to him.
“Curtis was walking him down, but Shane had the work ethic and the clean punches. I thought he lost the eighth, so I told him after the ninth to go out and take it, and he won that last round convincingly. He’s a young lad who took on an experienced guy, but he came through the experience and we’ll see what Steve does for him next.”
At one point, it appeared to many, myself included, that Ince was preparing to throw in the white towel. Not so, it transpires, he was merely getting ready to wipe his man down so that cutman Frank Hopkins could work his magic.
“No, I know we’ve got the best cutmen in the game, so I wasn’t worried about those cuts,” he answered when asked if he had been poised to throw in the towel. “I wiped him down to get him ready for Frank. Frank’s the best, we work well together — he kept the swellings under control.
“I thought to myself in the seventh: ‘We’re winning this fight’, and I knew Shayne would come strong in that last round. Curtis came at him like a bull, but Shayne is so fast. Shayne has the heart of a lion, I wondered if he had it, he proved to me tonight that he has the spirit and the heart of a fighter.”
As for Singleton’s boxing and moving, Ince may be a burly former rugby player, but he does love to knock up a fight plan, or two. “I love the skills side of things,” he said. “I learned my trade from a legend, Brian Hughes in Collyhurst, and like to teach fighters how to box.”
Still, the decision is hard to understand. I tried to place myself in the mind of the judges after the fight, but I would require frequent and ample use of mind-bending drugs to understand how they produced two scorecards in Singleton’s favour.
It is made all the more frustrating by the fact that they cannot come out and explain their thinking. The Board needs to make scoring more transparent as there have been too many skewiff decisions in recent times. There was a sense of apathy at ringside, a shrug of the shoulders and mutters of: “There have been bad decision before and there’ll be more in the future”.
Perhaps it is time to allow the officials to speak to the press and the fans, most of our judges are top-rate — they can help fans and pundits understand what they are looking for when they score a fight. The alternative is cries of “robbery”, this wasn’t a robbery, there’s no such thing, and the online furor simply means that the focus has been taken away from Singleton. The new champion fought the fight of his life only to discover that the post-fight talk has focused on the scoring of the bout rather than the action itself.
Coldwell shrugged his shoulders when I spoke to him briefly en route to the exit. “No wonder fighters don’t want to defend their titles away from home,” said the diminutive promoter. Ironically, it was his show, so Woodhouse was essentially the “home” fighter, but it was easy to understand his point of view, and frustration.
Ah well, tomorrow’s another day, and as long as things remain the same then it is a case of adopting the usual drill: have your say and then move on to the next one. Because if history tells us one thing, it is that boxing and bad decisions go together like chitterlings and gravy.
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