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Abraham-Smith: Protest in Hands of Independent Panel

By Jake Donovan

A lot has happened in the boxing world since the September 27 clash between super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham and Paul Smith, but the controversy that stemmed from that evening remains a fresh wound for the challenger.

Smith offered one of the strongest performances of his career, pushing Abraham to the brink in a tooth-and-nail affair in Germany. His effort proved for naught, as the three judges had the defending champ winning by a comfortable margin, including a 119-109 scorecard turned in by Spanish judge Fernando Laguna that warrants – and is currently undergoing – an investigation.

An official protest was submitted to the World Boxing Organization (WBO) by Matchroom Boxing head Eddie Hearn, Smith’s promoter as their side refuses to accept the hand dealt to them.

“We received the protest from Matchroom Boxing,” confirmed Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel, WBO president. “From there, we requested all evidence of (wrongdoing) to the fighter, and assign five officials to independently review and score the fight. They are anonymous judges. The only one who knows their identity is me.

“A spreadsheet is prepared with all of the scores. The round is then scored based on (majority scoring). From there we can determine who was the real winner.”

A similar case study was performed in the wake of Tim Bradley’s highly controversial split decision win over Manny Pacquiao in their first fight in June ’12. The panel’s final determination was in line with that of public opinion, that Pacquiao deserved to win the fight and with room to spare.

Of course, the decision remained as-is, with the rematch coming two years later – not due to a mandate, but because it was the most sensible business decision for both fighters.

That said, Smith (35-4, 20KOs) doesn’t carry the same type of leverage as Pacquiao, to where he can just demand a title fight at his leisure. While the Brit won’t see a reversal in the decision, it stands to reason that the right outcome from the independent panel could result in an ordered rematch.

At the very least, he has the sympathy of the sanctioning body’s top dog.

“My position is that the judge from Spain (Fernando Laguna) was far off with that score of 119-109,” Valcarcel stated, echoing his comments recently made through social media. “In my opinion, it was a close fight. We will see what the five judges have to say and will reveal to the (boxing) world their results once they have time to review and score the fight.”

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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