By Jake Donovan
There have been fights that have produced results that prompted threats of an investigation and boxing reform. Often is the case that some sort of protest takes place by the offended party, but rarely if ever does anything ever come of it.
The exception to the rule came in the aftermath of Paul Williams somehow escaping Atlantic City with a majority decision over Erislandy Lara in their July bout.
The New Jersey State Athletic Commission couldn’t completely reverse the disgraceful scoring turned in by the three ringside judges at the Boardwalk Hall. Rather than accept that fate and simply complain about the result, the next best step was taken – revoking their licenses pending satisfactory remedial training.
2011 ROBBERY OF THE YEAR - PAUL WILLIAMS MD12 ERISLANDY LARA
Williams entered the fight on the heels of a brutal 2nd round knockout loss at the hands of Sergio Martinez in November ’10, and his team had wrestled for months with HBO over an acceptable opponent for his ring return.
The network eventually offered the greenlight on the selection of Lara, an undefeated prospect who lost a little bit of shine after struggling to a draw with Carlos Molina in his previous fight. Lara did anything but struggle in this bout, other than not throwing as many punches as his fellow southpaw.
That turned out to be his undoing, at least in the eyes of the three shoddy officials.
It was clear from early in the bout that Williams hoped to establish his jab and simply outwork Lara, much as he’s done with most of his opponents to date. While Lara didn’t throw as many punches, he landed more and at a much higher connect percentage, in addition to scoring the more telling blows.
Anyone who has ever attended the ABC judges’ seminar or has even paid attention to any given pre-fight spiel offered by HBO’s unofficial fight scorer Harold Lederman (himself a former judge) can tell you that a strong emphasis is often placed on clean, effective punching.
In this frame of mind, Lara ran away with the fight, particularly after Williams suffered a cut in the wake of a headbutt in the fifth round. Lara didn’t escape unscathed, as swelling developed outside of – but far away enough from – his left eye.
However, it was the worst physical damage that the Cuban would suffer over the remainder of the bout, outscoring Williams throughout the second half of the fight and seemingly landing at will with his left hand over the top of his opponent’s leaky guard.
The fight ended with Williams – seven months after the most humiliating night of his professional career – battered and bloodied, looking and sounding like a fighter who aged dramatically overnight.
Simply put, he looked like anything but the winner of the HBO-televised main event that took place.
Most ringside observers had Lara winning by a wide margin. Lederman’s on-air card had Lara winning 117-111, matching the unofficial scorecard offered by Lem Satterfield, on assignment for Boxingscene.com at the time.
The post-fight reaction offered by HBO’s broadcast team – Bob Papa, Max Kellerman and Roy Jones, Jr. – all suggested that there was no conceivable way to justify Lara walking away with anything other than the biggest win of his young career.
Unfortunately, the only three scorecards that mattered revealed that a different fight altogether had somehow taken place. While the final verdict was a majority decision, a mere two points separated the three cards.
Judge Al Bennett came up with a 114-114 draw, only after rewarding the 12th and final round to Lara. That same round was viewed as even by judges Hilton Whitaker III and Donald Givens, thus preserving victory for Williams on their scorecards by respective margins of 115-114 and 116-114.
New Jersey commissioner Aaron Davis – a former world welterweight champion – was displease with the outcome of the fight, to the point of launching an investigation. Feedback was heard from all three judges in regards to their round-by-round explanation for scoring the fight the way they did.
Davis wasn’t content with the stories he was told. While there didn’t exist any evidence whatsoever of corruption or extreme bias, the Garden State commissioner believed the trio to be incompetent enough to where further training was mandated.
The three judges haven’t worked a fight since then, nor have Williams or Lara participated in a sanctioned prize fight. While both fighters are slated to return to the ring in the first quarter of 2012, the timeline isn’t so clear for the ringside officials, who remain suspended indefinitely.
The longer they are forced to sit on the sidelines, the more time to have to think about the damage caused by their actions on that July evening, actions that produced the Worst Robbery of 2011.
RUNNER UP – ROBERT HELENIUS SD12 DERECK CHISORA
Throughout fight week, Dereck Chisora made headlines with his bizarre claims of threatening to make love to unbeaten heavyweight Robert Helenius. By the time the judges had their say at the end of their December 3 fight, it was the mouthy Brit who wound up taking it up ‘the bum.’
At the end of 12 rounds, the heavyweight bout appeared well on its way to land at the top of the list of the year’s biggest upsets. Chisora outworked Helenius in nearly every round of their bout in Helsinki, Finland, landing nearly twice as many punches and connecting at a much higher percentage.
The EPIX broadcast team – including five-time Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach – found just two rounds to award to Helenius, matching the sentiment shared by most in the media as well as those watching at home. Even the WBO supervisor on hand at ringside noted in the comments area of the master scorecard that Chisora deserved no worse than a draw.
Two of the three judges disagreed, perceivably scoring every close round in favor of Helenius – a hulking heavyweight of Finnish descent – to give him a narrow victory.
Helenius himself took note of the controversial nature of the fight, though citing an injury suffered early in the bout as the reason he was unable to close the show and thus avoid such debate. While he remains on the sidelines, Chisora not only finds redemption from his poor showing against Tyson Fury but now moves to a February 18 showdown with top-rated heavyweight Vitali Klitschko.
Felix Sturm SD12 Matthew Macklin – Macklin threw more, landed more and scored the far more telling blows over the course of their 12-round bout in Sturm’s native Germany. Yet when all was said and done, the visiting Brit could fare no better than winning just four rounds on each of the two scorecards claiming the hometown fighter to have won the bout, an instance that has become par for the course for the three-time middleweight titlist.
Jamie Cox UD12 Obodai Sai – This battle of unbeaten middleweightss was overshadowed by the more celebrated UK fight that same weekend, in which Breidis Prescott cried robbery in his narrow points loss to Paul McCloskey in Northern Island. That was a close fight. This one was a disgrace. Cox landed no fewer than two dozen low blows and should’ve been DQ’d long before hearing the final bell. He was docked two points, but the hometown judges still went out of their way to reward the British southpaw, ignoring the cleaner punches landed throughout by the Gha middleweight.
Stephen Smith MD12 John Simpson – Their featherweight crossroads fight seven months prior was a tightly contested affair that could’ve went either way – and did. The same could be argued of their April rematch, though most observers had Simpson doing enough to hand Smith his first pro loss. The best Simpson could manage was a draw on one card. Even if the fight appeared to be as close as their first match, there’s no excusing the atrocious 118-112 card turned in by judge Terry O’Connor.
Devon Alexander SD10 Lucas Matthysse –Alexander was deemed fortunate to have not suffered his second straight loss, rising from the canvas to take a narrow decision in his St. Louis hometown five months after losing for the first time as a pro against Tim Bradley. Matthysse atoned for a slow start with a fourth round knockdown and a strong finish, only to come up aces on just one of the three cards. That Matthysse won his rounds far more convincingly than those awarded to Alexander sparked the controversy in this HBO-televised non-title fight.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.