By Jake Donovan
While boxing on HBO and NBC dominated headlines this past weekend, a bout previously off of the radar of most in the industry has now taken center stage. Johnny Muller scored a mild upset over Mateusz Masternak in their makeshift main event Saturday evening at the famed Emperors Palace in South Africa, though the shocking result came at the expense of landing as the runaway favorite for 2015 Robbery of the Year.
Masternak carried the action for much of the night, even twice flooring the local favorite, only to land on the hard end of a split decision in Muller’s favor. The outcome was widely criticized by many in the industry, even prompting popular local promoter Rodney Berman–never one to sugar coat—to call for a review of the final scorecards.
A rematch would be the most logical solution, but Masternak and his team are taking it one step further.
“What we saw on Saturday night was one of the worst decisions ever made in a non-title bout in the sport of boxing,” noted Kalle Sauerland of Sauerland Event, Masternak’s promoter. “As such, both Team Sauerland and Golden Gloves (Berman’s promotional company) have contacted Boxing South Africa’s president Archie Nyingwa to demand that the decision is reversed.
“How two of the judges could honestly believe that the fight should be scored 95-93 in Muller’s favor is beyond me. Not even the most impartial observer could fathom such scoring. We have had the fight analyzed and the results are unbelievable. For every one scoring punch landed by Muller, Mateusz connected with four. Not to mention, the two knockdowns in rounds five and seven.”
Masternak (35-4, 25KOs) had won three straight following his last loss, which also took place on a Golden Gloves-promoted event. That defeat also came via split decision, falling just short versus Youri Kalenga in Monte Carlo, in a bout whose outcome was far easier to digest.
Not so much the case on Saturday, in which Masternak and Muller were asked to lead a show after originally being assigned to the chief support. The bout received an upgrade after unbeaten light heavyweight Thomas Oosthuizen missed weight by more than a pound for his eventual non-title win over Robert Berridge. Their bout was donwngraded to undercard filler, the result of the level of disgust felt by Berman, Oosthuizen’s estranged promoter.
By the end of fight night, an entirely different level of disgust had come to the forefront The outcome is attributed by many as typical of the hometown favoritism that often comes in such fights. That is not at all a reputation on which Berman prides himself, or wishes to carry, which has led to his not only joining in on but initiating the protest.
“I don’t want (South Africa) boxing to get a stigma where you can’t get a decision, like in the Eastern Cape. All I want is fair play,” Berman stated. “I’m sure this (protest) will lead to bigger and better fights for Johnny, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves—Masternak was poorly served by the judges. These guys are fighting for their families and their livelihoods; to shatter their dreams is unforgivable.”
An unfortunate part of boxing history is the absurd number of poor scorecard turned in by judges. While many an outcome has been protested, rare is the event in which the actual result is overturned, short of a knockout changed to a no-contest due to a blown call by a referee or a win negated by a fighter testing positive for a banned substance.
Pasternak and his team are aware of their chances in obtaining a full-blown reversal. Still, the cruiserweight contender has a hard time carrying the red ink on his résumé for the time being, knowing that he did enough to win–even in hostile territory.
“I would like to ask Boxing South Africa to watch the fight once again,” said the 28 year-old. “They should think about the result and the effect it is having on my career, my livelihood and the future of my family. In the ring I felt that I was the much better boxer and was in complete control of the fight. The result was a huge shock for me. I feel like they have taken away everything that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Without fair and impartial judging, all the blood, sweat and tears are for nothing.
“The decision is not only damaging for me but also for the reputation of boxing in South Africa. These judges are professionals and should adjudicate the bouts objectively. I won this fight and the federation should use this opportunity to reverse the unfair decision and remove this black mark from my record. All I’m asking for is justice.”
Perhaps the worst part of the decision was that it trumps what was otherwise a fun scrap. That much is not lost on the visiting team in all of this.
“We do not wish to take anything away from Johnny Muller, who more than played his part in an entertaining ten rounds of boxing,” notes Sauerland, though with a disclaimer. [A]lthough I’m sure even he would admit, as has his promoter Rodney Berman, that the decision was extremely fortuitous.
“Boxing as a whole needs to eradicate these types of ‘home town decisions’. After his win over Jean Marc Mormeck in Paris, Mateusz was well on his way to another word title shot. We simply cannot allow two incompetent judges to rob one man of his destiny. We’re thankful that Rodney has stood with us and lodged his own complaint. We trust that Boxing South Africa will make the right choice and immediately reverse the decision.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox