By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Don’t get me wrong. I do loves me some cookies.
Still, when asked by an esteemed BoxingScene.com colleague on Saturday night if I thought the judges for the Kell Brook-Shawn Porter welterweight title fight deserved one, I had to concede no.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe Adelaide Byrd and Max DeLuca shouldn’t be plied with sweets simply for doing their jobs and getting the verdict right in a close fight.
But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least take notice.
Lest anyone forget, the boxing record book has been crammed to the margins with iffy decisions and flat-out crimes in the last few years, to the point where you can’t log on to Twitter on a fight night and go five minutes without someone cyber-screaming about a bad decision in some corner of the world.
Whether it’s been a good old hometown nod, a blatant swerve in favor of a promotion’s house prospect or simply a case of three blind mice masquerading as three licensed officials, there’s been more than enough fodder in recent months to make “robbery” a repeated go-to in modern-day boxing lingo.
Some have gone so far, in fact, to opine that recently questionable scoring practices will ultimately prompt a 10-count over a sport that’s taken hard shots from organized crime, in-ring fatalities and PEDs.
Maybe they’re right, too. Maybe the 21st century will do what the 19th and 20th couldn’t do, and by the time our kids are old enough to commandeer TV remotes, watching boxing won’t be an option.
But it won’t be because of what happened last weekend.
Instead, when several of the usual theft cards were stacked in Porter’s favor – he was Golden Boy’s unbeaten headliner, he was being suggested as a Floyd Mayweather Jr. foil and he was an American champion fighting a foreign challenger – hardly a post-fight player claimed there’d been a bad deal.
Of 61 media scores tallied by BoxingNewsOnline.net, no fewer than 49 – or 80.3 percent – agreed with Byrd and DeLuca’s call for Brook, while three more suggested Porter deserved no better than a draw. On the flip side, just nine of the 61 (14.7 percent) gave the defending champion the nod, and only four of those nine (6.5 percent overall) claimed it was by more than a threadbare two-point margin.
Byrd and DeLuca’s prudence is even more noteworthy given Porter’s hard-charging, volume-punching style, which is the type of mildly effective aggression that often bewilders those with less flashy but more precise acumen when it comes time for Jimmy Lennon Jr. or Michael Buffer to take the mic.
While Porter talked a big game before the fight and evoked Mike Tyson references from the Showtime crew during its early going, it became clear shortly past the midway point that the sawed-off 147-pounder had no consistent answer for the solid jabs and jarring crosses he was absorbing on the way in.
The jagged gash over his right eye was caused by a head butt, but the redness alongside and underneath it was in no small way brought on by Brook’s persistent precision, and by the time the fight reached its final quarter he was neither energetic nor powerful enough to reverse the course his foe had plotted.
My card had Brook by a solid 115-113 margin, and if I’d veered from there in any direction it would have been to make it 116-112 instead. Nonetheless, when Lennon read off Dave Parris’s 114-114 count first, my instant assumption was that my faith in boxing’s good intentions was about to be tested once again.
Had he gone ahead in that direction, it would hardly have been a crime on the level of Pacquiao-Marquez III, Rios-Abril or other memorable stinkers, and it wouldn’t have scared away the hardcore set whose weekly routines include terms like ShoBox, UniMas and Friday Night Fights.
What it might have been, though, was one more straw on the back of one more middling fan who – rather than spending three more hours watching an event whose ultimate rightful result can’t be taken for granted – decided to take his time, attention and pay-per-view finances elsewhere.
Sure enough, getting it right this time doesn’t ensure future results and it’d hardly be a surprise if the judging discussion makes another 180-degree turn by this time next month. But after a stretch in which too many would-be routs turned into nail-biters or dead heats, any reason to celebrate is a good one.
Good enough, in fact, that I think I’ll have a cookie.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBF junior flyweight title – Tecate, Mexico
Javier Mendoza (No. 3 contender/unranked IWBR) vs. Ramon Hirales (No. 4 contender/No. 15 IWBR)
Mendoza (21-2-1, 18 KO): First title fight; Twelve consecutive wins by stoppage
Hirales (20-4-1, 12 KO): Fourth title fight (1-2, 1 KO); Held WBO title at 108 (2011, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: When a good young man meets an experienced older man, bad things can happen to him. Especially if that older man is still on his game. Could be the case here. Hirales by decision
Vacant IBO super middleweight title – Chicago, Ill.
Dyah Davis (No. 31 contender/No. 28 IWBR) vs. Don George (No. 38 contender/No. 21 IWBR)
Davis (22-4-1, 10 KO): First title fight; Fourteenth fight outside of Florida (8-4-1, 3 KO)
George (25-4-2, 22 KO): First title fight; Eighteenth fight in Illinois (15-0-2, 13 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Neither has put it together on the highest stages, but they’re pretty evenly matched for the level that they’re on. George has been unbeatable at home, which breaks a tie. George in 8
Vacant IBO welterweight title – Eberswalde, Germany
Rico Mueller (unranked/No. 76 IWBR) vs. Franklin Mamani (unranked/unranked IWBR)
Mueller (16-1-1, 11 KO): First title fight; Undefeated in Germany (15-0-1, 10 KO)
Mamani (18-2-1, 9 KO): First title fight; Never won a fight outside of Bolivia (0-2, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Don’t expect him to be challenging the Mayweathers and Pacquiaos of the world anytime soon, but Mueller should at least earn a belt with a suspect road foe. Mueller by decision
Last week's picks: 3-1 (WIN: Hernandez, Dirrell, Figueroa; LOSE: Porter)
2014 picks record: 58-16 (78.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 605-210 (74.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.