By Nick Halling
An appeal on behalf of Daniel Geale was heard at the IBF offices in New Jersey on Wednesday, following the Australian’s loss of his middleweight title to British challenger Darren Barker last month.
The appeal was instigated by Geale’s promoter, Gary Shaw, with Barker’s promoter, Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, also in attendance. One of the main arguments made on behalf of Geale was the scoring in the 12th round, seen by many as one of the Aussie’s better rounds. However, two of the judges, including Carlos Ortiz Jr, awarded that final session to Barker. In the case of Ortiz, this proved decisive, as his final tally of 114-113 saw Barker winning by a single point. Had he given it the other way, Geale would have retained his title by split decision.
The IBF have given a panel of experts a period of 10 days to consider the arguments made by Shaw. If the appeal is upheld, Barker will face an immediate rematch with Geale. If not, Hearn is expected to continue negotiations with former title holder Felix Sturm for a date in December.
Hearn is said to be actively looking to add more depth to his talent roster. The Essex-based promoter is rumoured to be closing in on two or three potential new recruits, with announcements expected over the next few weeks.
With a number of promising prospects already signed to deals, Hearn’s attentions are thought to have turned towards boxers with proven championship-level credentials.
Carlos Ortiz Jr, the judge in the eye of the storm following his extraordinary scoring of the Ricky Burns v Ray Beltran affair last week, has had a difficult few weeks. Ortiz’s 115-112 assessment of the fight in favour of Burns found few, if any, advocates. Following on from his scoring of the 12th round in favour of Barker over Geale last month, the New Yorker’s decision-making has been called into question, with some suggesting a bias towards British fighters.
However, on 5 July, at the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, Ortiz had a particularly rough night. First, he scored a four round preliminary fight between Donte Strayhorn and Oscar Diaz a draw, while the other two judges both saw it 40-36 in favour of Strayhorn. He followed that with another draw, Australia’s Billy Dib and Mike Oliver over 10. Again, his fellow-judges viewed it differently, both of them seeing it a comfortable 96-92 Dib’s favour. Rather than suggestions that he is biased towards the British, Ortiz, if anything, would appear to have an issue with Australians.
Prior to that Ortiz, a judge since 2006, had largely avoided any significant level of controversy. A subjective business at all times, scoring a fight is often simply a matter of individual taste. Ortiz’s overall body of work suggests that he is one of the better judges operating at world level today.
Birmingham’s Kal Yafai is looking forward to putting seven months of frustration behind him when he returns to action on the undercard of Kell Brook versus Vyacheslav Senchenko in Sheffield at the end of October.
Yafai tore his left biceps in March in his last contest, an eight rounder against Michael Ramabeletsa. The injury occurred in the second round, with the former Beijing Olympian battling through pain to register the eighth win of his professional career.
“I don’t even know for sure how it happened,” he said. “My arm just wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. I even got a warning for low blows because my arm just didn’t have any strength.” Six days after sustaining the injury, Yafai underwent surgery. He could have let the muscle heal naturally, but had been warned by trainer Tony Sims that he could lose a lot of his power if he did so. “No way did I want to risk that,” said Yafai. “I couldn’t lose my left hook. That’s the shot I’ve been getting everyone out of there with!”
For the first month after surgery, he could do very little. “I couldn’t even change myself properly. But it was important to stay active so that the weight wouldn’t go on. I took myself on long walks, which was all I could do. For someone who’s always so active, it was a real shock to the system.”
Yafai worked with a physio in nearby Lichfield, and continued with his strength coach and now says the left arm is back to normal. “You have to take the positives from something like this,” he said. “In a sense, its been a godsend because it’s given me a break after eight fights in nine months. And it’s certainly made me mentally tougher.”
The injury has, for now, put the brakes on a career which looks set for something special. Turning pro last July, he’d quickly established himself as one of the brightest prospects in the British game. There was talk of him being in line for the domestic title, such was the level of maturity and confidence which far exceeded his level of experience. Some inside the business see him as potential world champion material.
Weight will not be an issue for his return against an as-yet unnamed opponent. Yafai turned pro at bantam, but was comfortable under the super flyweight limit for his last outing. He says he’s happy at either. “Right now, I’m just itching to get back in the ring,” he said. ”It’s hard being on the sidelines, watching guys like Callum Smith and Scotty Cardle grab the limelight. I want to be the name on everyone’s lips again.”
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports