Former IBF super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez was denied a springboard back into world class when three judges decided he had not even got close to beating Zelfa Barrett, on another shameful night for British judging, despite spending much of the 12 rounds they shared a Wembley ring, outlanding him.
In the realms of boxing robberies, this was not the worst. But what was a close fight was a near shutout in the view of judges Bob Williams and Steve Gray, who only gave the Spaniard two rounds apiece.
Despite giving away height and youth and probably weight, as he stepped up to super-featherweight, Martinez forced the pace for the entire fight, made Barrett miss, threw him off his stride and caught him repeatedly. But in the latest in a string of poor judges’ cards in British rings, he never stood a chance.
One judge, Howard Foster, scored it 116-113 to Barrett. With several close rounds, that was an understandable scorecard. But how Gray and Williams came up with 118-111 for the Manchester boxer is hard to fathom.
Taking all the emotion of seeing a valiant former world champion received such shoddy treatment from British judges – as Miguel Vazquez did last year against Lewis Ritson – all bad cards are made up of badly scored rounds. It must be hard to argue that Martinez did not win at least four rounds.
Yet, while Martinez’s career is knocked down a level, the judges are unlikely to have to justify their performance.
Eddie Hearn wasted little time in blasting the judges and said the poor standard of scorecards would make it difficult to attract foreign boxers to the UK.
“Zelfa is our fighter and it was a very, very close fight,” Hearn said. “I thought 118-111 is absolutely disgusting for Kiko Martinez. How are we going to get foreign fighters to come to this country to take on opponents when they get absolutely zero credit for their performance.
“It is nothing to do with Zelfa Barrett’s performance, you can rightfully say he won the fight, but if he won the fight, he won it by a round or two rounds. 118-111 he might as well not have bothered.
“For 12 rounds he was relentless. How are we going to bring world-class fighters to this country is we see scorecards like that?
“It wasn’t one [judge] it was two and we’ve seen them before. It doesn’t do me any favours, it doesn’t do Zelfa Barrett any favours and it doesn’t do Kiko Martinez any favours. These guys are putting their health, their life on the line, and after all that effort, he might as well have boxed off the back foot and had an easy night.
“I want to see it again, I want see Kiko Martinez get another chance because he deserves it.”
Martinez said he would be happy with a rematch.
“I don’t think the judges have been fair with me, I think, as Eddie says, the best outcome now would be a rematch,” Martinez said. “I don’t think my opponent thought he won. It was a great fight that has possibly been tarnished by the result.”
Barrett looked content to let Martinez chase after him in the first round, but he gained enough confidence to open up in the second round. A left hook bounced off Martinez’s head, but Barrett was wide open to a Martinez right hook that saw Barrett stumble into the ropes.
The action was fast and furious in the third, but it was Martinez, staying compact, who was landing the more accurate shots as Barrett retreated.
Barrett landed a decent right as Martinez came fow=rward in the fourth round, but he was caught square on by a Martinez left hook in the fifth and sent him back into the ropes. Barret was throwing plenty of punches but could not stop Martinez advancing, but when Martinez missed with a big left hook he got tagged by a left hook by Barrett.
That seemed to give Barrett some confidence as he held his feet more in the sixth round and began to put his punches together. He went on the move again in the seventh, only throwing when he briefly stopped, and getting some distance between them. Martinez’s bloody nose was proof of Barrett’s success, although Barrett was then cut over the right eye.
Martinez wasn’t wasting anything, though, and got through with a big left hook on the retreating Barrett in the eighth round and he then kept the pressure on the Manchester boxer.
Finally. In the ninth round, Barrett stood his ground and opened up, whaling away with both hands and stopping Martinez in his stride. He kept the momentum up in the tenth round, but Martinez was looking comfortable and was blocking most of the shots coming his way.
Barrett really stepped on the pace in the eleventh round, as he opened up, landing well with the left hook and controlling the range. The final round was another close one, the flash and the volume coming from Barrett, while Martinez kept moving forward and throwing.
Barrett looked almost embarrassed in the post-fight interview on Sky Sports.
“It is what it is, we got the win,” Barrett said. ”It was close. I was in the fight and he was throwing and defending a lot. It depends how people want to see it, do they like to see pressure, do they like to see boxing? I just had to stick to it and listen to my uncle (trainer Pat Barrett).
“When I let my hands go I was catching him. I could hear people in the crowd saying ‘throw’. But he was putting good pressure on. I was trying to look for the right shot. But he was tough, he is experienced, and he looked what he was doing in the ring.
“I’m ready for the rematch. It has brought me on, I have learnt a lot for it. If it’s a rematch, it’s a rematch. I am not going to shy away. He’s a good fighter, you can’t take the credit away from him.”
The referee was Marcus McDonnell.