Take a good look. Technology is all around us.
Our smart phones are all-knowing. Our television screens are all-showing.
Heck, even our car doors and ignitions can be rigged not to operate unless the wannabe driver provides the proper passwords, fingerprints and credit checks.
And in the past decade or two, even the sports world has shown signs of catching up.
Each of the four major pro leagues in the U.S. has sewn an element of instant replay into its traditional fabric—whether to determine possession in football, home run accuracy in baseball, buzzer-beater status in basketball or the relationship of the puck to the goal line in hockey.
For the most part, boxing lags too far behind.
Oh sure, the Mexico-based WBC has offered open scoring to help offset bad judging, and the IBO down in Florida recently assembled a blue-ribbon panel to help review suspect results—a way of applying human Band-Aids to computerized rankings by correcting errors logarithms might have missed.
But when an actual in-fight controversy arises, the means of immediate redress are a bit tougher to come by. Amazingly, in fact, while instant replay in boxing is available in some states, it’s rarely utilized.
That needs to change.
And while the reasons for ringside modernization were both plentiful and clear long before Saturday evening arrived at London’s Wembley Arena, let’s just say the stench rising from the U.K. in the aftermath ought to be enough to sway whatever interested parties had still clung to the fence.
First off, though, let’s be frank.
The match between Dereck Chisora and Malik Scott was not going to set the heavyweight world on fire under normal circumstances. Neither the slimmed-down Englishman nor the light-hitting American had done anything of value through five full rounds, and short of arriving to the ring with mask and gun, neither was likely to spike Wladimir Klitschko’s blood pressure anytime soon.
The sixth round, however, was surely one for nostalgia.
When Chisora crowded his man along the ropes late in the session and delivered an overhand right that clubbed Scott above the left ear, it appeared as if the woozy “King” would take a count from referee Phil Edwards, stand at a timely moment and enter the final four rounds with a slight scorecard deficit.
And, in reality, it looked as if he did just that—rising from one knee precisely when Edwards hit nine.
But rather than waving the men together for the final few ticks, Edwards waved his arms over his head as a means of officially ending the fray, insisting that he’d gotten to 10 and Scott had missed his chance.
The Box Nation video appeared to bolster Scott’s case, and his trainer, Jesse Reid, was picked up on microphones with impassioned screams of “bullsh*t.” But it didn’t stop the ring announcer from dutifully declaring Chisora as the winner and new claimant to the WBO’s vacant international bauble, to shrieks of joy from fans and partisan announcers alike.
Some normally rational minds like ESPN's columnist Dan Rafael even blamed Scott for the error, suggesting he should have gotten up earlier to protect himself from such an official mistake.
Good for them. Bad for us.
Unless, that is, someone realizes what it could mean down the road.
Whether it’s too late for Scott to regain his 0 or not, the uncertainty created by the dubious ending needs to be a clarion call for the players that matter—the cable networks, the pay-per-view interests, the sanctioning bodies, the promoters—to cover their collective backsides going forward.
While it’s at least a little comical considering Saturday’s silliness occurred in the semifinal to an insignificant middleweight main event, it wouldn’t be near as funny to the corner-office types if a similar controversy brewed in a title bout in the Vegas desert, particularly in a $75 PPV title match involving guys named Floyd Mayweather, Saul Alvarez, Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthysse, for example.
To the momentum generated in a so-far-stellar 2013, it’d be a buzz kill of epic proportion.
And simply put, it’s a risk the Arums, De La Hoyas and Espinozas of the world can’t afford to take.
Instead, those power brokers need to make the investments, enable the logistics and clear whatever hurdles are needed to allow enough cameras in enough places to ensure every potentially decisive moment—headbutt, 10-count or otherwise—stands up to scrutiny; just like the fumbles, foul balls, late jumpers and no-goals do in the sports that have long since done so.
It might add time between rounds. It might overturn verdicts in raucous hometowns. But it also might save a new generation of fans from being introduced to the phrase “another black eye for boxing” every time the same old nonsense is allowed to pass with little more than the same old flaccid outrage.
Commissioners in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL saw the problems, suffered the traditionalists and went ahead with measures to bring their respective sports nearer the cutting edges of technology.
For a sport long conditioned to do the least it can do to treat its ills, now’s the time to do a little more.
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