BY: Rota Em
When fighters step into the ring, they are assuming that they will receive a fair fight. There are judges, referees, medical personnel, sanctioning bodies, and commissions set in place to make sure anything that can be seen before-hand is addressed so nothing should go wrong.
But what about the decisions from the panel of judges? Is there no check and balance for the almighty deciding body?
When a judge, or judges, make the wrong call is there anything that can be done to rectify it?
I can understand the scrutiny that comes with the ability to attest fight decisions but sometimes it is more than warranted. At the very least, the specific situations that are worthy of a second look should receive just that.
Normally, in the classroom, when we add up an equation incorrectly the teacher has the ability and opportunity to correct us. But what about when a judge adds points incorrectly—why can’t anything be done about it even if it IS after the fact? Fights have been deemed ‘no contests’ when a fighter fails a post-fight drug test so it IS possible to go the other way. If it means that the original decision has to be changed, wouldn’t it be worth it in the face of fairness?
This past weekend at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, we saw another controversial decision go in favor of a hometown hero. Juan Diaz got the nod on all three judges’ scorecards for the unanimous points victory. For that fight, we are not debating the decision to give the win to Diaz, considering how close the fight was and their difference in styles, but what we are questioning is why the scores were so wide. Many people that caught the fight, either live on HBO broadcast or in person, saw exactly what the judges saw so why would there be such a gap for the hometown favorite? If anything, the close decision should’ve been awarded to the visitor, Paulie Malignaggi but one judge even saw Diaz win with the absurd score of 118-110. Aside from Lennox Lewis pronouncing the Magic Man’s name incorrectly (he referred to Paulie as Maggiano), two of the three judges must’ve been tuning into the wrong fight altogether.
Not only did Malignaggi control the pace of the fight, but he kept Diaz at bay with his jabs and swift footwork. After the fight the Magic Man saved no face in addressing the robbery that had just occurred a few minutes prior. Although he did no favors for himself in the manner of his lash out, he did have a right to confront the unfair and unjust treatment.
I am embarrassed to say that I cannot cover all of the bad and controversial decisions that have occurred throughout the history of the sweet science, but we can briefly list off some from recent memory.
Joel Casamayor- Jose Armando Santa Cruz. The scores were 114-113 for Casamayor (twice) and 114-113 for Santa Cruz even after a 10-8 1st round. Ron McNair, Frank Lombardi, and Tony Paolillo held Santa Cruz’s fate in their hands as they gift-wrapped the win for Casamayor who held and back-peddled throughout the entire fight. They even let him open the present in the ring. Even the 114-113 score in favor of Santa Cruz was silly considering he should’ve been well ahead; I saw Casamayor winning only two rounds.
Ricky Hatton-Luis Collazo 115-112 (twice) 114-113 all for Hatton. With the win he takes Collazo’s belt although I agreed with the many fans ringside and at home who felt that the Brit didn’t do enough to take the championship. After a flash knockdown to a back-peddling Collazo, Hatton did not show that he belonged in the welterweight division. After the fight he vacated and went back home to 10 stone (140 lbs). In his next visit to the welters Hatton was smashed by Mayweather.
Mayweather-Castillo 1, April 2002. In his move up to 135-lbs, Mayweather encountered an underestimated Mexican warrior in Castillo. I had Castillo winning rounds 3,5,6,7,8,10,11,12. Mayweather took rounds 1,2,4,and 9. There was a point deduction for Castillo for hitting on a break in the 8th, a round that Castillo won. This gave Mayweather an extra point. A round later Mayweather blatantly threw a punch after the bell in which the ref did not address. In the 10th, however, Mayweather was deducted his own point for a forearm as if it was to make up for the previous non-call. This was also a Castillo round making it 10-8. Early in the championship rounds (11th), Mayweather stood toe-to-toe with Castillo and was outworked as he took punishment downstairs. Knowing that he wasn’t the favorite, Castillo came out blazing in the final round never taking a break and out-hustling Mayweather to the final bell in a round in which he clearly won. HBO’s Harold Lederman scored the bout 115-111 for Castillo to retain his belt. The scores were 116-111 and 115-111 (twice) to give Mayweather the go-ahead nod as he was given a Christmas present in the middle of spring. In their rematch, Floyd was more convincing in his win but, ironically, the scorecards were closer than their first fight. Go figure.
Pernell Whitaker-Luis Ramirez 1988. This was Sweet Pea’s first title shot and the first robbery of his career. He had won 9 of 12 rounds, at the very least, but went on to lose a split decision. He avenged this SD loss with a clear cut UD win a year later. Four years after that, he was mugged again. Read on.
Pernell Whitaker-Julio C. Chavez Sr. 1993– Draw. Whitaker won 9 of 12 rounds, give or take one or two swing rounds. This fight made the front page of Sports Illustrated that same year with a bolded six-letter word (“Robbed”) to accompany the image of Sweet Pea popping Chavez with a stiff right jab. Not only was the Chavez-Taylor fight controversial enough when referee Richard Steele halted a fight in which Taylor was well ahead with two seconds remaining, but to cap it with this draw is just plain unsportsmanlike. Chavez told SI the morning after the fight that he felt “a little beat up.” When the highly partisan Mexican crowd knows that their hero had lost but still got awarded the “w”, then you know you’ve just been robbed in broad daylight.
Miguel Huerta-Kid Diamond. 114-113 Kid Diamond (twice) and 116-111 Huerta. I had it 116-111 for Huerta who averted damage and successfully countered the Kid. He even scored a knockdown in the 7th. The decision was in no way a fault of the Kid but the crowd showed their opinion when the boo’s rung in during the post-fight interview for him. Huerta, however, was served with standing ovations as he visited all four corners.
De la Hoya-Felix Sturm 115-113 all for the Golden Boy. Similar to the Malignaggi-Diaz fight, Sturm landed more (234 to 188) but unlike that same fight, he did it with a higher percentage (43% to 23%). The back-story of this match was probably the setup for a superfight between De la Hoya and Bernard Hopkins (in which Hopkins KO’s Oscar with one punch). In a post-fight interview, De la Hoya stated that “everything went wrong tonight” although he walked away with Sturm’s belt. I’ll admit that this fight was closer than other controversial decisions but normally the champion gets the nod. AP press scored the fight a draw (114-114) while HBO had Sturm ahead by two points. I had Sturm comfortably ahead by two points as well.
Juanma Marquez-Manny Pacquiao 1—Draw. Burt Clements scored the first round 10-7. There were three knockdowns and Pacquiao had clearly blasted Marquez in the opening round, the natural scoring should’ve been 10-6. The end result for Clement’s card? 113-113. With the normal bickering between close fights aside, this is a simple case of NOT knowing how to add/subtract. In the eyes of many fans, and myself, it is just ridiculous that a simple mathematical error cannot be corrected. It’s not like we’re allowing another round, but we are simply asking for the correct tallies. Much to anyone’s dismay, the score stands and the result is a draw. I had Pacquiao up 113-112, the score that Clements would’ve ended on had he correctly scored the bout.
Rocky Juarez-Chris John—Draw (114-114). At the same venue and state as Saturday’s debacle of a fight score, Juarez battles John to a disputed draw. This was another close fight that was more than deserving of a Chris John win. I had it 116-112.
I know I said I wouldn’t mention controversial decisions from too far in the past but I cannot overlook the “long count” between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship. This fight took place in the mid 1920’s at Soldier Field with a crowd of 100,000 plus. Ring-side spectators recall that it took the champion approximately 15 seconds to get to his feet. The ref, Dave Barry, spent the first couple seconds guiding Dempsey to a neutral corner before administering a brand new count therefore giving Tunney the legendary “long count”.
Another fight that had me barely holding my head on is the Roy Jones Jr daylight robbery at the 88’ Olympics. Park Si Hun, a South Korean, was behind in the eyes of just about every single viewer. A South Korean radio covering the fight even stated that “Hun needed a knockout to win the gold as he was hopelessly behind on points.” Even the referee’s jaw dropped.
I am awe-struck by the fact that there are no checks and balances for the panel that ultimately decides an athlete’s future. It’s a shame that such a serious offense can go unobserved! For one, after the Diaz fight, Malignaggi hit it dead on when he said that he is now forced to be a “money” fighter—nothing more than a journeyman. And Diaz, well, he’ll be on to bigger and better things.
One first step that all sanctioning bodies can take is to develop some sort of checks and balances. This is a lot to ask for considering there are different rules for different arenas but when it gets to the point where we can’t even correct the wrong score addition for a judge, then what is the use of the panel anyhow? We live in an era where basketball and football officials have had a hand in “nixing” games. Why wouldn’t there be a possibility of boxing judges doing the same? I believe that part of the black eye for boxing is the “no questions asked” attitude. It’s as if they are looking to address the issue ONLY when they need to. But that time has already passed!
The addition of instant replay is great for a number of reasons. And I can only think of positive ones to be quite honest. This is a great step for boxing, now we just have to get judges who actually know the game and can add. That, one would assume, would’ve been the easier problem to rectify.
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