Devon Alexander once again invoked the ire of many boxing fans for doing nothing but go toe-to-toe for 10 rounds with the heavy-hitting and skilled Lucas Matthysse of Argentina. This time it wasn't his heart they were angry with. They were mad at Alexander for being the hometown boy, the A-side, and the beneficiary of a decision that many felt was wrong.
The allegations came flying...Don King must have bribed the judges! Hey, that one guy also gave Alexander the win against Kotelnik...wait a minute! And clearly HBO wanted the American with the compelling backstory to win as well, despite Larry Merchant's visible disgust at the verdict.
But let's all settle down a moment. Boxing is scored by rounds. It doesn't matter if one guy's face is falling off and the other looks like he went for a light jog. If the more damaged fighter won the most rounds, he won the fight.
How to score rounds is largely subjective. It involves some vague combination of quantity and quality of blows landed and points for consistently making your opponent miss as well. Some judges reward movement. Others reward punch output. Some prefer busier fighters, others more accurate ones.
In the case of Alexander vs. Matthysse, there are six rounds that a judge could clearly award to Devon Alexander. Rounds 1,2,3,5,6 and 9 were all largely dictated by the quicker Alexander, who circled Matthysse and landed effective combinations on the inside. He appeared, to me, the faster, sharper fighter in all of those rounds.
Matthysse certainly connected on some clean shots, and some may argue he may have done the most damage in these rounds. He absolutely did the most damage in Rounds 4,7, 8, and 10, there was no question about that. But in the six rounds I mentioned, neither fighter was badly hurt by anything and overall I found Devon more effective. So I tallied a score of 95-94 in favor of the hometown kid.
Several of the rounds I gave Devon were very close and I could see giving Matthysse the first round where not much happened or the third round where he landed the single biggest shot. But overall I felt that Devon was dictating the pace, playing great defense, and catching Matthysse with combos that were landing. It's a legitimate argument. Had you flipped those two rounds, you would have scored the fight 96-93 for Matthysse, which was probably the most common score among fans and pundits.
The truth is that bias plays a big role in how we award those very close rounds. There were many people out there who felt this phenom from St. Louis was more smoke than fire and were looking for him to get exposed against a very dangerous foe.
I never underestimated Matthysse, but I was rooting for Alexander and believed he could get it done. Did that play in to me seeing the first three rounds in Devon's favor? Absolutely. But having rewatched the rounds objectively, I stand by it as a defensible score.
It was a close fight. Neither guy decisively won. They both acquitted themselves well and they will both be back in meaningful divisional fights. Let's not forget Matthysse's countryman Sergio Martinez, who was completely jobbed in a draw against Kermit Cintron and lost a semi-controversial decision to an American Paul Williams.
When you've only been beaten controversially and narrowly, the real fans come to respect you. Matthysse will keep getting opportunities.
By the way, I had Sturm winning 7-5 too.