Arthur Abraham retained his WBO super middleweight title on Saturday night with a controversial unanimous-decision win over England's Paul Smith, whom many will feel deserved the points victory.
The 34-year-old champion had the advantage of a home crowd in Kiel, Germany, with the Liverpool Echo confirming the wide margins on the scorecards:
The Times' Ron Lewis concurred that those marks were far from accurate. It was a disappointing ending for Smith, who deserved far more credit than mere numbers suggest:
The opening exchanges saw each fighter start tentatively. Abraham looked the more confident party in getting a feel for his opponent, while Smith wasted energy by failing to hit at range on several occasions.
The older of the two was happy to put a heavy shield up and absorb Smith's probes. Abraham fired back with powerful jabs of his own, raising a redness in Smith's face in little to no time.
The underdog wasn't shy in his responses, however, and keen to show no signs of intimidation. He certainly put his name up for contention to win the second round and perhaps more.
After four rounds, World Boxing News had the pair on level terms:
With every blow Abraham delivered on song, the Kiel crowd responded with raucous applause. Even though his foe strove to stay in touch, the champion landed the more potent blows and with more efficiency at that.
In the corner, Smith's trainer Joe Gallagher could be heard directing his fighter to aim for the body and look to wear Abraham down, but the pledge was made in vain for the most part. Abraham even saw fit to drop his gloves, as if to dare Smith to hit him.
At 34 years of age, the question always remains as to how well Abraham's conditioning will hold up, but the German was smart in allowing Smith to rack up the chances, saving his own shots for the power punches.
Smith's chin was something to admire, however, and the challenger did very well to show his desire in at least attempting to fire back on the home fighter.
Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook praised the Liverpudlian's heart:
Matters really opened up in the seventh as both participants started to sacrifice self-preservation with the view to causing more damage. Smith walked away with the bigger share of plaudits from that phase.
The British contingent grew in voice as the rounds progressed, and Smith even began to assume the superior stance. Abraham's hands continued to drop but this time not always due to swagger. The Liverpool Echo reacted to Smith's rise in stature:
As the fight drew to a close, Gallagher reminded his fighter that the world title was close but by no means theirs before the final bell sounded—such was the confidence that had grown throughout the evening.
And as that final bell rang, the Sparkassen-Arena responded with wild applause for the two combatants, who had put forth a far tighter display than many proposed, with Smith certainly deserving of the judges' favour.
Abraham started strong but shrunk as the bout wore on. His economical approach resulted in a lack of punches, while Smith had dished out damage in small batches but frequently.
World Boxing News felt Smith deserved to be crowned the new WBO super middleweight champion:
In the end, though, the judges' scorecards couldn't have been further from such predictions. Two scored the fight 117-111, while the remaining judge had it 119-109. It's a well-founded point of scrutiny that Germany can be a nigh-impossible destination for visitors to take points victories, and those suspicions grew wider on Saturday.
However, nothing can be taken away from Smith, who without a doubt showed a new quality of boxing by his standards. His reputation has taken a massive boost from the display.
Abraham will count himself fortunate to still have the belt around his waist. He'll move onto another challenge with his renown stunted by a beleaguered outing.