IT’S getting harder and harder to stay positive about boxing these days. And yes, despite the relentless moaning in this weekly column, I do try to stay as positive about the sport as possible. But last week we had the travesty of the Rolly Ramirez-Ismael Barroso stoppage, and this week we’ve been subjected to yet more atrocious officiating of a fight.
Devin Haney’s win over Vasiliy Lomachenko was a close one. There aren’t many people – beside the three scoring judges – who have come away from the bout thinking Haney had won, and the consensus was that it was a tightly fought contest. But judge Dave Moretti, who should have been put out to pasture years ago, scored it 116-112 for the unbeaten American. He scored the 10th round – a stanza so clearly controlled by Lomachenko they could have played the Ukrainian national anthem in the interval afterward and no one would have batted an eyelid – in favour of Haney.
That is abysmal scoring. But it’s just so typical of boxing. Seasoned fans and followers of this brutal game have had to swallow scoring like that time and time again. ESPN barely questioned it. Yes, the likes of Tim Bradley and Andre Ward spoke of how they thought Lomachenko deserved the nod, but that was where the scrutiny of the judging stopped. Instead, the ESPN team essentially gaslit themselves into thinking they had simply interpreted the fight incorrectly.
The fans and the fighters deserve more. In football there have been innovations like VAR which have changed the very state of the game, and especially how it is taken in by viewers at home. In recent weeks and months there have been further improvements on that system. Some broadcasters have released clips of VAR decisions in games, with audio of the officials involved – including the referee on the pitch – talking with each other in real time about the decision in question. You can hear them talk through every step of the decision-making process before then coming to a conclusion. It provides a level of transparency that almost entirely removes the question of: how did that decision come about? And it holds officials to a higher standard.
Boxing is lightyears behind that.
To ESPN’s credit, they did highlight the impact of the loss on Lomachenko. Footage of the typically stoic boxing master breaking down in tears backstage after the fight was quite difficult to watch. Some criticised ESPN for being too invasive at such a vulnerable moment, but if ‘Loma’ and his team were uncomfortable with the cameras being in the changing room at that time they could have refused them entry.
Lomachenko’s tears became more poignant when he revealed at the post-fight press conference that they came about because he remembered words of encouragement and excitement from his young son before the fight, who shouted “And new! And new!” to his father.
Haney, a gifted fighter coming off the biggest win (on paper) of his career, comes away with his stock lowered, at least in the short term. The 24-year-old will have earned some detractors just by virtue of the decision – something he can’t control – but he also ruffled plenty of feathers with the way he acted during fight week and after the bout. In the days leading up to the fight, he frequently referred to Lomachenko as a “dirty fighter” and then, at the weigh in, violently shoved Vasiliy when they were facing off. He is reportedly going to have to pay a fine for that particular mistake.
Over on DAZN there was, thankfully, more competent officiating though not entirely. Gary Cully was stopped in three rounds by a marauding Jose Felix, despite the best efforts of the referee to keep him in it. Cully, who was in no position to defend himself, received numerous hellacious shots before the referee finally stepped in and stopped the fight. It was not pleasant to watch and sadly the DAZN commentary did not properly highlight the referee’s mistakes.
In fact, the UK DAZN commentary, which is usually very good, was noticeably skewed toward the ‘home’ fighters in several of the bouts on the card. The most obvious was during JJ Metcalf’s decision win over Dennis Hogan. Despite Metcalf controlling almost all of the action from start to finish, the commentators were praising Hogan and almost making it sound as if he were winning.
The DAZN broadcast was a little off overall. There were plenty of lengthy ring walks – which always stalls the momentum of a show – as well as some awkwardly-timed interviews. There was a ringside chat with Kell Brook that descended into a scuffle with Conor Benn, who seemed to bump into Brook as he walked behind him while the cameras were rolling. Nothing about that was entertaining.
The main event between Katie Taylor and Chantelle Cameron, though, was brilliant. It was a terrific fight which ended with the correct fighter having their hand raised, and plenty of respect shown between the two.
Both The Guardian and The Times ran pieces ahead of Taylor-Cameron reflecting on how it was the first time major boxing had returned to Ireland since a gangland shooting at a weigh in occurred in Dublin in 2016. According to the Garda, the shooting was a result of a long-running feud between the Hutch and Kinahan gangs.
Taylor, who of course hails from Dublin, was fighting in her hometown for the first time in her professional career against Cameron.
Both pieces serve as prescient reminders of how dangerous the involvement of certain individuals in the sport can be. And they also speak to how aspirational figures like Taylor can help to heal the wounds caused by others.
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