ANY points decision in boxing that goes against conventional opinion, or is deemed even slightly controversial, is now widely called a ‘robbery’. It’s a term that was first adopted within boxing many years ago, but it wasn’t a term that was taken lightly. For a fight to be labelled a robbery, it had to be an absolute howler where there was some serious suggestion of foul play. Yet today, with increased coverage of the sport and myriad opinions rolling up and snowballing on social media, there is so-called robberies every single weekend.
The latest occurred in Glasgow on Saturday night when Lee McGregor was named the split decision winner over Kash Farooq following a mesmerising bout where both combatants did themselves and the British and Commonwealth bantamweight titles proud. At times, given the expertise on show, it was easy to forget that the duo could only boast 20 professional bouts between them.
From my viewpoint, the same viewpoint of the thousands who watched on their televisions, Farooq looked like he’d done enough to win. But while watching I had been writing Boxing News’ live online report and watching replays of the most eye-catching punches. After 12 rounds I had Farooq three points ahead, but I was aware it had been intensely fought from both sides throughout.
Concerned I’d been swayed by the commentary and replays, and in turn my perception of any close rounds affected, I watched again with the sound off, fast-forwarded through replays, and scored each round on its own merit.
Again, I came to the conclusion that Farooq had won seven of the 12 rounds and, by virtue of the point deduction McGregor suffered, I had him a 115-112 winner. But due to me watching something I’d seen before, it’s unlikely my scoring would not in some way be skewed by perceptions I had already formed. It was far from a fool-proof investigation. Furthermore, one fighter appearing to win seven of 12 rounds and losing a close decision, should never constitute a robbery.
What I couldn’t do was replicate the vantage point of judge Mark Lyson whose card triggered significant outcry on social media when he called the bout 115-112 in McGregor’s favour (in essence, eight rounds to four when considering the point deduction Lee incurred). Impossible, too, to replicate the experience he had from his ringside position as he watched the action unfold. To call Lyson incompetent is grossly unfair, and to suggest anything more sinister than incompetence from a man like Lyson is far, far worse.
Now, I’m not saying he got it right. What I am saying is that nobody bar Lyson shared his vantage point during the contest. Nobody bar Lyson sat on that officials’ stool, had their view impaired at the same moments nor heard everything he heard. Without any doubt, what he saw and heard differed to what everyone else saw and heard. To be clear, I disagreed with his scorecard but this, for context, wasn’t a card in any way comparable to CJ Ross or Adelaide Byrd being unfathomably kind to Canelo Alvarez against Floyd Mayweather and Gennady Golovkin in recent years.
What we are due, though, is a review of how fights are scored. There should be no doubt whatsoever that those who watch on a screen and are privy to the best angles at all times, and replays of punches that highlight which shots land, have a superior view to those sat on one side of the ring for an entire contest. This, of course, is why there are three judges sitting on different sides of the ring. But if one judge is close to the commentators or corners or certain fans it’s difficult to switch off the noise completely.
This is where it gets complicated. There is also no substitute for being close to the action when examining the true effect and nuances of the punches on display. Even so, is it time to examine the feasibility of having at least one official watch the action on a screen behind the scenes, minus sound, who shares the vantage point of the vast majority of observers?
Certainly we should begin to investigate the possibility. Cases of ‘robberies’ will never disappear but ensuring the right evidence is obtained will go some way to keeping them at bay.