THE British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) is facing allegations of racism and discrimination after Channel 4 News ran a report focusing on criticisms levelled at the Board by referees Ian John-Lewis and Jeff Hinds as well as Ruqsana Begum, who fought here in the UK before her licence was suspended.
Both John-Lewis and Hinds believe they have been unfairly discriminated against by the Board because they are black. John-Lewis’ allegations stem from his demotion from an A Star Class to an A Class Official in the wake of his highly controversial scorecard of Josh Taylor’s win over Jack Catterall last year. John-Lewis scored the bout 114-111 in favour of Taylor, an egregious tally that almost no one has agreed with. John-Lewis claims that he was singled out and punished by the Board due to the colour of his skin.
Hinds, meanwhile, claims that his progression as an official has been held back by the Board, previously arguing that individuals are “treated harshly for their skin colour.” Both he and John-Lewis have ongoing legal cases against the Board.
In Begum’s case, she cited an incident where she was reprimanded by a Board official for wearing leggings during one of her professional fights, which she chose to do out of respect for her family who were watching the contest. The news report then detailed how her Board licence was suspended, with Begum intimating that the two instances were linked. The Board denies all of the allegations.
These are all very serious claims and should be addressed as such. It’s important that a major broadcaster like Channel 4 is reporting on these allegations, however there were several areas of the report that appeared to require greater investigation.
Begum’s licence was indeed suspended, but what the report failed to mention was that this happened after Begum drew in her professional debut (which, incidentally, was refereed by Hinds) before losing her next two bouts, one of which was particularly punishing. Another rather crucial detail that was left out of Channel 4’s report is that Begum suffers with ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
While we don’t know the exact reasoning for the Board suspending her licence, we do know that they cited her draw and two losses as well as “fitness” when it came to their decision. That is important context that should have been at least mentioned in this report.
Likewise, Channel 4 portrayed John-Lewis’ situation as though his scoring of Taylor-Catterall was the only mistake he had ever made as an official. Both as a judge and a referee, John-Lewis has been at the centre of a number of controversial results. He also claimed that he was the only judge from the Taylor-Catterall fight that was punished (he and Victor Loughlin both scored it for Taylor, while Howard Foster gave Catterall the nod).
But the Board, when they downgraded John-Lewis’ status as an official, made it clear at the time that they had called him to come before them and explain his scoring and, after this review, said in a statement “Whilst the Board were satisfied that Mr. John-Lewis’ scorecard did not affect the overall result of the contest, the Stewards of the Board did have issue with his margin.”
Loughlin’s score for Taylor – 113-112 – was narrower. This also was not mentioned in Channel 4’s report. Pointing this out isn’t an attempt to defend the Board – after all, there was only one round’s difference between John-Lewis’ score and Loughlin’s – but when reporting on such matters all the important details should be made clear.
After the report, Channel 4 News interviewed Tony Burnett, Chief Executive of Kick it Out, the sport anti-discrimination charity, who argued that there needs to be far more representation for people of colour “at the highest levels of the sport.” He cited the fact that 30 per cent of boxers in the UK are people of colour, but that figure is not reflected within the Board’s executives.
As Burnett told Channel 4 News, racism and discrimination is still so pervasive across sport in general, not just boxing. And in order to overcome that, there needs to be systemic change. To his and Channel 4 News’ credit, that is a key takeaway from this report.
While Channel 4 News perhaps could have done a more thorough job in their reporting, that doesn’t take away from the importance of this issue and the fact that John-Lewis, Hinds and Begum all feel discriminated against because of their race, and deserve to have their voices heard. The hope is that the Board’s promise to invest more in inclusion and diversity is not just lip service and that real change does happen.
Conor Benn returned to action after failing two separate drug tests last year, outpointing Rodolfo Orozco on a DAZN card in Florida. It was pretty weird; the commentary team were doing their absolute best to not talk about Benn’s failed tests and the ongoing saga, which currently prevents him from boxing in the UK. There was also the fact that Chris Algieri – a former opponent of Benn’s and someone who has been outspoken about the situation on social media – was dropped as a commentator for this show at the last minute. That raises questions about whose decision it was to stop him from commentating on this card, though at least he was still paid for it.
It was also intriguing to hear Benn actively talk about his desire to box in Britain after defeating Orozco, which is a far cry from the siege mentality he had just a few months ago. And – if he can sufficiently clear his name as he claims he can – most fans would want him back here in the UK, too. As he showed against Orozco, he pretty much always delivers excitement.
Boxing on the Box
Jai Opetaia-Jordan Thompson
Coverage begins at 7pm
Caroline Dubois-Magaly Rodriguez
Sky Sports Action
Coverage begins at 7pm