WHAT A SHAME
Controversial scorecards steal Josh Taylor’s thunder
IT’S a shame that three officials, by sitting at ringside and scoring each round, have the power to ruin a fight. Not ruin the skills on display, but certainly the mood, the memories and, in the worst cases, the result.
The two boxers can only do so much to ensure their efforts grab the headlines because, once the final bell goes, whatever came before is at the mercy of three opinions. Because this is boxing and this is sport. Decisions have to be made. Furthermore, the decisions that decide the margins and methods of victory will always be susceptible to controversy capable of transcending the action inside the ring.
If the judges get it about right, and let’s not forget that more often than not they do, they become anonymous bystanders, forgotten as soon as the right fighter is hoisted into the air in celebration. But if the scores are wrong, the scores which are perceived to be wrong, those scores become even more memorable than the efforts of the fighters.
What do you remember most about one of the greatest performances of Floyd Mayweather’s career when he outclassed Canelo Alvarez in 2013? I doubt it’s the way he expertly befuddled his rival, it will be the way CJ Ross’ 114-114 scoreline befuddled you. Three years later, Alvarez was gifted a 118-110 by Adalaide Byrd, who thought he’d won 10 of 12 rounds against Gennady Golovkin and tabled 118-110 in the Mexican’s favour. After that draw, a result that most observers disagreed with, Golden Boy’s Eric Gomez implored the media to not focus on the dodgy decision and instead report on what had indeed been an excellent fight. But how can you not focus on injustice? Almost a year later, memories of what went on in the ring are fading but how I felt when I heard it was a draw remains crystal clear.
All of the above is, of course, deeply unfair on the boxers. The boxers who not only give their all inside the ropes but lock themselves away in a training camp for months beforehand. Like Josh Taylor and Viktor Postol, two elite superlightweights who prepared diligently for last weekend’s clash and turned in a contest oozing with quality. It looked like an exceptionally tight encounter but in the record books it will always be a lopsided victory for Taylor. Some may argue that the right man won and they’d be right; Taylor boxed magnificently in the face of serious adversity and class. The way he got to grips with Postol was awe-inspiring, his future looks very bright.
But what of Postol? Does he deserve to be ruled such a wide loser? And will those scores persuade any elite international fighter to visit the UK in future? Ultimately, we should be talking about the efforts of both fighters rather than this. But if we keep ignoring cards that don’t appear to reflect the action, the problem – an ageold one, admittedly – will not just go away.
Short term, it’s certainly time for some damage limitation. Perhaps the commissions should tell us why Ghanaian Eddie Pappoe (who scored 119-108 in Taylor’s favour) was selected when he’s notched hometown fighters wide winners in close fights before. But most of all, let Pappoe and the other judges stand up for themselves and justify their scores.
And maybe then we might learn something too. It’s easy for us fly off the handle, particularly in this day and age when a few retweets can make us feel like our opinion is the only one that matters, but we should also remember that the judges have opinions too.
And after each round they hand in that opinion on a piece of card. They do not keep a running total. Each three-minute round is judged on its own merits. They do not see any replays that prove the punches thrown actually connected. They will not hear the commentary nor check their social media feeds. Instead they will sit in one position and only hear the reactions of the crowd.
Their job is not an easy one. But that doesn’t mean it should just be accepted when they don’t get it right.
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HARD FOUGHT: Postol tests Josh Taylor to his limits in Scotland