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Bad Judging & Controversial Scorecards

Last year (2017) what should have been the fight of the year, Canelo verses GGG, was ruined by suspiciously poor judges’ scorecards. Despite Golovkin throwing an extra 200-punches and lading more than an extra fifty compared to Canelo Alvarez, somehow, one of the judges gave the Mexican superstar the decision, while another saw a draw, with only one judge seemingly seeing the same fight that was broadcast around the world. As bad as the decision seemed, it was completely eclipsed in the rematch last September, when somehow Canelo was in the eyes of many observers gifted a majority decision win against a rightly disgusted Golovkin, who left the Las Vegas venue without dignify the ‘robbery’ with an interview.

Less than three months later, it would seem unlikely that such a controversial decision could happen again so soon? But, somehow, lightning struck again for a third time in the space of little more than a year in the world of big time American pay-per-view boxing. In what should have ranked among the comebacks of heavyweight greats Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, Tyson Fury beat the odds by getting up from a catatonic punch from Deontay Wilder in the final round of their twelve-round championship contest. It was a career highlight for both fighters; Wilder showed that even in the final round, seemingly far behind on points, he refuses to give-up and is dangerous to the end; while Fury showed superhuman heart by somehow beating the ten-count and fighting on strong for the remainder of the twelfth round.

A country mile ahead on the scorecards of both the British broadcaster BT Sport Box Office and the American broadcaster Showtime, a jubilant Fury and a beaten looking Wilder seemed sure of the outcome as they waited for the judges' inevitable decision. The split decision draw was a disgrace that raises questions about either the competence of the officials picked by the respective promoters, or, even the question of out and out corruption in the sport of boxing.

Boxing is arguably the oldest sport still active today, but the increasing problem of poor scorecards are putting it in increasing danger of following another ancient sport, wrestling. Professional Wrestling began life as a real sporting contest similar to today’s MMA and was even covered by Ring Magazine, when it was originally founded in 1922.

Boxing is unquestionably the toughest and most dangerous sport in world, but if an effort has been made to pre-determine the outcome in any way, then boxing is in danger of no longer being a legitimate sporting contest but rather sports entertainment, similar to the WWE. The big difference being that the fighters, unlike the WWE roster, have the chance to re-write the script with a knockout or dominant performance where it is impossible to deny them a victory and retain any credibility.

Canadian Robert Tapper judged the contest 114-110 to Fury, which echoed the scorecards of BT Sports Box Office and Showtime. The British judge Phil Edwards scored it 113-113 for a draw, which given the knockdowns and two or three close rounds is not unthinkable. The scorecard of the Mexican judge, Alejandro Rochin, 115-111 to Wilder, however, is simply inexplicable even scoring the fighters for aggression as Mexicans and North Americans in general tend to gravitate towards.

The situation had echoes to another contentious decision, in which, Tyson Cave was robbed of a clear win in his super bantamweight title fight with Oscar Escandon back in 2014. In response veteran fight analyst and former Mike Tyson trainer, Teddy Atlas, made the following outburst when asked about corruption in boxing:

Former two weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi, who was scouring the championship contest for Showtime was left speechless by the decision: “I don’t know what else to tell you. We’re looking at highlights of a fight we should be breaking down and why the result is the way it is, but I can’t tell you why the result is the way it is.”

It is particularly worrying that some newer fans, seemingly brought into following boxing by the success of Deontay Wilder, seem to have reacted to the comments of Malignaggi as if he is just an attention seeker. Anyone who has followed boxing long enough, knows that there has always been corruption in the sport, as Teddy Atlas pointed out in his appearance on the Joe Rogan Show:

“The alphabet organizations, they are corrupt. They are … If you’re going to be honest about it and don’t have agenda where you’re afraid to say it because you have an agenda. Which a lot of people do in my business.”

Jake LaMotta, who beat all time pound for pound great Sugar Ray Robinson, famously threw a fight against Billy Fox in 1947 in return for a shot at the middleweight title. LaMotta admitted to doing this in 1960 during a Senate subcommittee investigating corruption in boxing. While 'taking a dive' is largely a thing of the past, other more sophisticated forms of corruption have taken its place. In 2001 the investigative documentary, Boxing: In and Out of the Ropes, showed footage obtained by the FBI of what appeared to be the IBF founder Robert W. Lee accepting a mysterious package while discussing the IBF rankings. Despite what the FBI believed the video evidence appeared to show, however, Lee was ultimately acquitted of the bribery charges.

Another well-known case of alleged corruption in boxing featured in the same documentary was the ABC USA boxing tournament. In 1976 promoter Don King went to ABC Sports and persuaded the television network to fund a tournament to crown a USA champion in eight weight divisions. The tournament was based on the Ring Magazine ratings. Subsequently, however, it was shown that King had paid John Ort, who was then the editor at Ring Magazine in charge of the ratings, $5,000 in cash. Records were falsified and the rankings of eleven fighters were inflated in order for them to participate in the tournament, which was ultimately abandoned by ABC Sports.

The Wilder-Fury decision had its strongest parallels with the outcome to Lennox Lewis’s first WBC/WBA/IBF unification bout with Evander Holyfield in 1999. Again, a controversial split draw, where the American champion was gifted a home country descension by one of the judges to retain his portion of the world heavyweight title. Providing fight analysis of Wilder-Fury for BT Sport Box Office, Lennox Lewis allegedly offscreen predicted the controversial draw, claiming he knew it was going to happen because: “It happened to me, and I knew it was going to happen to him. Everybody could see who won.

Again, the same excuses where made for the controversial scoring of the judges, they were scoring for ‘aggression’. After the fight the news story the next day should have been about the courage of the fighters, instead as in Wilder-Fury 19-years later, the story was incompetence or corruption in boxing. In the words of the late boxing journalist Jack Newfield:

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