Friday, July 15, 2011

Reflections After the Seething

Photo: AP/Rich Schultz



There exist many idioms, sayings and clich├ęs in boxing that are gobbled up by mainstream press and loathed by fans and proponents of the sweet science. 


"Black eye for boxing" is probably towards the top of the list - perhaps above "This is why boxing isn't popular anymore." 


This last weekend in Atlantic City, the terribly putrid decision to name Paul Williams the winner over Erislandy Lara gave the naysayers proper justification to shout the ills of boxing from the rooftops; it was bad enough that the last line of defense die-hard fans would be up there shouting alongside them. 




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Being a moment-to-moment sport, boxing is no stranger to hyperbole. Often it's difficult to discern an actual bad decision from a close contest where the guy you rooted for lost, when words like "robbery" and "screwed" get tossed around in the heat of the moment. 

And some fights are funny that way. What's seen as a clear-cut, no BS win for a guy one day, might wind up scored a little closer upon the next viewing. 

The last month and change has featured a number of televised fights that many rightfully labeled "controversial" though:

Kenny Galarza SD10 Irving Garcia - This ESPN2 Friday Night Fights main event from June 10th featured 14-1 supposed "knockout artist" Kenny Galarza against the seemingly shopworn Irving Garcia, who entered the bout at 1-3-1 in his last 5 fights, 2 of the losses by stoppage. 

Rather than reprise his role as prospect fodder, the long-armed Garcia continuously snapped Galarza's head back with a strong jab, kept him at his desired range, and eventually almost closed the younger man's left eye with a steady diet of right hands. Galarza had a very difficult time finding any sort of rhythm and couldn't seem to follow up on his occasional left hook.  

Two judges apparently saw a different fight. Their scores of 97-94 and 96-94 in favor of Galarza were announced, and the New York crowd promptly booed. 

Mauricio Herrea MD10 Mike Dallas Jr. - Two weeks later on Friday Night Fights, commentator and trainer Teddy Atlas, ever the philosopher, did a bit early in the telecast attempting to reveal to viewers the grand secret of a view from the judges' vantage point at ringside. 

Fittingly, the judges at ringside for Herrera-Dallas Jr. apparently couldn't see the hard counters, surprising inside work and body punching from Dallas Jr. Herrera did an outstanding job of moving forward and appearing to do efficient work, while not really getting much done. Dallas clearly won at least 4 of the last 5 rounds. 

One judge scored the bout a relatively questionable draw, while the other two went all out lunacy with scores of 98-92 and 96-94. 

Felix Sturm SD12 Matthew Macklin - Broadcast on EPIX and Sky Sports from Germany on June 25th, this fight seemed to be the precursor to the last three on the list, but maybe the least questionable of the bunch. 

The supposedly out-classed Macklin pushed forward early in the fight, raking Sturm's body with hooks and winging uppercuts as the German didn't seem to mind picking his spots, being a bit more effective. Both men tired as the bout wore on, but Macklin continued to outwork Sturm in a surprisingly entertaining tilt. 

In the end, Macklin earned a 115-113 score on one card, while Sturm got the other two at 116-112 apiece. Regardless of what fans or media thought happened, Felix Sturm has reportedly promised Macklin a rematch for his noble effort. 

Devon Alexander SD10 Lucas Matthysse - In the Midwest (and on HBO), Alexander has gone 2-1 in his last 3 fights. In reality, he deserves to be 0-3. 

The hard-luck Argentine toughguy Matthysse lost a debatable split decision to Zab Judah last November, but was clearly short-changed against Alexander on HBO Boxing After Dark the same night as Sturm-Macklin. Matthysse decked Alexander and consistently worked hard body shots into his assault. While he showed great heart and fortitude, Alexander did more yelling and amateurish "Ha!"-ing than actually connecting with shots. 

One judge wisely scored the bout 96-93 for Matthysse. The other two apparently favored missed counters, shoe-shining and loud noises over connects and damage inflicted, incorrectly scoring the fight 95-94 and 96-93 for Alexander, who was also the recipient of an extremely favorable decision win over Andriy Kotelnyk on HBO last year. 

 Jonathon Barros SD12 Celestino Caballero - Former unified super bantamweight champ Caballero was inexplicably given an opportunity to fight WBA featherweight titlist Jonathon Barros on Argentinian sports channel TyC Sports after losing a lackluster split decision to gutsy-but-limited Jason Litzau last November.

The July 2nd scrap was a mix of entertaining and sloppy, but Caballero controlled much of the action from a distance. Probably the most controversial facet of the matchup, the popular Argentine Barros was allowed to repeatedly rabbit punch, elbow and maul the Panamanian for lengthy stretches by referee Luis Pabon. 

Scores of 115-111 for Caballero and 114-112, 116-111 for Barros were announced, despite Caballero scoring two knockdowns. 

The TyC Sports commentators had Caballero winning the bout.

 And finally...

Paul Williams MD12 Erislandy Lara - The decision by Dan Goossen and Williams' trainer George Peterson to take on a southpaw counter-puncher with solid punching power and a heap of amateur experience was a head-scratcher. And especially considering they were offered a much more straight-forward guy in Sergei Dzinziruk.

No matter to Williams - he hung in there and took left hand after left hand, never making what would have been a perfectly reasonable choice to bow out in the midst of a severe beating. There were a few moments where Williams put a few shots together, a few rounds in which he outworked Lara and threatened to gain momentum. But all in all, his legs looked debilitated throughout the second half and Paul simply looked done. 

That's where the narrative should have ended. 

Instead, three hilariously and enragingly incompetent and/or corrupt judges, Donald Givens, Hilton Whitaker Jr. and Al Bennett, stole a victory from Cuban defector Erislandy Lara as a horde of exasperated boxing fans looked on. The "judges," who have since been suspended by the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, magically bestowed the victory upon Paul Williams with absolutely shameful scores of 116-114, 115-114 and 114-114. 

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Boxing fans truly must be the most hard-headed of saps in the sports world. As the saying goes, "With friends like you, who needs enemies?"

A mere suspension, slap on the wrist, $250 fine, community service or grade school demerits won't be sufficient for long.  

In a little over one month, 6 fighters with significant money behind them benefited from disputable decisions on televised programs, to word it safely. 

Or "Six more black eyes for boxing."





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