THE BOY WHO CRIED ROBBERY…

The term robbery, informally, means to unashamedly swindle something from someone. It sounds cheeky. Harmless. In actual fact the results of a robbery can, of course, be devastating. Things stolen away from you unfairly. Why then, has boxing of late, decided to over-use the term when discussing close, tricky fights? 

As we bring one of the most exciting seasons of boxing to a close, the Jeff Horn v Manny Pacquiao fight has cast a dark scorecard-shaped shadow over our sport.

Words like ‘subjective’ have been thrown about loosely, race has been dragged into the argument unnecessarily and everyone with WiFi has passed opinions neither valued or requested. But just what is it that leaves boxing and its results in question? Twelve rounds should be enough, surely, to seperate two athletes and crown a deserving victor!

Judging is an historically prickly affair. Most high-end judges are elderly now and still trusted with an ever-evolving sport. Watching Riddick Bowe and watching Vasyl Lomachenko is an entirely different proposition. Fighters like Prince Naseem Hamed probably wouldn’t tickle the fancy of a judge who favours the styling of Andrew Golota, would they? Then again, who enjoyed watching Golota?!

The WBO ordered the re-scoring of Horn v Pacquiao and a panel of five gave the decision again to the magnificent ‘Hornet’ in majority. I had him up by a round or two. I could have accepted a draw and if Pacquiao was given it narrowly I’d have given a ‘maybe that was karma for Bradley’ type shrug. But please, for the love of God, chill out with this ‘robbery’ chat! 

Why do we convince ourselves there must be some seedy underworld involvement everytime a fighter (we like) loses on points? Is it the emotional attachment we have to stars like Pacquiao? Is it the constant underdog struggle which we feel we must keep living and breathing at every turn? Or is it more realistically, a lack of understanding and a genuine difference of opinion?

Sadly, corruption in boxing is apparently still rife. Take the Rio Olympics 2016 as a prime example where Northern Irish amateur star Michael Conlan was handed an unthinkable loss. His reaction was priceless. It was slaughtered by boxing’s elder statesmen, but respected and acknowledged by anyone with eyeballs. The AIBA sent home six judges from the competition following allegations of corruption and Conlan was left without a medal and completely stripped of his faith in the system. Now that, is a robbery.

The amateur spine of the sport has been riddled with similar issues for years. Roy Jones Jr lost bizzarely to a South Korean in his Olympic semi-final and a young Floyd Mayweather also felt the sting of an unusually scored contest. The involvement of nations, officials and a serious lack of prize-money probably fuel these instances in the unpaid ranks but young athletes dedicating chunks of their lives are left devastated and deceived.

Burns v Beltran? Robbery.

Bradley v Pacquiao I? Robbery.

Horn v Pacquiao? Tight.

Gonzalez v Rungvisai? Tight.

The distinction between the two can admittedly be tricky. Some fans felt Pacquiao beat Horn because he was ‘more accurate’ or due to the ‘CompuBox’ statistics. When we’re fed things like ‘CompuBox’ it’s hard to become annoyed at folks screaming robbery. It’s people clicking little machines, counting punches like they’re counting bodies in a nightclub. It’s ridiculous. 

We’re forced to listen to Teddy Atlas rant, rave and border-line insult fighters based on his opinion. Opinion. The very thing analysts fight to protect. Jeff Horn was constantly on the front foot, he was throwing plenty, he wasn’t eating many shots, he came back from the brink and finished strong. All credit to him! 

Perhaps there should be clearer explanations of scoring? Maybe judges should have to justify who they had scored for in certain rounds with annotation on the cards? Audio commentary between rounds in which a judge will pass opinion on how he scored it? 

These options would all surely leave less room for error or foul play. They would all provide fans with the explanations they crave, not to mention the losing fighter and their team! 

Fights dating back to the 80’s have caused major controversy. Pernell Whittaker’s record reads ‘DRAW’ opposite the name of Julio Cesar Chavez. Somehow, Evander Holyfield stuck on a balaclava and made off with a draw against Lennox Lewis. This isn’t new. The recent trend of calling genuinely close fights ‘robberies’, however, is becoming more prominent. This is the issue.

If we continue to claim every close fight has fallen victim to shocking scorecards, we remove credibility from contests and from the sport. We strip boxing of its scientific element. Differing skillsets tested purely against one another. Having two boxers approach a bout in different ways means we must have judges scoring it how they see fit.

There are obvious discrepancies at the tables of boxing bouts around the Globe. Germany was once famed for one-sided decisions and in the UK we seem to be catching up. But make sure to set aside your close fights and stylistic clashes from your acts of corruption. The difference is there if you care enough to notice.

Written by Craig Scott

@craigscott209