Boxing was yet again dealt a low blow by a judging fiasco on a World Boxing Super Series undercard on November 3rd.
It was an occasion when attention should have been firmly focussed on the outstanding performance by headlining-home-favourite Josh Taylor, who utterly outclassed American Ryan Martin en route to a seventh round stoppage victory.
Yet as sweet as Taylor’s performance was, it barely masked the stench of injustice and corruption emitted by one of the evening’s earlier acts.
Zach Parker v Darryl Williams for the vacant British super middleweight title was an excellent contest on paper between two unbeaten fighters on the domestic rise. Derbyshire’s Parker raised eyebrows last year when he delivered a highlight reel first round knockout of highly-experienced Luke Blackledge who had previously extended current WBA ‘Super’ and Ring Magazine super middleweight champion Callum Smith into the tenth round. His performance earned him plaudits and a contract with Sauerland Promotions who form part of the venture behind the WBSS.
Londoner Williams meanwhile had set viewers’ pulses racing by edging two barnburners with Jahmaine Smyle in which he fully lived up his nickname of ‘Ferocious’. Yet his frustration at being unable to secure a significant fight on the back of these contests was among the reasons for a surprising retirement announcement, a decision which he later retracted. The fight with Parker on the undercard of Saturday night’s WBSS double-header represented by far the biggest opportunity of his career to date.
The two men presented a contrast in appearance and style. Parker is a tall, rangy boxer-puncher with good amateur pedigree. The shorter, stockier Williams only had a handful of fights in the unpaid ranks, but as a professional had reaped the rewards of an aggressive bob-and-weave style. Parker, the superior technician and more accomplished boxer, entered the contest as the betting favourite, but Williams, who possesses proven heart and durability, was very much a live underdog.
The first round was an excellent one for Parker, as he comfortably outboxed his foe at range and it seemed like Williams could be in over his head. However, the Londoner rebounded with an excellent second round, closing the distance and catching Parker with clean, eye-catching shots, including a flush left hook that Parker did well to absorb.
Williams continued to work over Parker in the third round as the latter switched to a southpaw stance working exclusively off the right jab, making it apparent that he had suffered an injury to his left, which later transpired to be a dislocated shoulder. For the rest of the contest, Parker would be a one-armed fighter, but maintained his composure admirably in the face of this serious disadvantage. He was brave, resourceful and boxed brilliantly with one hand at times. But he did not, I repeat NOT, win the fight.
I did not score the fight round-by-round while viewing live, but like virtually every other boxing head watching – with the exception of Parker acolytes – I saw Williams emerging as the overwhelming winner. I have since watched the fight back twice, giving Parker every benefit of the doubt, and scored the fight 116-112 to Williams. I gave Parker rounds 1, 4, 9 and 11, but felt that he only won rounds 1 and 11 clearly.
Ironically, Williams’ best work came in rounds 2 and 3, before the impact of Parker’s injury became apparent. Thereafter, he was strangely ineffective in fully exploiting his opponent’s handicap. As I watched Williams struggle to cut off the ring, I could not help but wonder how differently the fight might have gone were it not for Parker’s injury. However, facts are facts. Williams was the aggressor throughout the fight, busier and landed all the meaningful punches. By the end of the fight, Parker’s face was marked and lumped up, while Williams had barely a scratch on his.
You can therefore imagine the reaction within the SSE Hydro when judge Victor Loughlin’s criminally bad card of 117-112 in favour of Parker was announced first, filling the pit of this writer’s stomach with immediate dread. Ian Lewis scored the contest a still-too-close 115-113 in favour of Williams, and the third man at ringside, Steve Gray, opted to push the knife in halfway rather than to the hilt by scoring the contest 115-114 in favour of Parker and handing him the most undeserved of split decision victories. Boos, jeers and whistles echoed throughout the arena, in stark contrast to the stunned silence of a devastated Williams.
In post-fight interviews, Parker’s promoter, Kalle Sauerland, seemed almost embarrassed when the issue of the fight’s scoring was put to him, choosing to focus instead on the grit and determination of Parker in fighting most of the contest with one arm. He claimed that being preoccupied with production matters prevented him from watching the fight closely as it was taking place, deferring to the ‘ringside experts’ who he claimed were divided on the fight outcome. I’d be keen to know who these ‘experts’ were and whether or not they recently took a trip to Specsavers?
There were eerie shades of Mohammedi-Chudinov, fought earlier this year on the undercard of the Usyk-Gassiev WBSS cruiserweight final in the tournament’s first edition. On that occasion, Mohammedi thoroughly outboxed and out-hustled the home fighter and odds-on favourite for what should have been a clear points victory, only to be robbed blind by the judges for a similarly ludicrous split decision in Chudinov’s favour. I described that outcome as no less than ‘bare-faced corruption’ and went on to write:
‘In an ideal world, investigations would follow, heads would roll, decisions would be overturned and the victims of wrong-doing compensated.
We are after all talking about a sport where men and women make untold sacrifices and place their lives on the line for our entertainment, yet the outrage rarely amounts to more than lip service.
The destroyed livelihoods, broken bodies, crushed spirits and forgotten names are subsequently swept under the carpet and eventually make their way into the dustbin of boxing history. Few activities have the power to inspire such intensity of emotions among its devotees as boxing does: yet, in a perverse distortion of logic and morality, generate so little by way of effective action when injustice strikes.’
What more can one say? When robbery becomes self-fulfilling prophecy, are words even adequate? I’m moved to recall Wittgenstein’s immortal words that ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ Better perhaps therefore to reflect on the broken figure cut by Williams in the ring post-fight and his dignified, poignant interview with IFL TV later on the same night.
But if suitable syntax exists, Woody Allen came close to providing it in the memorable courtroom scene from the 1971 film Bananas when he described proceedings as ‘a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.’
I’ll leave you, the readers, to pass judgment.
Article by: Paul Lam
Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam