British boxing was left sporting a black eye and a tarnished reputation after more excruciating judging denied a visiting fighter an apparently clear decision victory.
Wily Mexican Miguel Vazquez appeared to handily outhustle Lewis Ritson over 12 trouble-free rounds before two judges came to the house fighter’s rescue at the East of England Arena in Peterborough on Saturday night.
The tragic thing is that no-one was really surprised. Britain is now arguably the most difficult place in world boxing for an away fighter to come away with a win on the cards. They used to joke that you needed a knockout to draw in Italy or Germany but now Britain is the focus of worldwide derision for its off-base officiating.
Marcus McDonnell scored 116-113 for Vazquez, which seemed close enough, before the unthinkable became a reality – Terry O’Connor’s inexplicable 117-111 card for Ritson teed up Michael Alexander’s 115-113 nod for the home fighter as jaws dropped around the boxing world.
Incredibly, O’Connor was photographed on his mobile phone during the fight and the British Boxing Board of Control needs to act quickly to retain its credibility. O’Connor has turned in a number of poor scorecards in recent times including another for Thomas Patrick Ward on the same night. He needs to be ushered into retirement – fighters’ livelihoods are at stake.
Sadly, the Mexican had been here before, losing another mystifying decision to Ohara Davies at the York Hall in June 2019 when sole arbiter Ian John Lewis was the culprit in question. With Ritson rated the No.2 by the WBA at 140lbs, Vazquez was robbed of a career revival, higher ranking and future payday by two debatable cards.
The crafty Vazquez, a former IBF lightweight champion, was supposedly a name on the slide who could bolster the Geordie’s reputation at 140lbs, but the Mexican’s skills showed no erosion as he outfoxed a predictable Ritson who trudged forward with minimal success.
Vazquez appeared to rack up the rounds behind his snapping lead and clever feet. Ritson’s work carried no real sense of urgency and the fight appeared to slip away from his grasp. At 33, Vazquez’s legs showed no sign of slowing as he jabbed adroitly and circled away from the ponderous Geordie, round after round.
Always a pace behind, Ritson wasn’t really hurt and his corner seemed unconcerned between rounds but he was peppered at range and Vazquez landed with impunity in a higher tempo 11th. It seemed a formality for Vazquez on the cards, but two judges saw a different fight to the rest of us.
“It was a very close fight, he was awkward and I had been a year out of the ring,” Ritson told Sky Sports afterwards. “I thought he was just tapping with his shots when I was hitting him with the cleaner shots. You pick what you like. I went back to the corner and they were confident that I had won. I trust [trainer] Neil [Fannan’s] instincts and I think we won.
“[I wasn’t surprised] how good he was, but how awkward he was. Neil was saying to not get frustrated with the jab, but the more the fight went on I got more frustrated because I just couldn’t hit him, tap, tap tap, running away, running away. That’s just his style, but we got the win and it shows us where we are. It’s meant to be [Regis] Prograis next, but I think we have a while before we get to them. That was a bit of an eye opener.
“Whatever you think. I was landing the cleaner hits and he was tap, tap, tap, running away. It is what it is. We’ve come away with a win and I think deservedly so.”
‘Livewire’ Marc Leach lived up to his nickname, dropping the favoured Qais Ashfaq twice to seal a merited unanimous decision and earn a shot at British super-bantamweight champion Brad Foster. Scores were 95-93, 96-93 and 96-92 in this 10-round title eliminator.
The Salford southpaw would not be denied, roughing up former amateur star Ashfaq from the offset and scoring knockdowns in the fourth and seventh rounds. Leeds’ Ashfaq recovered after being decked by a heavy left in the fourth, but that good work was undone when he was downed by a left hand counter near the end of the seventh.
Ashfaq wasn’t able to sufficiently narrow the gap in the remaining rounds and Leach, unbeaten since losing on his debut six years ago, was a worthy winner.
World-rated super-bantam Thomas Patrick Ward had a close call against sturdy late sub Thomas Essomba, escaping with his unbeaten record via a ninth-round technical draw following a clash of heads in the seventh that left the County Durham man with a nasty gash on the head.
The scores were all over the place. With judge Terry O’Connor, in the thick of it again, somehow scoring the bout 88-84 for Ward. Marcus McDonnell saw it 88-85 for the Wolverhampton-based Essomba with Michael Alexander scoring it even at 86-86 apiece.
In fairness, that laceration inhibited Ward’s work late on and he struggled with a motivated Essomba who found him far too easy to hit with a crisp left hook. A lacklustre Ward was off the pace and must have feared the worst when the injury led referee Bob Williams to halt the fight after a second inspection by the ringside doctor at the start of the ninth. But fortune smiled upon him.
Norwich welter Rylan Charlton simply walked through Geordie hope Joseph Laws, dropping the Newcastle man three times en route to an upset third round victory.
Laws was game as usual, but opted for a row and was picked apart. He was rocked by the short, sharp shots of Charlton, hurt to the body and dropped by a left hook in the opening round. Charlton dropped him once more with a right hand in the third with Laws, on shaky legs, falling over again soon afterwards, spitting out his gumshield and being given a prolonged respite by referee Marcus McDonnell.
But Laws was gone and, after being dropped again by a right uppercut, he was in no condition to beat the count.
Thirteen days after a points loss to Aqib Fiaz, Birmingham lightweight Kane Baker got back in the win column with a hard-earned victory over previously unbeaten Scouser Meshech Speare. Both men fought at late notice to replace the postponed Hannah Rankin vs Savannah Marshall WBO 160lbs title fight that was called off after the latter’s trainer Peter Fury tested positive with Covid-19.
Baker, cut over the left eye in the second, was just too busy and would not be denied. He set a fast pace with his workrate and strong finish trumping the heavier hands of Speare. Referee Michael Alexander scored 59-56.
Super-bantam Ellie Scotney enjoyed a bright debut, outscoring the gritty Bec Connolly over six rounds. Referee Michael Alexander scored 60-53. The affable Scotney scored a knockdown in the third round with a left hook whilst Connolly suffered a cut right eye in the fifth, but gave her all to the final bell.
Main image: Matchroom Boxing.