Saturday, October 3, 2015

Analyzing The Breazeale-Kassi Controversy

One of the bigger stories that came out of the Deontay Wilder-Johann Duhaupas card on September 26th besides the “Game/Brave” effort put forth by Duhaupas in his challenge of Wilder was the outcome of an undercard bout between undefeated rising Heavyweight prospect Dominic Breazeale and battle-tested veteran Fred Kassi. Breazeale, who entered the fight against Kassi having knocked out fourteen of fifteen previous opponents as a professional is at a stage in his career that one might argue is not all that unlike that of Deontay Wilder, who had developed a reputation as one of the Heavyweight division’s feared knockout artists prior to becoming a world champion earlier this year.

As was the case when Wilder faced Duhaupas, Breazeale would face what many will likely consider the toughest test of his career in the form of Fred Kassi. Kassi entered the fight coming off of a controversial draw against former world title challenger Chris Arreola in July of this year. A fight that saw Kassi outwork Arreola over the course of ten rounds and one where there was a difference of opinion as to who won the bout.

An argument can and perhaps should be made that this fight between Breazeale and Kassi was even more controversial. In what was a very competitive contest from the outset it was a battle between Kassi’s ability to be elusive, pick his spots, and effective counter punching versus Breazeale’s aggression and greater activity.

Several of the rounds in this fight were close where you can make an argument for either fighter having done enough to win a round. As this observer watched this fight what stood out to me was Kassi’s ability to pick his spots, but also to be willing to engage with Breazeale and use his awkwardness to make Breazeale miss with his offense.

Although there was no question that it was Breazeale who was the busier fighter of the two, in my estimation it was Kassi who landed the cleaner more effective punches throughout the fight. It was however, a close fight in my eyes that I had Kassi winning by two rounds at the end of the ten round bout.

As is almost always the case when it comes to close fights it will often boil down as this observer has often said over the years to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria in how they score based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense. This was one of those fights where although I felt one fighter was more effective and landed the cleaner punches, I could see an argument in favor of the other fighter based on greater activity and aggression.

It was no surprise to see a difference of opinion at the end of this fight, specifically a difference of opinion between Boxing fans and experts and the three official judges who ultimately scored the fight in Breazeale’s favor by wide margins. Judge David Hudson turned in a score of 97-93 or 7-3 in rounds while Judges Irwin Deutsch and John Westeterp turned in scores of 98-92, (8-2 in rounds) and 100-90 (10-0 in rounds) respectively in Breazeale’s favor.

Although this observer was one of many who expressed their opinion in questioning the accuracy of the scoring following the fight on social media, it is important to remember that judges score on a round by round basis and when several of the rounds in a fight are close there can be differing scores based on what a judge looks for in their own individual criteria. Some judges will score based on effective aggression, while others may score based on clean punching, defense, and overall ring generalship.

It appeared that judges Hudson, Deutsch, and Westeterp favored the aggression of Breazeale in their scoring of this fight. It is certainly understandable to a degree how mere aggression can influence scoring. After all, fights can sometimes be determined by who is able to dictate the pace of the contest. There is no doubt that Dominic Breazeale was the more aggressive of the two fighters, the question was whether he was effective in his aggression.

For this observer the answer to that question is he was not effective and missed much of his offense throughout the fight due to the awkwardness/elusiveness of Kassi. Although I feel Kassi won the fight, I can see how others may feel Breazeale did enough to win the fight.

As is often the case when it comes to controversial decisions however, the central issue tends to be focused on official scorecards which differ significantly from the consensus of how a fight is seen among fans and Boxing experts. In this case the focus is on the scorecards of judges Deutsch and Westeterp for their wide scores in this fight.

This observer was quite vocal following the fight saying that although I could not say that I did not see argument for Breazeale having won the fight, it was a fight that I did not see either fighter winning ten rounds, even going as far as to call the scorecard of Judge Westeterp “Incompetent.” In all truth and honesty, I cannot see either fighter as having won eight out of ten rounds either.

It is important to remember despite my opinion about this fight that it is just that an opinion and part of the fun of the sport of Boxing and really all combat sports is getting the chance to debate who won a closely fought contest from time to time. Sometimes we simply agree to disagree. It is also worth remembering that while fans may become full of passion and anger following a controversial decision, judges are human and can have a bad night at the office from time to time.

In almost every case where a controversial decision is rendered in the sport of Boxing, a solution often comes in the form of a rematch. Whether or not a rematch between Breazeale and Kassi takes place in the near future remains to be seen, but it is clear that the experience for Dominic Breazeale will likely prove beneficial in the future as he was tested by a veteran and did perform well regardless of what one’s opinion of the outcome might be.

As for Fred Kassi, this is a scenario where a loss may ultimately do more for him than a victory might have. There were many including this observer who felt that he deserved the decision in this fight and even though he came out on the losing end of a controversial decision he will likely find himself in the mix and could get another fight against a top contender in the near future regardless of whether or not he gets a rematch with Breazeale.

At the end of the day regardless of the outcome of this fight two fighters have established themselves as players in the Heavyweight division. Regardless of whether there is a second encounter between Breazeale and Kassi, it will sure be interesting to see what happens in the future for these two fighters.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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