Wednesday, May 24, 2023

May 20, 2023: Day Of Undisputed Thoughts


The Boxing world focused its attention on two undisputed world championship bouts that confidentially took place on May 20, 2023, making it "A Day Of Undisputed" in the sport. Women's Boxing was first to take the spotlight as undefeated Undisputed Jr. Welterweight world champion Chantelle Cameron defended her crown against undefeated Undisputed Lightweight world champion Katie Taylor in Taylor's hometown of Dublin, Ireland. 

Taylor, who was attempting to accomplish something rare in the sport, to become an undisputed world champion in two weight classes simultaneously, had the support of her hometown behind her in this bout against Cameron. Those who thought that Taylor would have an easy time of things in a fight billed as her Homecoming, were left disappointed. In what was a close fight from start to finish, it was Cameron's constant pressure and ability to back Taylor up against the ropes that seemed to be the subtle difference in the fight.

As is usually the case when it comes to Women's Boxing, what made this bout difficult to score in addition to the two minute round length, one minute less than men's bouts, was that Taylor was able to keep it close due to being able to respond to Cameron's offense by throwing short, blistering combinations of punches, despite being pushed backwards by Cameron throughout most of the scheduled ten round world championship fight. This created something else that is all too common in women's bouts. The definition of a nightmare in terms of determining which fighter was able to get the upper hand in rounds that could be scored either way depending on one's perspective based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense, the accepted criteria in which Boxing on every level is scored.

It was indisputable as the fight progressed that Taylor was able to get the upper hand in some rounds simply due to her having the quicker hands when she was able to let her hands go. Despite also being able to evade some of Cameron's offense with effective lateral and head movement, she was not able to break the pattern of the fight, which was being pressured and pushed back against the ropes by a naturally stronger opponent. Cameron's consistency in this area, ultimately resulted in her retaining her Undisputed Jr. Welterweight championship of the world via ten round majority decision. Earning the nod of two of the three official judges. Unofficially, this observer scored the bout also in Cameron's favor six rounds to four or 95-93 in points. In all honesty, I felt the fight could have gone either way and as I often say when it comes to close fights, it will often come down to what a judge prefers based on the aforementioned criteria. Something that is important for the reader to keep in mind because as fate would have it, the subject of how fights are scored and the criteria in which is used to do so would turn out to be just as relevant to the second undisputed world championship bout that took place on May 20th.

This observer is referring to the battle for the Undisputed Lightweight championship of the world between undefeated undisputed world champion Devin Haney and former three-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko, which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. As expected, this was a tactical chess match from the outset, which similar to the Cameron-Taylor bout earlier that day presented a conundrum in terms of how the fight was scored and again, what a judge prefers based on the accepted criteria in how Boxing is scored.

In this case, it was Lomachenko, the naturally shorter fighter, generally bringing the fight to the younger and naturally bigger Haney. This included attacking in short, explosive spurts, using angles to vary the attack, and being physical on the inside with the champion when he needed to be. Unlike the approach of Chantelle Cameron, which was largely based on applying constant pressure on Katie Taylor, Devin Haney's approach had an emphasis on trying to get to Lomachenko's body, while trying to be elusive and maintain a distance where he could get his punches off first before Lomachenko could return offense.

While it is indisputable that Haney's consistent focus on Lomachenko's body did have an effect as this fight progressed, the conundrum for yours truly was trying to decide for myself as an observer whether or not the body attack would be enough for the champion to win rounds that were otherwise very close. As the twelve round world championship bout progressed, there was one thing that stood out that ultimately would influence how I scored this fight unofficially. It is important to keep in mind that this fight was not only on the highest level of the sport, but was being fought at a high competitive level from start to finish. The consistent thing that stood out however, was Lomachenko was the fighter generally forcing the action and dictating how the fight was fought. 

Although this by no means indicates that the fight was one-sided because it was anything but, at no point throughout this fight was Haney able to get into a rhythm such where he could control the pace without feeling resistance from the challenger. Despite this, I felt that Haney was able to win three of the last four rounds, which resulted in my scoring the fight seven rounds to five or 115-113 in points for Lomachenko. 

Much like my feelings on Cameron-Taylor, I thought one fighter won the fight clearly, but I also felt that it could have gone either way on the scorecards. At the risk of sounding repetitive to the reader, it truly does boil down to what a judge prefers based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense. Why did I rewrite the criteria one more time? The answer is simple. Although Boxing is a sport known as “The Sweet Science,” the practice of scoring fights on every level of the sport ranging from amateur, to professional, to professional Bareknuckle, is far from a perfect science and is often very much open to interpretation. This is why you will often hear this observer talk about the idea of “Swing Rounds,” which can be defined as close rounds where the winner of those rounds is often determined based on moments in a round that can sway opinion as opposed to one fighter being able to control the action over the other for the direction of a round. 

In this case, there were indeed several rounds that could have been scored either way, but from my perspective, it was Lomachenko who carried the majority of the action, which is ultimately what I based my scoring on. The three official judges however, did not see this fight the way yours truly did in scoring the fight unanimously for the champion via margins of seven rounds to five on two scorecards, (115-113) and eight rounds to four (116-112) resulting in Haney retaining his undisputed championship. 

While I did not and do not agree with the decision having taken a couple of days to digest things and gather my thoughts, I will say that after a lifetime watching Boxing and almost three decades covering the sport and other combat sports, I could probably write a series of columns or perhaps even a book that would cover the series of decisions that I have seen on every imaginable level of the sport that I personally did not agree with and I felt/feel were worse decisions than this one turned out to be, which is too long of a list to cover in the context of one column. As I deliberately took a few days before releasing this column, it does nevertheless interest me to see, hear, and read the opinions of others who saw the same fight I did. After all, opinions will differ and the reasons behind those opinions will vary depending on who you ask. The consensus in the case of Haney-Lomachenko seems to be that this was a controversial decision. For those who feel that way, I do feel that the label “Controversial” is justified and I do agree with that.

Now, I will not spend too much time talking about how after virtually every fight there are accusations of corruption, calls for investigation, and even those who will call a fight fixed. While most of the time, such calls in my experience come from disgruntled fans who either because of a lack of understanding of how fights are scored, or simply because of bias in that the fighter they root for and support ended up on the wrong side of a bad decision or a controversial stoppage, I will not go down that road here simply because as I point out to those folks, in order to make an accusation as someone in media who covers the sport, you need indisputable evidence before saying anything as unlike a fan, if you cover the sport, your reputation is on the line, but what I will say is I think the three judges in this instance appointed by the Nevada State Athletic Commision (NSAC) got this one wrong. It is important however, to keep in mind that judges who are tasked with scoring high-profile world championship fights as the two undisputed championship bouts discussed in this column are the best of the best in the field, have decades of experience on every level of the sport, and are often asked to fly around the world to score world championship bouts based on their respective resumes and reputations. 

Despite those facts and the experience therein, a judge will not get it right 100% of the time and regardless of how a fan might feel, a judge will often see things differently from their position at ringside than what a fan will see either sitting in the crowd or watching on some form of television, whether it be via traditional mediums or streaming. While fans have also called out yours truly from time to time for how I have scored bouts unofficially even though I also have experience, it is just something that comes with the territory and unfortunately, one cannot please everyone.

While I will not join those calling for an investigation into this fight because I am smart enough to know that this was not the first controversial decision I have seen and it definitely will not be the last, what I will say is if fans are truly that passionate and want to see something done, the best way to do it is to not only voice your opinion, not only threaten not to support the sport going forward, but to realize that the only way to get your point across is not only to stick to your word, but also reach out to your respective governors, who in the case of the United States appoint the respective state athletic commissions, and maybe go as far as your state representatives if you truly feel that an injustice has taken place and want to see something done that would benefit the sport. I would caution however, that a process such as that will take time and progress more often than not is slow.

Ultimately, I would like to see rematches of both Cameron-Taylor and Haney-Lomachenko. In all honesty with the reader, I can sit all day and talk about changes that I would like to see in the sport including the need for regulatory overhaul on a global level, as well as judging, many of which I have written about frequently over the years, but I am realistic enough to know that it is far more likely that a rematch of a close or controversial fight will happen sooner than any regulatory intervention, especially if the public demands it. In this case, the Boxing world was treated to two highly competitive fights on the highest level the sport has to offer, each with an undisputed world championship on the line. Close or not, controversial or not, the best way to answer any questions or skeptics is to do it again, and to be frank, the sport as well as all four fighters deserve it. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth”

The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: 

No comments:

Post a Comment