Monday, July 24, 2023

Kambosos Benefits From Questionable Scoring To Win IBO World Lightweight Championship

The storyline going into the IBO Lightweight world championship bout between defending champion Maxi Hughes and former Undisputed Lightweight champion George Kambosos was whether Kambosos could find a way to bounce back after losing his crown to Devin Haney and suffering a second loss to Haney in an immediate rematch. Two fights where Kambosos was out boxed by the superiorly skilled Haney.

While at the moment that Kambosos' challenge of Hughes on July 22nd in Shawnee, OK, the four world championship that comprise the undisputed championship in the 135lb. Lightweight division remain unified and in Haney's procession, there was also the wrinkle of Hughes, who was making the third defense of the one world championship not in the undisputed Lightweight crown, being treated as an opponent rather than a world champion from the broadcasters broadcasting the bout for sports cable network ESPN and it's streaming network ESPN+ to him being announced first during ring introductions prior to the bout, despite being the defending champion. The latter, while done previously in Boxing history, defies the traditions of the sport where a world champion is normally introduced last prior to a bout beginning. 

What could be seen as disrespectful and perhaps rooted in bias by both the network broadcasting the bout and maybe even Kambosos' new promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank Inc., something that has also been done by television networks and promoters who have vested interests involved previously in the history of the sport, it did not take long for Hughes to show that he was not a mere opponent and that his being a world champion should have been taken seriously. For the majority of the twelve round world championship bout, it was Hughes that dictated how the fight was fought.

Boxing out of the southpaw stance, the pure boxer Hughes used angles, timing, and discipline to manage distance to tactically pick his spots. Hughes was able to do this by taking advantage of openings Kambosos would leave to land short combinations, counterpunch, and evade Kambosos as he came forward. Although this may not have been the most entertaining of fights to watch for those who may have expected more action, for Boxing purists who understand the tactical aspects of the martial art, Hughes put forth a superb performance that should be appreciated because after all, the concept of the sport is to hit and not be hit. While it is difficult to completely avoid being hit over the duration of a fight, and Hughes did take his share of punches including suffering a deep gash as a result of an accidental clash of heads midway through the fight after being able to open a cut over the right eye in the fifth round, the dynamic of the fight never changed with Hughes dictating the combat and getting the better of the action.

At the conclusion of the twelve round world championship bout, this observer did not feel the fight was close as I felt Hughes won ten of the twelve rounds and had him winning 118-110 in points. As clear as this fight appeared to be in terms of scoring, I have covered combat sports long enough to know to never be surprised. One of the three official judges, Judge David Sutherland scored the fight even at six rounds a piece or 114-114 in points. While I obviously did not see things the same way, it was the scorecards of Judges Gerald Ritter and Josef Mason that I really disagreed with. Ritter, who is also a very respected referee in the sport and in particular officiates many bouts held in the state of Oklahoma, turned in a scorecard of 115-113 or seven rounds to five in favor of Kambosos. Mason however, turned in a scorecard of 117-111 or nine rounds to three for Kambosos making him the winner and new world champion via majority decision.

It is important for me to state as a proud Boxing lifer who has covered the sport for most of his life that I am used to seeing controversial decisions on every level the sport has to offer including Amateur, traditional Professional Boxing, and Professional Bareknuckle Boxing. I will go a step further when I say that out of all the Boxing cards/events I might cover in a given calendar year, there will be a healthy portion of bouts that I will feel could have gone the other way in terms of how a fight was scored. This is definitely not the most controversial decision I have ever seen, but I do feel the three judges who scored this fight got it wrong. 

In the interest of objectivity, it is also important to point out that all three of these judges have each judged hundreds of bouts on every level of the sport with judge David Sutherland being the most experienced of the three having judged over eight hundred bouts. As experienced as judges might be, all judges are human beings like the rest of us and not every judge will get it right 100% of the time. While it may be tempting for the Boxing fan to make accusations of corruption, an all too common occurrence seemingly after every significant fight regardless of either the outcome or any perceived credibility of such claims in the age of social media, it is possible that the three judges here simply had a bad night at the office. To put it simply, it happens.

Nevertheless, this was not the type of bounce back victory for the now two-time world champion George Kambosos and before he sets his sights on any other fight, he should do the right thing and give the former champion who proved his credibility, a rematch. It would also be a positive thing for the sport if the network and perhaps even the promoter gave the rematch the respect it deserves as the world championship fight it would be regardless of whatever their vested interests might be.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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