Casamayor – Santa Cruz Decision Leaves Bad Aftertaste
12.11.07 - By Matthew Hurley, photos by Naoki Fukuda: In the aftermath of the terrific Miguel Cotto – Shane Mosley fight I found myself unable to enjoy myself as I waited for the post fight press conference. Everything about the card had proceeded as most people had hoped for. Young Victor Ortiz was sensational, registering a first round knockout over Carlos Maussa and Antonio Margarito made an explosive comeback from his loss to Paul Williams with a scary demolition of Golden Johnson in one round. And then the main event lived up to its pre-fight hype. Both fighters gave everything they had on a level of fistic sophistication. So what went wrong?
Three men who I feel had no business even being in Madison Square Garden somehow found themselves ringside with scorecards in their hands holding the fate of a young fighter named Jose Armando Santa Cruz in their collective hands. Ron McNair, Frank Lombardi and Tony Paolillo. The three judges, after twelve rounds in which Santa Cruz’s opponent Joel Casamayor did nothing but hold and back-peddle, scored the fight 114-113 twice for Casamayor and 114-113 for Santa Cruz. Despite the fact that one of these judges’ scorecards found Santa Cruz ahead by one scant point is still deplorable. The decision left such distaste in everyone’s mouth that it seemed as though everyone who had witnessed it waved it off and tried not to let it get in the way of the main event. When Margarito knocked out Johnson the injustice that McNair, Lombardi and Paolillo had handed down to Santa Cruz was forgotten, for the moment.
Although bad decisions have occurred throughout the history of boxing they have tended to run rampant in recent years. It’s a problem that has plagued regional match ups all the way up to signature main events. One fighter whose career was defined by both his fistic brilliance and his odd penchant for being on the wrong side of a controversial decision was Pernell Whitaker. Putting aside his close decision loss to rising star Oscar De La Hoya in 1997 which could have gone either way, Whitaker was the victim of two of the most egregious robberies in title fights in the last twenty-five years. His first loss came against Jose Luis Ramirez in 1988 in his first title shot. Whitaker won at least nine rounds but ended up losing a split decision. He would avenge that loss the following year with a clear cut unanimous decision. Then in 1993 he took on Julio Cesar Chavez for not only the WBC welterweight title but for the mythical “pound-for-pound” status as the best fighter in the game. Whitaker boxed circles around Chavez and even the highly partisan Mexican crowd knew at the final bell that their hero had lost. Somehow, the judges called it a draw. The look on Whitaker’s face that night was much the same as the look on Jose Armando Santa Cruz’s face Saturday night.
I have not re-watched the tape of the fight yet but scoring it live I gave Casamayor one round and called one round even. My final scorecard read 119-109 for Santa Cruz. So convinced was I that the result was a foregone conclusion that I didn’t even bother waiting for the announcement of the decision. When I returned I was at first stunned but not entirely surprised. Nothing truly surprises me anymore when it comes to the scoring capabilities of boxing judges. However, after the main event was over my blood started to boil because all I could think about was a fighter who must have been both seething and in the pits of despair. Santa Cruz made the fight, he kept coming forward winging punches and his corner men were so worried that he may lose focus late as he did against David Diaz that they were imploring him to win every round. He was beating Diaz back in 2006 for the WBC lightweight title when he got caught late in the twelfth round and stopped in what was a tremendous battle. On this night Santa Cruz would not be denied in the ring, only by three men who were sitting outside the ropes with pencil and paper in their hands.
The end result was not Casamayor’s fault in anyway, although his effort was lackluster and his victory celebration in the ring after the announcement was made was more than a little off putting. He had to know that he lost the fight. Even his trainer Joe Goossen had told him that he needed all of the last four rounds to win, and Joe, one of the true good guys in the sport, didn’t look too happy when the final bell rang. Conspiracy theorists will certainly find some connection to the fact that Casamayor was making his debut as a stable member of Golden Boy Promotions. Oscar De La Hoya himself went to great lengths to publicize the recognized lightweight champion and he was certainly hoping for a win because in the very recent past the stars of Golden Boy Promotions have all been losing, including Oscar himself, and, as it turned out, Sugar Shane Mosley. A loss by Casamayor was not good for business and a terrible decision was not good for the image of the company. And don’t forget, as good as De La Hoya was/is as a fighter he was always one of the most image conscious boxers in the sport.
In the end it was not just Santa Cruz who lost, and he will garner a lot of sympathy in the days to come, but boxing itself. The sport has been riding a positive wave lately, with great match ups reinvigorating interest and providing true fans with grist for discussion and debate. It doesn’t need any controversy to set it back in anyway. Although this fight wasn’t the main event it still represents a major concern and a true source of anger among fans, writers and fighters alike. The New York State Athletic Commission should investigate this decision and should question the credentials of Ron McNair, Frank Lombardi and Tony Paolillo. Their scorecards represent their worth as judges. They should be asked to defend them.
Unfortunately very little is ever done in situations like this. There may be some vocal discipline by talking heads in front of media cameras but it is highly unlikely any words will be spoken before an investigative commission. That’s just how it is. Casamayor will fight on and Santa Cruz will probably be compensated with a good match up and pay day in the near future and what happened on Saturday will be forgotten. That is until three more judges, hopefully not McNair, Lombardi and Paolillo, disgrace themselves and leave boxing fans shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Article posted on 13.11.2007
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